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UNLV's Urban Leadership Director: Change Starts Local

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Flickr/Jimmy Emerson

Headlines these days are largely focused on what’s going on in Washington.

But the line dividing Washington and the rest of the country appear to be getting thinner.

That’s partly why the director of UNLV’s new urban leadership program says that city-level politics are now more important than ever.

UNLV is the first university in the nation to develop a masters program in Urban Leadership. Led by Professor Benoy Jacob, the program is designed to prepare community leaders, lawmakers and citizens to explore more complex urban issues.

"Over the past 10-15 years, we've seen a real gridlock at the higher orders of government," Jacob said. "So cities have a choice. They can say 'Look, this is for higher government and there's nothing we can do,' or they can respond and decide they need to do something. 

"Cities are taking on these issues exactly because other orders of government haven't been able to do so."

This dynamic has changed drastically over the last decade, Jacob explained, which is why programs like the one at UNLV is being developed. Historically, cities have been administrative in nature, fixing "potholes and parks." 

"Nowadays, cities are taking on big policy issues," Jacob explained, in everything from immigration issues to school curriculum."

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This shift is creating the demand for a new kind of urban leader. As the director of the urban leadership program, Jacob said there are three stages he would like students to understand; what it means to be an urban community in the 21st century, finding new solutions to old problems, and leading across boundaries. 

"One of the things that makes cities powerful is that they are most closely aligned with citizen preferences," Jacob said. "They know what citizens want and what citizens need, in a much more intimate way than state or federal governments do." 

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Benoy Jacob, director, UNLV's Urban Leadership program 

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