Since its beginning in 1957, UNLV's mission has been to fulfill Southern Nevada's need for advanced education. From the beginning, we worked to expand opportunities for Nevada's students and to develop a well-prepared workforce, thoughtful leaders, and engaged citizens.

In the 1960s, we began to offer four-year degrees. In the 1970s, we expanded to master's degrees and some Ph.D. programs. In the 1980s and early 1990s, UNLV began to emerge in another role: as an urban research university — one that supports regional economic development and contributes to a healthy, culturally enriched, and globally aware community.

During the 2000s, this mission was articulated more fully. In 2007, the campus produced its "Focus 50 to 100 strategic plan," and in 2010 added a statement of "Core Themes." We began tracking benchmarks toward achieving our ambitious goals in education, research, and community service.

From 2008-12, budget cuts challenged this vision, but UNLV preserved a solid foundation through targeted cuts. Now, as the region recovers from the Great Recession, we are once again moving forward with a formalized effort to reflect on our mission and achieve our ambitions.

The formal strategic thinking exercise that we called the Path to Tier One was a part of the university's evolution, but one that we believe will also transform UNLV and become a pivotal moment for our city, state, and region. In order to develop a more robust and comprehensive plan, Path to Tier One was reformed and became the Top Tier Initiative.


The timeline below explains how the current work, the Top Tier Initiative, has emerged from UNLV's history. It illustrates how UNLV struggled to find the point of entry to a Path to Tier One. The projections, nomenclature, and even the spelling of "Tier One" vary, reflecting that this initiative is rooted in UNLV's open and participatory culture.



    Top Tier Initiative

    • Year Three of Implementation
    • Steering Committees Determine Actions
    • Action Plans and Progress Reviewed and Revised
    • Subcommittees formed within each pathway goal
    • Actions Implemented

    Top Tier Initiative


    Top Tier Initiative


    Path to Tier One Formal Strategic Thinking Process Begins


    Public Presentation and Discussion of Tier One Concept


    National Great Recession Forces Cuts and Challenges Vision

    During this period, the university:

    • Lost 144.5 full-time faculty lines (mostly through attrition)
    • Eliminated through reorganization 10 academic departments and more than 30 degree programs
    • Reduced class sections by more than 1,000 per semester and experienced a corresponding enrollment decline of approximately 5 percent
    • Experienced a drop in external research funding from approximately $75 million per year at its peak to approximately $30 million per year, in part due to dramatic cuts in funding nationwide as well as UNLV's loss in faculty

    Despite these setbacks, UNLV preserved a solid foundation and emerged with a more formalized effort to reflect on its mission.

    UNLV adopted an addendum to the Focus 50 to 100 that identified specific measures to track our progress in three areas:

    1. Instruction
    2. Research
    3. Infrastructure

    Regents approve updates to Campus Physical Master Plan.


    UNLV Focus 50 to 100 Strategic Plan

    • President David Ashley introduces the university’s Focus 50 to 100 Strategic Plan, a plan from UNLV’s 50th anniversary for the next 50 years.

    UNLV Seeks Higher Carnegie Designation


    UNLV Adds Doctoral Degrees

    • UNLV receives a Carnegie “Doctoral/Research University-Intensive” designation, thanks to its offering of a wide range of baccalaureate and master's programs and awarding at least 10 doctoral degrees per year across three or more disciplines or at least 20 degrees per year overall.

    UNLV Moves Up In Carnegie Designation

    • UNLV is now classified as a “Comprehensive Master's-granting University," offering 40 or more master’s degree annually in three or more disciplines.

    UNLV Receives Its First Carnegie Designation

    • UNLV is classified as a “Comprehensive I” institution. Schools in this category offer baccalaureate programs and, with few exceptions, offer graduate education through master’s degrees.