Serving our community, advancing the public good Through education, research and outreach, the University of Nevada, Reno fulfills its land-grant mission to the betterment of humanity, the environment and, of course, Nevada

Morrill Hall on the University Quad in spring

Serving our community, advancing the public good

Through education, research and outreach, the University of Nevada, Reno fulfills its land-grant mission to the betterment of humanity, the environment and, of course, Nevada
NOTE: Some images and video in this article were captured before the pandemic and current mandates.

"The land-grant mission for the University has never been more timely than right now," University of Nevada, Reno President Brian Sandoval said. "With the pandemic, we are looking at an unprecedented event that has shaken the world and our country to their cores. Resources are limited as we re-set our economy and strive for societal justice.”

President Brian Sandoval
President Brian Sandoval

Simply put, land grant began as a way to bring higher education to everyday citizens through practical curriculum such as agriculture, mining and “mechanical arts.” It has evolved into a 21st-century approach to the land-grant mission, which encompasses the University’s goals to improve the lives of Nevadans through teaching, research and outreach.

The pavement Nevadans drive on, the affordable health clinics in rural Nevada, programs to inform and help farmers and ranchers, research that helps the mining industry, geothermal exploration for new energy in Nevada, nutrition programs for families, business economic development bringing industry and jobs to Nevada – all these programs and much more are all now part of the land-grant mission that brought the University of Nevada, Reno to life 147 years ago.

“We were founded to serve our community, the State of Nevada.”

Founded in 1874, the University of Nevada, Reno was established as Nevada’s land-grant institution under the Morrill Act of 1862, which was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln and provided for a land-grant institution in each state of the Union. The designation allowed for use of funds generated by the sale of federal lands to establish and operate universities.

Today, the University of Nevada, Reno has a positive economic impact of more than $1.34 billion annually to the State of Nevada.

Pyramid Lake sunset
After the country was founded, the federal government took a series of steps to use grants of land to promote westward expansion, education and economic development. It involved the taking of a great deal of Native American land.

The University of Nevada, Reno recognizes the funding used in the formation of land-grant institutions: "We acknowledge that the University of Nevada, Reno is situated on the traditional homelands of the Numu (Northern Paiute), Wašiw (Washoe), Newe (Western Shoshone), Nuwu (Southern Paiute) peoples. These lands continue to be a gathering place for Indigenous Peoples and we recognize their deep connections to these places. We extend our appreciation for the opportunity to live and learn on their territory."

The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities states, "While we cannot change the past, public and land-grant universities have and will continue to be focused on building a better future for everyone."

Serving community

“We were founded to serve our community, the State of Nevada,” Sandoval said. “In 2021, serving our community remains a foundational underpinning of everything that we do. Our commitment to the land grant is so important because as we help solve our state’s economic and social challenges, we are representative in every possible way of the experiences, backgrounds and aspirations of every single Nevadan."

This includes addressing how to serve our native tribal populations, whether developing Indigenous Studies programs, Paiute language courses or support of other state legislation that reduces the costs for education to tribal members.

Because of the University's land-grant mission…

  • For a student, the University makes education affordable and prepares them for the Nevada job market
  • For a corporation, the University partners for innovation
  • For a Nevadan, the University offers programs that help communities throughout the state
  • For a small business, the University has programs to help them grow

Engaging communities and making college accessible

"The land-grant system provides a historically successful model on how to educate large numbers of people, some of whom might not have had access to higher education previously, and while doing so encourages them to engage with their communities in impactful ways," Sandoval said. "Extending access is the key to our future. This is what land grant is all about. The founding mission has never really changed in this context."

Vice President for Student Services Shannon Ellis
Vice President for Student Services Shannon Ellis

Vice President for Student Services Shannon Ellis agrees. Her Division of Student Services exists to recruit, retain and provide resources to help students graduate.

"I think the greatest benefit of our land-grant status for students is that we have been deeply committed to the mission to provide higher education to Nevadans," Ellis said. "The state benefits by having our graduates remain in state to build careers, raise families and serve their communities. For almost 150 years, we have contributed to the public good in promoting economic and social mobility. Land grants have been as much about student success as access, so a student benefits from the firm commitment to help them learn and graduate with the skills, values and knowledge that will help them create their desired future."

 

Like all colleges at the University, the College of Science provides an education that prepares students for their future, and for employment vital to the state.

