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This time last year, the University of Nevada Las Vegas was still basking in the glow of being on everyone's mind.
The school hosted the third, and final, presidential debate of the 2016 election, bringing it international attention.
But now, the school is celebrating its 60th anniversary -- and facing a new set of challenges.
According to University President Len Jessup, the biggest challenge ahead is the new medical school.
“We have got to continue to shepherd the medical school," Jessup told KNPR's State of Nevada, "That is the most important thing that we’re working on.”
He said getting resources for the new medical school and helping it expand is "mission critical" for UNLV.
Jessup said the medical school is vital to tackle two important problems. The first is the state's dire doctor shortage. And the second is UNLV's effort become a Top Tier university.
The Top Tier status is determined by the Carnegie Foundation and it is a goal the university has had for many years.
Jessup said they have turned to other schools with similar student populations and urban situations who have made that leap to Top Tier to see the best practices they should use and UNLV is very close to hitting that benchmark.
However, he believes a boost in funding from the state is needed.
“I think the university, certainly to achieve the high aspiration for the Carnegie classification, still needs more help but so far the state has shown every indication that they want to do that," he said.
While the university is working to hit Top Tier status, it is bringing in more research money and with those grants come more faculty, more labs, and more students.
It is that growth that is driving the university to look for places to expand.
“That’s why we’ve been buying property anytime we see anything that comes open anywhere around campus either a small piece of ground on Maryland Parkway or to something big like the 42 acres off Tropicana. We’re trying to do everything we can to purchase that land because we need it for continued growth of this campus," Jessup said.
One of the biggest improvements will be the upgraded stadium the football team will get when the Raiders Stadium is built. Jessup said the Raiders have been a good partner to work with as they hashed out the joint-use agreement.
Jessup said the agreement is about 90 percent finished.
Like his colleagues around the state, the UNLV president is concerned about students who are under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program or DACA.
President Donald Trump has given Congress until March to figure out a permanent solution for children who were brought to the country illegally, but who are now in school, the military or have a steady job.
Jessup said he strongly supports the DACA students and undocumented students who may not be part of the program. He said without a permanent solution the students can't make long-term plans for the education or their careers.
“We’re highly supportive of continuing to enable those students to achieve their dreams and so we’ve been working very actively with our congressional delegates to make sure they know of our support of the DACA students and the DACA program," he said.
He said Nevada's congressional delegation is supportive of working out a plan for these young people.
Len Jessup, president, UNLV
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