By Craig A. Ruark
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) was established in 1957, and the first classes were held in a 13,000 square foot building located on an 80-acre parcel of desert at the end of Maryland Parkway. Since those early days, the campus has grown to 332-acres and UNLV has gone from ‘Tumbleweed Tec’ to a highly ranked research university with 16 major academic units that offer degrees.
But UNLV was not very well known outside of the Desert Southwest region until 1977, when basketball coach, Jerry Tarkanian, took the Runnin’ Rebels to their first Final Four tournament with a squad known as the “Hardway Eight.” Tarkanian continued his winning record with twelve conference regular season championships, and three more Final Four appearances including the 1990 NCAA Tournament Championship putting Las Vegas and UNLV on the national map for something other than neon lights.
Beneath all the cheering at the Thomas & Mack, the UNLV academic and research departments were quietly making noise of a different sort.
Today the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality is one of the top-ranked hospitality colleges in the world. From 2009 to 2017, UNLV’s staff and students have applied for and been awarded 179 patents, most of them through the UNLV International Gaming Institute.
Likewise, the UNLV Boyd School of Law ranks Number 59 overall, Number 10 in dispute resolution specialty programs, and number-one in legal writing. The Howard R. Hughes College of Engineering’s civil engineering program is also ranked among the nation’s top 100 programs.
Training students for tomorrow’s businesses
Another shining star of UNLV is the Lee Business School, which strives to “Cultivate leaders who transform business in today’s dynamic marketplace through skill development and experiential learning.”
The Lee Business School is the only program in Nevada to hold accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). This prestigious accreditation is held by the top 5 percent of the universities around the world and must be renewed every five years.
UNLV attracts students from around the world for which it has earned a number-one ranking by U.S. News & World Report (tied with Andrews University and Rutgers University-Newark), as the Most Diverse Campus in the Nation. Diversity is especially important when it comes to the post-graduate MBA program, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. In addition, the Lee Business School is Ranked in a three-way tie at #97 with Seton Hall University, University of Cincinnati, and University of Nebraska, in the Top 100 of the U.S. News & World Report Best Part-time MBA Programs.
According to Stoney Alder, Ph.D., vice dean and teaching professor in the MBA program, “a lot of the study involves group work and learning from each other. By having a wide variety of students with different racial and ethnic backgrounds, the students gain a great deal of perspective and breadth of understanding which encourages them to learn how to communicate across cultural boundaries.” Alder also leads the fall and winter semester orientation programs where he involves the new students in team building exercises.
The MBA program has a current enrollment of about 170 students and graduates between 60 and 70 students each year. The acceptance rate into the program is around 55 percent and is based on Grade Point Average, Graduate Management Admission Test, and work experience of a minimum of two years (five years is the average).
Because of the emphasis on working as a team, all of the MBA courses are taught in the classroom, and the number of students in a class is limited to 40.
Most of the students invest in the MBA program to advance their career and are usually working in addition to attending school on a part-time basis. However, approximately 11 percent of the MBA students are international and required to maintain a full-time schedule of 9 to 12 credits.
Part of the course study for MBA students involves learning about the successes of other businesses and professionals. To enhance that knowledge, UNLV invites two speakers each semester to participate in the “MBA Executive Insights Speaker Series” (featuring executives from Fortune 500 companies) and the “Sustainability Speaker Series.” Two of this year’s featured speakers include Anuj Bhasin, head of Global Gatorade with PepsiCo and Cecily Joseph, Chief Diversity Office, VP of Corporate Responsibility for Symantec Corporation. Business School students also visit and tour a variety of local businesses.
One of the biggest assets of the Lee Business School is the Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER). Established in 1975, the CBER provides students with practical research opportunities that assist in the development of the Nevada economy, with special emphasis on the Southern Nevada Business Community. The CBER also assists state and local agencies, and private-sector enterprises, in the collection and analysis of economic and market data.
Each year, Stephen M. Miller, Ph.D., professor, and director, CBER, along with students of the Lee Business School, produce an in-depth Mid-year Economic Outlook report that provides insight to Southern Nevada’s economy and the local, national, and international influences. This highly respected report has been the guidepost that many local businesses use to gauge market opportunities and product needs. Throughout the year, the CBER produces monthly, quarterly, and annual reports that help subscribing businesses stay informed.
The Lee Business School CBER maintains a Southern Nevada Business Development Information webpage with the latest statistics on the economy, population, workforce, community indicators, tax & incentives, and much more, that is invaluable to companies looking to expand or relocate to Southern Nevada.
In addition to CBER, the Lee Business School also has two other centers—Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies and the Troesh Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
A bit of trivia for those who are new to the Las Vegas Valley. UNLV began as an extension of the University of Nevada which was established in 1874 and located in Reno. The first classes were held at Las Vegas High School in 1951 and was referred to as University of Nevada, Southern. After land was donated by several prominent Las Vegas business men, the Nevada Legislature authorized the construction of the Las Vegas campus and the separation from UNR. Convinced that the south was getting short end of the stick when it came to funding for academics, buildings, and dorms, the students named themselves the Rebels.