Katherine McCall
Interim Dean of the College of Science Katherine McCall

"We prepare them to pursue careers in areas ranging from mining engineering to conservation biology to land-use planning to clinical psychology," Katherine McCall, interim dean of the College of Science said. "We have 20 academic degree programs that offer a pipeline to jobs in Nevada."

For example, the NevadaTeach program, a collaboration between the College of Education & Human Development and other colleges, including the College of Science; the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources; and the School of Community Health Sciences, produces qualified teachers with subject-area expertise in the sciences and mathematics, a much sought-after qualification for teachers in the 21st century.

"One of the core foundations of a land-grant university is to provide this education to all U.S. citizens regardless of race or economic status,"

In the College of Engineering, Dean Manos Maragakis likes to use the phrase "from K to gray" referring to how the College influences successful outcomes for the state by not just focusing on college-aged students but how the University affects people of all ages.

"We have taken our land-grant mission to heart and developed a comprehensive approach to support our community, from K through gray," he said.

The College of Engineering’s support of the community starts with students at the earliest stages of their education with the K-12 outreach programs that bring current engineering students into classrooms around the state to inspire the next generation to consider the possibilities in the engineering disciplines.

Manos Maragakis
Dean of the College of Engineering Manos Maragakis

"This is easy to do," he said, "because the built world around us is all engineering."

The discipline called “mechanical arts” in the 1800s has since adapted to the needs of the times, and at the University of Nevada, Reno the focus is on the modern engineering fields of biomedical, chemical, civil, computer science, environmental, electrical and materials sciences, as well on mechanical engineering.

"As high school learners progress, through MAKE Nevada – Mentoring for Achievement &Knowledge college prep program – and other outreach and recruitment programs, we provide individualized mentorship to high school students with an interest in engineering so that they are ready to thrive when they pursue their academic careers," Maragakis said.

"When students arrive on campus, we continue to help them succeed,” he explained. “Faculty focused on effective engineering education techniques ensure our curriculum supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and equitable educational outcomes for all learners. Hands-on learning and exceptional mentorship from world-renowned faculty, as well as partnerships with industry leaders, guarantee students receive a globally competitive education."

But just getting students to earn degrees at the University isn't necessarily the ultimate goal of University leaders throughout all the colleges, and the College of Engineering is no exception.

"As they study and get closer to graduation, our Engineering Career Services help them find internships and fulfilling and well-paying jobs," Maragakis said. "Through their careers, they in turn support the community, from the development of new companies to innovations that change the way we work and live."

In the University of Nevada, Reno's world-renowned Earthquake Engineering Lab, six full-size pickup trucks took a wild ride on a 16-foot-high steel bridge when it shook violently in a series of never-before-conducted experiments to investigate the seismic behavior of a curved bridge with vehicles in place.

Another example is in the College of Education & Human Development, where students are prepared to be teachers, school counselors and family counselors, and to conduct literacy programs.

"One of the core foundations of a land-grant university is to provide this education to all U.S. citizens regardless of race or economic status," Donald Easton-Brooks, dean of the College said. "The College of Education & Human Development enrollment is 40% of color, and we have programs in areas like special education and second-language learners and in equity, diversity and inclusion."

Donald Easton-Brooks
Dean of the College of Education & Human Development Donald Easton-Brooks

The College is a recognized leader in guiding, shaping and mentoring high-performing education professionals who will go forth with a lifelong love of learning and with the skills essential for thriving in a global, knowledge-based economy.

"Our Human Development program centers are preparing professionals to work with families from birth through late adulthood," Easton-Brooks said.

Similar to the College of Education & Human Development, the Student Services Division may have its greatest impact on students who have been under-represented in higher education.

"We know that our programs and services work at helping all students make the transition to higher education no matter where they come from and that this diversity of life experiences not only defines how we serve students but how we create learning opportunities for students outside the classroom," Student Services Director Ellis said. "We come up with hundreds of ways for students to bump up against and interact with people who come from a completely different upbringing. Land grants like ours pride ourselves on giving students another opportunity for learning about one's self while learning about others."

The College of Liberal Arts, true to its nature, also exemplifies and embodies the University’s land-grant mission by situating people at the center of everything they do.

"We aim to create a community of diverse and agile thinkers, makers and doers who thrive in a challenging and changing world."

