Len Jessup has been busy these last four months. As the 10th president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Jessup is lobbying lawmakers to support Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget plans for higher education, working to fund the medical school, starting a capital fundraising campaign and speaking out against a campus-carry bill.
Jessup told KNPR’s State of Nevada that there is universal agreement with the higher education system in Nevada that the campus-carry bill, which would allow people with permits for a concealed weapon to bring their guns on campus.
“It’s not a smart move. I think it will make the campus less safe,” Jessup said.
He said UNLV and other campuses have effective police forces and the risk of violence is too great.
“I think it would have an effect on impact on student and an even more dramatic effect on faculty and staff,” Jessup said.
UNLV MEDICAL SCHOOL
While the campus-carry bill has taken up a lot headlines, Jessup’s biggest priority is getting the medical school up and running.
“We don’t have enough docs. There’s not enough access for people,” Jessup said.
But he said getting a medical school goes beyond having more doctors in the city, it will also have an economic impact. Jessup said a medical school would have a $1.2 billion impact on the state.
“It will have a dramatic effect in terms of quality and access to health care but also an economic impact that I think the state needs,” Jessup said.
The problem could be getting the money to fund the medical school. Gov. Brian Sandoval asked for a $9 million investment, but UNLV wants $27 million. Despite the huge gap between the numbers, Jessup believes the school will get the seed money needed.
“We’re confident that here in the state of Nevada that the governor and the legislators are going to do everything that they possibly can to help these universities. I think people here get it that it’s a good investment,” Jessup said.
If they money does not come through, Jessup said it would delay the both the health care impact and the economic benefit the school will bring.
“The big disadvantage and disappointment to southern Nevadans would be it prolongs the access to the health care that people need down here,” Jessup said.
UNLV is also raising money to fully fund scholarships for the first 60 students in the program. Organizers, including Jessup, believe the first class of the medical school is vital to getting accreditation.
“We’re confident we’re going to have that first cohort funded and that’s going to be tremendous for not only attracting great students for the quality of that program and for the accreditation of that program,” Jessup said.
Another goal for Jessup is raising the university’s status.
“It’s a big part of the attraction for me coming here, to be quite honest, was because there were aspirations for UNLV to be a tier-one university,” Jessup.
However, the tier-one status goal is changing. Jessup and the team behind the effort to improve the university want to look beyond the ‘tier-one’ label. ‘Tier-one’ is a very specific set of criteria that looks at research funding.
Jessup wants to look beyond just research funding and move the whole university to a ‘top tier’ school.
“We recognize that the entire university needs to be lifted up and moved into the top tier,” Jessup said.
He said improvements include facilities, student services, teaching and learning efforts, creative research and community interaction are needed to reach that goal.
“We can’t be a great university without the help of the community and the community can’t get to the next level with the university helping,” Jessup said.
Jessup said a team has already put together an action plan with specific steps to make changes.
“We know it can be done. We’ve got bench marks for it from other universities,” the president said. “We will be there. I have no doubt.”
Jessup has also been planning UNLV’s next capital fundraising campaign, something the university hasn’t done in years.
During the economic downturn, UNLV and other state schools across the country lost funding, which most people understand, but they also understand the importance of public universities.
“There’s plenty of evidence that shows when people get a degree they are much better off in their career,” Jessup said.
Jessup has been called a ‘fundraising rock star,’ a title he doesn’t necessarily agree with. He believes he’s been successful at past universities because he can connect with people who have the desire and the means to help the community.
“We know it’s about connecting with people who want to make difference for the community and make a difference for the university,” Jessup said.
The last capital funding effort by UNLV raised $500 million. Jessup believes they should make that goal this time around as well. He said private donation is important to growing the university, which needs to expand to meet the demand.
“The valley we live in is relatively underserved for a higher education point of view,” Jessup said, “It adds significantly to the university and our capability to do what we need to do.”
Jessup recently told a town hall meeting that it was great opportunity to be at UNLV at this time.
Len Jessup, president, University of Nevada, Las Vegas