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UNLV president says research key to success

UNLV President David Ashley said Friday that he wants to expand the university’s research capabilities, attract better undergraduate students and more graduate students, and improve communication between faculty and administrators.

“In short, the UNLV you see now is not the UNLV you will see in the next decade or in the next year,” Ashley said during his inaugural address to faculty, students and higher education officials at Artemus Ham Hall.

Although Ashley joined the University of Nevada, Las Vegas in July, school officials said it was customary for university presidents to wait several months before giving their inaugural address.

UNLV spokesman Dave Tonelli said Ashley wanted the event to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the university, which is this year.

After his first 10 months on the job, Ashley said the key to UNLV’s success is focusing on research.

He said that he wants a campus culture of faculty and staff willing to compete for top projects, and that competitive funding will be the university’s emphasis.

“After conversations with our current research teams, it is clear that we need new facilities, advanced technology and hardware, software and supplies,” Ashley said.

That institutional funding will attract brighter, more inquisitive students, he said.

Ashley also said that with more institutions providing access for students, UNLV can focus on recruiting top students and setting the rate of growth.

About 21 percent of the university’s students are graduate students, but many of those are professionals not pursuing research, he said.

“What we need is full-time graduate students focusing on research,” Ashley said.

He said the university can also stop trying to keep pace with the rapid rate of growth.

“We will banish the word ‘expansion’ from our lexicon; that word no longer describes what we do,” he said. “We must adopt a culture of thoughtful and deliberate investment.”

Officials and university system regents said they were excited about Ashley’s speech.

“It sounds like he’s saying, ‘OK, let’s stop with the growth and start with what we’re going to produce,’ ” said Frederick Krauss, president of the Graduate & Professional Student Association.

Regent Thalia Dondero said she thought Ashley would bring UNLV to “the next level.”

“This is now getting to be an exciting campus,” she said.

It was the mission of former President Carol Harter, who preceded Ashley, to transform UNLV into a research university.

Now, Ashley said greater dialogue between faculty and administrators will help the university plan for the future.

“Our planning process will be re-engineered so that dialogue moves in both directions: top-down and bottom-up,” Ashley said.

Some of his plans have already been in instituted, he said.

He said he has added people to the research support side, responsible for getting research grants and other funding. And admissions requirements are scheduled to increase from the current 2.75 grade-point average to 3.0 in 2008.

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