The mission of the College of Liberal Arts is to educate and inspire students to be engaged, flexible and critically literate global citizens. Their students learn to evaluate, synthesize, communicate, experiment and create in order to produce solutions to a range of known and future problems. Their ambitious, innovative and community-engaged research and creative work in and across the creative arts, humanities and social sciences focuses on the varied contexts and expressions of the human condition. Ultimately, they seek to better society and elevate humanity.

Their mission statement underscores the College’s commitment to preparing engaged, flexible and critically literate global citizens who can solve a range of known and future problems – locally and beyond.

Debra Moddelmog
Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Debra Moddelmog

"We take a holistic and humanistic approach that considers the rich diversity and complexity of the human experience in our state and beyond and identify ways to reach and elevate all members of our community," Debra Moddelmog, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said. "We have a special interest in reaching and serving the needs of people from under-represented and underserved backgrounds to promote diversity, equity and access.”

"We employ the creative arts, humanities and social sciences as essential tools for social change and enriching the human condition,” she said. “In the same way that the breadth of the land-grant mission has changed and expanded over time, the College of Liberal Arts has expanded the scope of the communities we serve and the type of work we do. We aim to create a community of diverse and agile thinkers, makers and doers who thrive in a challenging and changing world."

Similarly, the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources gives students the means to enter that challenging and changing world with the academic knowledge and practical, hands-on experience needed to excel in a competitive career market and to contribute to a healthy, prosperous Nevada economy. Students receive hands-on learning opportunities in the College’s Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station, as do youth in the 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the College’s Extension unit.

"We are a people's enterprise, and it is our job to serve the needs of the people of Nevada."

"We enrich the educational experience of our students through diversity and accessibility," President Sandoval said. "We deepen their classroom learning by offering them real-world experiences. Land grant is one of our country’s signature achievements in providing more education to more people. It continues to provide a compelling blueprint in realizing our future, as well as the future of Nevada."

The blueprint to help Nevada grow and prosper attracts students from more than just northern Nevada and from all walks of life.

"We have students from all across Nevada and California and throughout the West who represent a multiplicity of experiences and backgrounds, racial and ethnic groups, socio-economic groups, faiths and beliefs," Sandoval said. "We provide these young people with the widest access to an affordable higher education. Our land-grant heritage makes all of this and so much more possible. We are a people's enterprise, and it is our job to serve the needs of the people of Nevada."

 
Richard Kelley asked a room full of middle and high school students if they wanted to see an artificial intelligence robot dance, which was part of a showcase for the University of Nevada, Reno's Engineers Day, a program aimed at getting K-12 students excited about engineering.

When President Sandoval is walking around campus and talking with students he always mentions that the University is a land-grant institution.

"Land grant is part of who we are," he said. "It’s important that land grant is not only mentioned but that our prospective students understand what it means. One of the most interesting comparisons I’ve read about land grant centers on this notion that the land-grant mission was a vehicle to educate more Americans, more quickly than any other form of higher education that had been attempted to that point.

"There is a civic, public and social value to the work that is done at our land-grant universities that has perhaps more relevancy than ever before."

"The land grant has continued to have a mass appeal in educating a great number of Americans, but it’s now something more. It looks to help change and improve community contexts through a variety of translational activities that include the three-part mission of teaching, research and outreach. So, whenever I talk to students, I try to not only talk about the history of what land grant has meant but what it means, today, in real-time, in influencing and impacting each one of their lives. There is a civic, public and social value to the work that is done at our land-grant universities that has perhaps more relevancy than ever before."

Affordable fees

Sandoval, who attended and graduated from the University, felt the benefits of the land-grant mission, including its affordability. The University is one of only three of the 112 land grants that has kept tuition and fees affordable when compared to other institutions.

"I probably wasn’t as aware of the University’s land-grant mission as I should have been when I began my studies as an undergraduate here in 1981," he said. "I will tell you, though, that affordability was certainly a consideration for my family and I when I made the decision to attend the University."

Through his participation in 4-H activities offered by the University’s Extension unit throughout President Sandoval’s early life, he was able to experience first-hand the broad reach that the University had back then and continues to have through this day.

"We were a 4-H family, and there were numerous times through 4-H activities where I was directly exposed to University faculty and educators who were making a profound difference in my life and the lives of my friends who were also involved in 4-H," Sandoval said. "There were programs after programs that you could be a part of and become a part of something bigger than yourself.

