UNLV Newsmakers 2021: May | News Center | University of Nevada, Las Vegas – UNLV NewsCenter

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A collection of news stories highlighting celebration, health, and progress at UNLV.

2021 Spring Commencement of Undergraduate Students. May 15, 2021 (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Photo Services).

For thousands of students, May marks the finish line to a long journey filled with late night studying, big group projects, and countless days of hard work. And for this year’s once-in-a-lifetime group of graduates, that would be the understatement of the century.

While the spring term came to a close and more than 8,000 UNLV students physically walked the commencement stage for the first time since 2019, UNLV stayed at the frontline for community vaccinations with the help of university experts and the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine. As members of the School of Medicine pitched in locally, they also fueled the hopes of the healthcare community regionally via their trailblazing, first graduating class. University experts and students across multiple disciplines also weighed in on social justice discourse for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the wake of AAPI month. Lastly, the Las Vegas Strip saw an economy that had been hibernating since March 2020 finally begin to boom again.

As the summer heat closes in, UNLV and the community at large continue to blossom against the shockwaves left behind by COVID-19 through versatility and perseverance. Here are some stories highlighting this and more in this month’s issue of UNLV Newsmakers.

Classes of 2020 and 2021 Walk the Stage Together In-Person

UNLV celebrated not one — but three — graduating classes in one tear-filled weekend. Graduates from the most recent semesters were invited to get their proper dues and walk the stage alongside Spring 2021 graduates after having their own ceremonies canceled due to COVID-19. The momentous occasion left the valley cheering for the hardworking students who fought a pandemic to get their diplomas.

  • Highlighting inspiring graduation stories: Las Vegas Sun.
  • Photos of the UNLV ceremonies, courtesy of The Nevada Independent. 
  • Commencement coverage: Yahoo!, Las Vegas Sun (twice), KLAS-TV: 8 News Now (twice), KVVU-TV: FOX 5 (twice), KTNV-TV: ABC 13, Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine Welcomes New Graduates and Funding

Just as soon as it was renamed after the prominent figure Kirk Kerkorian, the school has already started living up to its new name. Graduates this semester became the first to earn M.D.s from UNLV, with many hoping the 50 graduates will push Nevada up past its ranking as 45th in the nation for the number of active physicians.

  • Marc J. Kahn, dean of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine, expresses pride over the school and his high hopes for the graduating class: KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, AP, Las Vegas Review-Journal (twice), El Tiempo, Public News Service.
  • Members of the graduating class share their graduation stories with Las Vegas Sun.
  • Nevada Senate approves $25 million in funding for new Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine campus: Las Vegas Sun, KSNV-TV: News 3, Cherokee Tribune & Ledger-News.

Looking ahead to the post pandemic future (post-COVID recovery)

As UNLV extended the deadline for first-time dosers and expanded vaccination offerings to children age 12 and up, university experts contributed to the national debate on how long until COVID-19 is out the door, what is slowing the progress, expectations for our post-pandemic future, and the emerging ramifications that can already be seen today. 

