After the abrupt resignation of Len Jessup as UNLV’s president last year, regents appointed Marta Meana, a psychology professor and administrator, as the acting president.
Meana’s seven-month stint, so far, is earning rave reviews from within the university for her ability to see through issues and adjust quickly where needed.
During her tenure as acting president, the school achieved an important designation that everyone attached to the university has been working toward for years.
In December, the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education designated UNLV an R1 research university, which is the top tier.
“It is such an incredible validation of the efforts of so many faculty, staff and leadership over the last two decades,” Meana told KNPR's State of Nevada.
She said she can't say just yet if it will increase enrollment numbers but she does expect to see an uptick.
The designation from Carnegie is only one step. Now, Meana is working to convince the rest of the community of UNLV's transformation to a top-tier university.
“I think we have a ways to go in terms of our community’s perception of us but I think this is certainly going to help,” she said.
She also must now convince the Legislature that the school needs more resources to move forward on its goals of student success, research and community engagement.
The big program Meana and the university plans on pushing at the legislative session is called Health for Nevada. It is an effort to improve the state of health care in Nevada with more programs for students in the health care industry.
Health for Nevada is separate from the funding needed to expand UNLV's new medical school. Meana said the medical school is up and funded for the current students but for it to grow the state will need to allocate the rest of the money.
“The funding we’re requesting is to fund that third and fourth-year class. So, we have a full cohort of four entering classes,” she said.
Donors withdrew money to build the medical school's education building when Len Jessup left the university. Meana said the school needs to double the number of current students to actually have a major impact on health care in Nevada. She said that building is needed to expand the school's capacity.
“Now, we’re looking at… actively pursuing a number of different possibilities of how to get the medical education [building] built,” she said.
During the Great Recession, the university had to cut programs and raise tuition because of cuts in state funding.
But Meana feels the university is back on better financial footing currently; however, she believes that if the state wants to attract more high paying jobs and diversify its economy, it must invest more in education.
“We, as a state, need to invest in education more than we have, both in K through 12 and higher ed," she said, "If we think that the entry into the middle class is a college education, I think we have to start talking about K through 20 and resource education to the extent that it really deserves.”
Meana will also likely to be considered one of the candidates for the full-time presidency, which will be filled after a national search.
Marta Meana, acting president, UNLV
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