"You could say that I was learning about the value of land grant without even fully realizing that it was occurring. But that is often the case with how the value of land grant occurs. The programs and initiatives associated with land grant will definitely impact the quality and direction of a person’s life and are a positive influence in so many ways. You may not know what to call it when you were young like I was, but you know it makes a difference in where you are now and what you hope and aspire to become in the future."

The University's outreach that made a difference for Sandoval and his family years ago also makes a difference for many more Nevadans now, and since then.

Campers at the Lake Tahoe 4-H Camp learn archery and other outdoor activities.

Community outreach is a major component of the University's land-grant mission – to serve the citizens of the State of Nevada. One of the more visible components of this mission is the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine.

Tom Schwenk
Dean of the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine Tom Schwenk

UNR Med, the states' first public medical school, was founded 50 years ago as a community-based school with a special focus on primary care and rural outreach.

"This was a direct line of sight to the larger mission of the University of Nevada, Reno as a land-grant university," Tom Schwenk, dean of the school, said. "UNR Med lives its mission as a land-grant medical school every day. We consider ourselves to be one of the major vectors by which the University engages with and serves its community."

He said this commitment is manifested in many ways, including:

  • UNR Med is responsible for the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory, which has been a key element in the state's fight against COVID-19
  • Project ECHO provides education to rural and urban underserved communities and health care professionals so as to keep patients in their home communities
  • Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine faculty members serve as medical directors or provide part-time coverage for 15 clinical laboratories in rural Nevada and eastern California communities
  • Area Health Education Centers are responsible for rural health care professional education
  • Pipeline programs reach into underserved communities to identify promising students for future medical careers
  • UNR Med places medical students in rural communities across the state for a required experience in their fourth year that introduces them to the health care needs in those communities.

"We are very similar to Extension in providing resources, support, education and consultation to communities across the state," Schwenk said. "We proudly claim full citizenship with the University and focus on the entire state from a single, community-based hub; it strengthens our original mission."

"UNR Med lives its mission as a land-grant medical school every day."

Schwenk looks to the future for even more outreach to Nevadans. The proposed high-level integration and affiliation of UNR Med’s clinical teaching, research and practices with the counterpart programs at Renown Health will synergize with all of UNR Med's clinical missions. 

"Renown has a strong interest in serving rural areas in the same way we do, and the two of us together can do so much more, including the development of new clinical facilities in communities like Elko."

Through targeted growth and investment in research, clinical services, education and outreach such as this, UNR Med is a resource for improving health care regionally and across the country.

The lab at the University's Student Health Center allows technicians like Cindy Crandrall to process tests on site.

The College of Education & Human Development also reaches statewide with its programs, serving both urban and rural communities.

"The College also reflects the innovative approach of a land-grant university through our nine STEM education programs that service Title I schools, rural communities and high performing schools," Dean Easton-Brooks said. "Overall, the College provides services to more than 35,000 children and families across the state."

Perhaps the College's signature land-grant program is its Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities. The mission of the Center is to cooperatively work with consumers, agencies and programs to help Nevadans with disabilities of all ages be independent and productive citizens who are included in their communities. This mission is accomplished by providing interdisciplinary training offering model exemplary services, conducting interdisciplinary evaluations, disseminating information on developmental disabilities and service options, providing technical assistance, and conducting relevant research and evaluation studies.

The nation’s University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities were established and funded by the Developmental Disabilities Rights Assistance and Rights Act. The Center serves as Nevada's University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities.

NCED serves more than 20,000 Nevadans in every county in the state through approximately 18 programs, such as: Path to Independence, NV-Lend and PBS-Nevada. The work of the Center is supported by nearly $7 million in external funds annually.

"Our programs directly impact individuals who are often overlooked and underserved.”

The College of Liberal Arts is involved in a multi-university grant-sponsored project called “Humanities Extended” that builds a partnership between the College and the University's Extension unit, which is part of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources.

"We will be working on a collaborative project with Extension that connects with one or more of our communities in the state," Dean Moddelmog said. "Our college is also actively engaged in our community as can be seen by some of the programs we highlight in our new magazine, Elevating Humanity. For example, the Latino Research Center, which is housed in our college but serves the entire university, has a combined mission of outreach and research, and they connect on many projects with Latinx communities in our state.”