  • Communication studies professor Rebecca Rice spoke with Trinidad & Tobago Guardian about why some people don’t wear masks.
  • Johan C. Bester, director of bioethics, explained why there is an abundance of unviable vaccines at chain store pharmacies and examined the maskless honor system with VeryWell Health and Yahoo!.
  • Psychology department chair and professor Christopher Kearney spoke with the Deseret News about the possible ramifications the pandemic might have on childhoods.
  • KSNV-TV: News 3 interviewed psychology professor Stephen D. Benning about the reasons behind vaccine hesitancy.
  • Public health professor Brian Labus analyzed vaccination rates, problems with implementing mask and vaccine policies, and transmission.
    • Mask and vaccine mandates: KSNV-TV: News 3 (twice), WKRG, News Station Now, New York Times, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, Las Vegas Sun.
    • New variant: KSNV-TV: News 3
    • Clark County vaccination numbers and breakthrough cases: KTNV-TV: ABC 13, KSNV-TV: News 3, Las Vegas Review-Journal, and El Tiempo.
    • Late vaccine dosage and vaccine hesitancy: Las Vegas Review-Journal and KNPR (with Anjala S. Krishen).
  • Social work professor Nicholas Barr talked about COVID-19’s impact on the homelessness community on WhoWhatWhy.
  • Melva Thompson-Robinson, director of the Center for Health Disparities Research, advised Healthline readers on the best ways to address COVID-19-related health disparities in racial and ethnic groups.
  • On Vox, media professor Benjamin Burroughs talked about personalized children’s watch preferences on Youtube Kids channels. 
  • Several experts talked about vaccinations in children ages 12 to 15.
    • Evelyn Montalvo Stanton, chair of pediatrics: Las Vegas Review-Journal and El Tiempo.
    • David Di John, director of the Maternal Child Wellness Program: Las Vegas Sun.
    • Department of Family and Community Medicine professor David Glenn Weismiller: KSNV-TV: News 3.

Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) Month: Visibility and Recognition

In May, Asian American & Pacific Islander month highlighted the contributions of the AAPI community to Las Vegas and the nation. The month was also a time to address percolating feelings of fear and pain, amid pandemic discrimination and longtime historical challenges. University experts and students weighed in on both the massive contributions and the fight for equality and systemic justice for this marginalized group.

  • Claytee D. White, director of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV Libraries, spoke with KNPR News about preservation of local Asian and Pacific Islander histories.
  • Professor and director of Asian and Asian American Studies, Mark Padoongpatt, spoke with KTNV-TV: ABC 13 (twice) about Pacific Islander diversity in Las Vegas.
  • Psychology professor Gloria Wong-Padoongpatt talked about Asian American and Pacific Islander mental health, as well as cultural competence among mental health professionals with HuffPost.
  • Multiple UNLV students spoke with news outlets about their stories and involvement with “Reflections: The Las Vegas Asian American & Pacific Islander Oral History Project”: KLAS-TV: 8 News Now, KTNV-TV: ABC 13, KVVU-TV: FOX 5, and KSNV-TV: News 3

Hospitality, Games, and Real Estate Post-COVID

With mask mandates easing up, social distancing no longer being enforced, and multiple hotels operating at 100% capacity, Las Vegas appears to be forging its way towards a new normal. UNLV experts spoke with the media about the valley’s economic boom, real estate market fluctuations, and history in the making.  

  • Center for Business and Economic Research director Stephen Miller forecast the rise of company relocation to Las Vegas on KVVU-TV: FOX 5. He also talked about the Las Vegas tourism boom on Travel Weekly.
  • Gaming historian David G. Schwartz talked about the tourism boom, vaccinations amid loosening capacity restrictions, and casino ownership.
    • Tourism and vaccinations: The Nevada Independent, KVVU-TV: FOX 5, and Northern Nevada Business Weekly.
    • History of tribal gaming organizations and casino ownership: KTNV-TV: ABC 13 and Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  • The Las Vegas Sun quoted history professor Michael Green about the future of the Plaza hotel. Green also highlighted Sheldon Adelson’s legacy on Casino Review.
  • CBS News and Casino.org asked hospitality professor Amanda Belarmino about increasing casino capacity and rising tourism. She also discussed ghost kitchen innovation with the LA Daily News.
  • Alan Feldman, the International Gaming Institute’s Distinguished Fellow in Responsible Gaming, discussed how Las Vegas is preparing for the upcoming NFL draft and Pro Bowl, tourism comeback, and gambling.
    • NFL draft and Pro Bowl: Las Vegas Review-Journal and Sports Talk Florida.
    • Tourism comeback: AP and Independent.
    • Gambling: KSNV-TV: News 3 and Las Vegas Review-Journal.
  • Brian Labus and Alan Feldman were featured in The Washington Post regarding the June 1st dismissal of Las Vegas coronavirus restrictions and the first large convention planned here in over a year.
  • Director of the Lied Center for Real Estate Vivek Sah weighed in on the state of the Western housing market and surging lumber prices: NPR, Nevada Current, Vegas Inc, Las Vegas Review-Journal, GlobeSt.com.
  • Vivek Sah and Michael Green discussed the socioeconomic implications of the surge in Californians moving to Nevada on KNPR News.
  • The Guardian asked political science professor Tiffiany Howard about minority business owners’ struggle to stay afloat after COVID.
  • Geology professor Simon Jowitt weighed in on the rare mineral mine in Nevada that could spark economic growth and a new path to a green economy: Las Vegas Review-Journal, Asia Times, and Mining Review Africa.

