More than nine months after UNLV and MGM Resorts International announced the creation of a bipartisan think tank, the two entities have assembled an initial list of advisory board members to set research priorities and lead the institute.
In addition to the co-chairs — former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid and former Speaker of the House John Boehner — the roster includes Frank Fahrenkopf, Jane Harman, Ron Kirk, Kris Engelstad McGarry, Sig Rogich, Ken Salazar and Rich Verma.
“I’m very pleased with the caliber of individuals we have on the board,” said John McManus, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of MGM Resorts International. “We have accomplished and thoughtful people. Our goal from the onset was to put together an advisory board that the community, the university and our company would all be proud of.”
The university said last month that progress on the institute hinged on the establishment of the board, which is tasked with setting research targets.
On Friday, Diane Chase, executive vice president and provost for UNLV, still had no definitive answers on what those targets might be.
“We don’t have a predesigned set of policies or topics,” she said. “We’re planning to get the board together to help define those and move forward accordingly.”
But as far as the time and date of the board’s first meeting, and the frequency of the meetings, Chase said that is also unclear.
“I’m assuming we will have that first board meeting in the new year, at some point in the spring,” she said, adding that they will have to accommodate the busy schedules of the board members.
The university, last month, cited busy schedules as being a hindrance to getting the board together in the first place.
Chase said it would have been nice if the institute was “a little further along” at this point but said the goal was never to create the “fastest” board or institute.
“I’m an archaeologist,” Chase said. “One of the things about archaeology is that sometimes you have to work hard and take time to discover great things. This is one of those situations.”
The next step, Chase said, is to hire a director, but she did not provide further details on whether the search would be internal or if officials would look outside UNLV to fill the position.
At this point, the university also has not spent any of the money MGM donated toward the institute. With the creation of the institute in March, MGM said it was making a $950,000 donation to fund the institute for three years.
According to the university, a portion of the gift, $317,500, was made July 20.
“I think we fully expect that this will continue on beyond the initial three years,” McManus said. “I expect we’ll evaluate things, reset, recalibrate. We have the expectation that it’s going to go quite well, and we’re going to want to continue it.”
While McManus said MGM has an interest in seeing the think tank advance economic and social progress, the company won’t be meddling in the research.
“I think it goes without saying that Sen. Reid and Speaker Boehner are not going to be told what to do by anyone in this point in their lives,” McManus said. “Our expectation is not to direct the activities of the institute. We can offer valuable help and suggestions, but it’s really up to the advisory board. It would be silly to have precanned research that we want someone to validate.”