This is an exciting time for UNLV. The university has experienced a surge in student enrollment, as well as a spike in the number of faculty and staff, and programs offered at the graduate level.
All of this is coupled with genuine community excitement as UNLV moves ahead on many different fronts, from law and engineering to fine arts and health sciences. Then there's the enthusiasm associated with the start of the medical school and the potential of a new stadium near campus.
For me, one of the more exciting projects is the effort to enhance UNLV's academic ranking so it can be recognized as a "Top Tier" university.
A year before I arrived in May 2014, then Acting President Donald Snyder announced the Tier One concept, and a committee was formed to guide the future direction. The plan initially was to boost the scientific research activity to the level that UNLV would become a Carnegie Classification "R1: Doctoral University - Highest Research Activity."
Research universities are classified as R1, R2 or R3, depending on the total research activity and the amount of research expenditures per individual faculty member, and institutions that have at least 20 Ph.D. granting areas are classified as research universities. This classification system began in 1973 and is modified every few years.
Top Tier Initiative
When Len Jessup took over as president in January 2014, he worked with UNLV leadership to slightly modify the direction. The plan now is for UNLV to become a Top Tier university without using the Carnegie Classification as a goal. We'll still use many of the Carnegie measures to judge our progress, but that classification is limited in how it recognizes the value of liberal and fine arts, as well as scholarship in areas that are not scientific.
As part of our Top Tier plan, we will be increasing research to ultimately improve our classification. But we want to be more all encompassing, which includes factoring in the value of the community-service portion of our mission. That means rewarding excellence and productivity in the creative arts and all the other areas that will provide our growing state with the most well rounded workforce possible.
Nancy Rapoport, who serves as Special Counsel to President Jessup, was chosen to lead this effort, and she and Special Projects Director Kyle Kaalberg are keeping the process moving. Together, they identified five areas for growth and change:
- Research, scholarship and creative activity;
- Student achievement;
- Community partnerships;
- Academic health center; and
- Infrastructure and shared governance
The path to Top Tier is now just finishing its second formal year of activity. The first year was about identifying the goals in each of these five areas and devising action plans so that by 2025, UNLV will be transformed into the organization that leads this community into the future.
This week, we had an important meeting in which the chairs of the five working groups gave a briefing on the progress to date. Next will be a daylong, full-committee retreat where members will provide more detailed progress reports, check off tasks completed, and plan additional work and action items. Soon after the retreat, Nancy and Kyle will summarize the work during several town-hall meetings with students, faculty and staff. They will solicit feedback at these town halls, as well as through the
dedicated to the Top Tier effort.
Academic Health Center Committee
Maureen Schafer, UNLV School of Medicine chief of staff, and I were named co-chairs of the Academic Health Center (AHC) committee. Our group has worked on several projects over the last two years in tandem with the deans of the other health science schools and their research deans and administrators, educational leadership and development officers. The
committee's action item list includes the following:
- Establish a fully accredited School of Medicine;
- Create a plan for high-impact hires related to specific types of grants;
- Compile individual school strategic plans, evaluate them and determine overarching goals;
- Develop joint programs for student recruitment;
- Develop policies that will support growth;
- Investigate our AHC structure and plan a better one;
- Develop a campus master plan for a Health Science campus;
- Investigate hospitality curriculum for incorporation across the AHC;
- Develop a 10-year plan for research growth;
- Develop a 10-year plan for fundraising and campaign coordination; and
- Develop a next-generation health sciences library
Since 2014, we have made much progress on the first item listed - establish a fully accredited School of Medicine. We achieved preliminary accreditation in October 2016, and our first class of students will start on July 17, 2017. We will not achieve full accreditation until that class reaches its fourth year in 2021-22. There is more work ahead but the good news is we're on track.
The next important and overarching project we accomplished was to form the Academic Health Center Deans Council. Members include, Dean UNLV School of Dental Medicine Karen West, DMD, who was elected as chair; and Interim Vice President of Research/Economic Development and Dean School of Nursing Carolyn Yucha, RN, PhD; Dean School of Community Health Sciences Shawn Gerstenberger, PhD; Dean School of Allied Health Sciences Ronald Brown, PhD; and myself.
The Deans Council has been leading the progress in all the above areas. For example, with respect to the new Medical Education building that will be constructed on land near the Shadow Lane campus, we have developed plans for buildings for each of the health science schools. We also are creating a philanthropy blueprint to generate some of the funding required to build out this new UNLV health sciences campus.
One of the highlights of the campus is a health sciences library that will serve and support the entire medical community in Las Vegas, as well as the public. Founding UNLV School of Medicine librarian Joanne Muellenbach and her team will support students as they learn how to locate and use the medical literature that is an essential part of the problem-based curriculum. They also will serve the third- and fourth-year medical students in Las Vegas from University of Nevada Reno's School of Medicine, as well as our residents and their attending physicians.
The dream is that, when the Medical Education building is completed, there will be a large library, study area and work area tying together several of the health science buildings and supporting various types of medical education for both the medical community and general public.