General Expert Roundup

  • UNLV student Melissa Del Rosario made UNLV history by becoming the first film student to sell a feature film. Her story was featured in the Las Vegas Sun and on KVVU-TV: FOX 5.
  • Visiting Lecturer of Journalism Michael Easter addressed how too much comfort isn’t healthy: Elemental, Outside, Art of Manliness, Nevada State News, The Joe Rogan Experience, Men’s Health, South China Morning Post, KCBS Radio: On-Demand.
  • During an interview with Capital Public Radio, sociology professor Barb Brents highlighted the increased traffic warrants for Latinx and Black communities.
  • As CCSD considers implementing an anti-racism policy, KNPR interviewed African American and African Diaspora Studies director Javon Johnson on the matter.
  • Anthropology professor Alyssa Crittenden talked about the Zika virus and genetically modified mosquitoes on Great Courses Daily. She also spoke with LiveKindly about whether honey is vegan.
  • In an interview with CNN, Robert E. Lang, professor and director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute,analyzed the rising Democratic influence across the Sun Belt. Lang also explained why immigration has become a factor in the decrease of birth rates on Yahoo!.
  • USA Today talked to political science professor Rebecca Gill about President Biden’s first Supreme Court nominee. Gill also noted the gender pay gap on The Balance.
  • Deirdre Clemente, associate director of the Public History program, reflected on the history and fashion of skirt-shorts on InStyle and examined post-pandemic dressing on Fashionista.
  • Gaming law expert Anthony Cabot spoke with Casino.Org about legal actions companies must take when threats of violence emerge. He also talked about gambling regulation in Florida with the Tampa Bay Times.
  • Sociologist Robert Furtrell analyzed white supremacists and hate groups in the Los Angeles Times and American Renaissance.
  • Art professor Susanna Newbury discussed the history behind The Land Art movement on KSNV-TV: News 3.
  • African American and African Diaspora Studies professor Tyler D. Parry questioned the legal and ethical issues behind the death penalty on KTNV-TV: ABC 13 and racially motivated online trolling on Business Insider.
  • KNPR interviewed Public Policy and Leadership professor Jessica K. A. Word about the financial implications behind nonprofits like Nevada SPCA.
  • Law professor Francine J. Lipman commented on The National Interest (twice) and Law 360 about the dilemma between stimulus checks and debt collectors. 
  • Professor in UNLV’s Couple and Family Therapy Program Katherine M. Hertlein talked about honesty, sexual comfort, and love amid the pandemic climate: Huffington Post, Cosmopolitan, Metro, TAG24, and KSNV-TV: News 3.
  • Lynn Comella, professor of gender and sexuality studies, chimed in on NPR about the need for open discourse on pornography.
  • KNPR recognized Jeffrey L. Cummings, director of the Chambers-Grundy Center for Transformative Neuroscience, for his advancement in current initiatives for researching Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Geoscience professor Elisabeth (Libby) Hausrath spoke with Bloomberg about algae sustainability on Mars.
  • Professor of law Addie Rolnick commented on the potential for a decision to not to prosecute four Las Vegas officers in the death of Jorge Gomez could affect tourism and the racist pasts of certain towns: Casino.org, Las Vegas Review-Journal, and Las Vegas Sun. 

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