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Days after being appointed, Snyder reassures faculty 

 
Acting president stops by senate

Less than a week after he was appointed UNLV’s acting president, Don Snyder assured faculty that he will continue the university’s momentum started by President Neal Smatresk.

At a Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday, Snyder said he would get support from the state Legislature and the business community to help UNLV achieve Tier-1 status.

In September, Smatresk set an ambitious goal for the university: Within two decades, UNLV will become a top research institution.

To achieve the prestigious rank UNLV will have to address several resource gaps, two of which are increasing its endowment value by $300 million and its amount of annual gifts by $60 million. It will also need state support.

Closing the resource gaps will require a significant amount of fundraising on UNLV’s part, as well as a successful lobbying campaign in the state Legislature, which is notorious for not meeting higher education needs when it comes to funding. With Smatresk leaving next week for the head position at the University of North Texas, reaching Tier-1 status has become more challenging.

Former Hotel College dean Don Snyder, who will officially become UNLV’s acting president next week, addresses the Faculty Senate on Tuesday in the Student Union.  IAN WHITAKER/THE REBEL YELL

Former Hotel College dean Don Snyder, who will officially become UNLV’s acting president next week, addresses the Faculty Senate on Tuesday in the Student Union. IAN WHITAKER/THE REBEL YELL

But Snyder, a former executive at Boyd Gaming Corp. and the Fremont Street Experience, vowed that as acting president he would continue to push forward with UNLV’s aspirations while higher education officials search for a permanent president.

“I consider myself a bridge to pick up what President Smatresk left for us,” Snyder told the faculty Tuesday.

Snyder, also the leader of a proposed on-campus stadium project, has an extensive business background spanning back more than two decades. He was a leading advocate of The Smith Center project, garnering millions of dollars from the state Legislature for the venue. His tenure at
UNLV began in 2010 when he became interim dean at the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.

His lack of academic experience, however, had some faculty wary leading. Former UNLV president Carol Harter was the faculty’s top pick for the acting presidency because she led the university for 10 years and has dealt with the state Legislature before.

But ultimately, the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents appointed Snyder as acting president precisely because of his ties with the business community.

NSHE Chancellor Dan Klaich said that Snyder’s relationship with business leaders would ensure projects like the UNLV medical school will continue to progress.

It’s because he wasn’t the faculty’s top choice that Snyder spent his address to the Faculty Senate asserting he would succeed despite the skepticism about his non-academic background.

Faculty Senate Vice-Chair Rhonda Montgomery asked Snyder how he would convince the state Legislature to give UNLV the funds it needs to hire 300 faculty members, another objective that has to be met for Tier-1.

Snyder said many individuals doubted the success of The Smith Center, but nonetheless, he was able to articulate the vision of the project and convince the Legislature to provide $150 million in funding.

“I think I understand and know my way around the state,” he said.

Still, some faculty questioned Snyder’s ability to make UNLV a leading institution.

“I thought I knew what Tier-1 was … I’m not sure anymore,” said Senator Neil Opfer of the College of Engineering. “What is your vision of Tier-1?”

Snyder said that because his presidency is temporary, he does not have the final say in the best direction to achieve Tier-1 status. Still, he asserted that he would work with state and business officials to secure their confidence in UNLV’s aspirations.

“We have to have the ability to articulate [the definition of Tier-1] and we will,” Snyder said.

The next Faculty Senate meeting is on Feb. 18. Senators are expected to consider possible members who will serve on the president search committee, which will select UNLV’s next president as early as September.

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