Campus administrators tout university’s achievements, call for engagement from business
UNLV took a public step in its courtship of local and regional business interests on Wednesday, as high-ranking administrators welcomed potential investors to a show of the university’s strength, growth and relevance.
The goal: Plant the seeds of public-private partnerships.
The method: Showcase high-flying students, star administrative faculty and cutting-edge development, with the suggestion that UNLV will compete in the global marketplace, stimulate the local economy and produce business’s dream employees.
The morning began with breakfast in the lobby of Greenspun Hall, where administrators sat next to every businessperson while a representative of the facility’s namesake extolled the virtue of supporting one’s hometown university.
“I think we have exactly the right people here,” said Brian Greenspun, chairman of The Greenspun Corporation, referring to the group of about 30 guests that Smatresk called “thought leaders.”
Most of the guests were representatives of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, casino-resorts or banks. Greenspun listed some of his family’s most visible contributions to UNLV — helping found the school of journalism and media studies, building Greenspun Hall, and planning a capital development campaign that would expand the influence of the campus in the surrounding community.
He called for those with the means to financially support the university, citing its ability to create community and grown business.
“If you’ve got it, you should invest it,” Greenspun said. “We found no better place to invest it than UNLV.”
That’s exactly the perspective Smatresk and his colleagues hope to replicate among high-power Las Vegas business leaders.
Introducing a series of student speakers who told how their UNLV education has landed them in high-producing jobs locally, Smatresk urged the guests to consider contributing to keeping the success going.
“She said the some cuts to the school’s budget have helped operations improve, but that UNLV need public-private partnerships to remain viable.
“Deep cuts reduce our capacity,” he told the guests, “and that means they reduce your capacity.”
Still, the morning’s talks directed attention toward areas where UNLV is thriving despite fiscal reductions.
Donald Snyder, dean of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, told the gathering that the proposed elimination of the sports management major and entertainment minor and the recommended consolidation of the hotel school’s 10 majors into one major with various focuses would benefit the college by establishing focus.
“We would do it whether we had a budget [crisis] or not,” Snyder said.
In the university’s zeal to pitch its business worth to potential partners, some speakers’ messages made narrow distinctions between descriptions of success.
Brookings Mountain West Director Robert Lang told the group that the mountain west region of which Nevada is part is “importing” master’s degree holders and that not enough postgraduate degrees are generated in the state to fuel an effort to put what he called a “stamp” on the region as a world industry competitor.
“We’re not producing the probable demand of indigenous [masters degrees],” Lang said, focusing on the hospitality industry as a model for how Las Vegas can lead in global industry if its brand is well supported by education and investment.
Later, when the group had moved to the Science and Engineering Building to hear students and faculty tout UNLV’s high research achievements, Smatresk set out to debunk what he described as the misled belief that the university ought to work harder to produce more graduates with high-tech degrees.
Smatresk said the colleges of science and engineering “overproduce” and “export” a high-tech workforce and that the business community ought to rally to provide opportunities for investing the intellectual capital the university is turning out, for the benefit of the local and regional economy.
“We’ve got the workforce you want and we want to match you up with workforce you need to create a globally competitive economy,” he said.
With a stop at the Academic Success Center, the tour also showcased what is ostensibly the bridge between what Smatresk acknowledged as a significantly sub-par K-12 public education system in Clark County and the production of a valuable workforce made of UNLV alumni.
There was little attempt to disguise UNLV’s interest in forming financially valuable partnerships with the powerhouse firms represented at the gathering. After enumerating the environmentally conscious specializations of the SEB, the campus’s newest LEED-certified structure, he called on the guests to imagine a name on the front of the building — a mark achievable with the donation of a naming grant that he estimated for the purpose of the exercise at $30,000.
But requests were not issued without assurance of return on investment.
From Englestadt Scholars to chemistry pioneers to hotel administration hopefuls and deans of the colleges that promise high economic value, UNLV hauled out its best and brightest to try to win the hearts of investors.
“If you like what you see,” Smatresk said, “we need your help.”
Contact Haley Etchison at [email protected]