Daniel Enrique Pérez
Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Daniel Enrique Pérez

Liberal Arts also has several prison education programs, and the Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Daniel Enrique Pérez, has been working to establish the Nevada Prison Education Project.

"In general, the College of Liberal Arts is committed to engaging and serving diverse communities while creating mutually beneficial partnerships and collaborations," Moddelmog said. "Our programs directly impact individuals who are often overlooked and underserved – people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, the marginalized, the dispossessed, racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and others."

 
Bill Payne, dean of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, inspects a pen of sheep at the College's first sheep auction after reaquiring the 1,800 head Rafter 7 herd of sheep based at the new Great Basin Research & Extension Center in Eureka, Nevada in October 2020.
Ivory Lyles
Director of University of Nevada, Reno Extension and Associate Dean for Engagement in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources Ivory Lyles

Ivory Lyles is the director of University of Nevada, Reno Extension and associate dean for engagement in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources. He leverages the full range of expertise within University of Nevada, Reno and all Nevada System of Higher Education institutions and collaborates with community partners to address the needs and challenges of citizens throughout Nevada.

A few years ago, administratively combining the College, Extension and Experiment Station – the cornerstones of the land-grant mission at the University – enhanced service to the communities and stakeholders throughout the state.

"The State of Nevada is our campus," Lyles said. "We take information that is generated by the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station, or from the classroom, and we disseminate that information as quickly as possible to the citizens of the State. All of our information is research-based."

Six program areas are key to Extension's work:

  • Agriculture
  • Horticulture
  • Natural Resources
  • Community & Economic Development
  • Children, Youth & Families
  • Nutrition

Some programs may sound familiar:

  • Living with Drought
  • Living with Fire,
  • STEM education and literacy programs
  • Healthy Kids and Healthy Schools
  • Master Gardeners
  • 4-H
  • SNAP – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for low-income Nevadans

"Extension is Nevada's front door to the University in each of the 17 counties in the state," Lyles said. "In Clark County, because of the size, we actually have five locations – and we're currently planning the sixth for North Las Vegas."

"Extension is Nevada's front door to the University in each of the 17 counties in the state."

"To truly be a land-grant university, you must embrace the three parts of the mission," Lyles said. "The academic or the teaching function, discovery of new knowledge through our Agricultural Experiment Station, and dissemination of that information in a timely fashion, commonly known as Extension.”

In addition to Extension, the College departments – Agriculture, Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences; Biochemistry & Molecular Biology; Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences; and Nutrition – each fulfill the land-grant mission.

With the University’s land-grant designation, the Experiment Station and Extension receive federal and state funds to conduct important research and programs statewide, and also the degree programs offered by the College that serve the entire State, most of which are not offered elsewhere in the State.

Bill Payne, dean of the College, has extensive experience with land-grant institutions and international dryland agriculture research. He has advised charitable foundations, national and international agencies, publishers, foreign governments and universities on science, food security and sustainable agriculture.

Bill Payne
Dean of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources Bill Payne

"The genius of the land grant is that it represents a federal, state and local government partnership that integrates education, research and Extension to impact lives," he said. "It is a very different model than what is found in most countries. The emphasis on impacting lives is why I feel privileged to be dean of the college.”

"The college was created thanks to the 1862 Morrill Act, which served as the basis of land-grant colleges,” he explained. “Federally controlled land was granted to states for them to sell to raise funds to establish 'land-grant colleges.' The Hatch Act of 1887 provided additional funds to establish state agricultural experiment stations under the direction of each state’s land-grant college.

"The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 is the third key land-grant act, which underpins the land-grant mission by providing federal funds for Cooperative Extension. In the case of the Smith-Lever Act, state match and county buy-in are required. In the case of the Hatch Act, federal funds have to be matched by state funds."

"Our federal funds are based on rural populations," Payne said. "Experiment Station conducts research around the state to help ranchers and farmers. We are reaching out more than ever to rural communities using these funds."

"The genius of the land grant is that it represents a federal, state and local government partnership that integrates education, research and Extension to impact lives."

Through the Hatch Act of 1887, Agricultural Experiment Stations were created in every state to assist land-grant universities in conducting research important to the region in the areas of agricultural and mechanical arts. Today, Hatch funding supports a broad array of research activities on all aspects of agriculture.

Chris Pritsos, the College’s associate dean for research and director of the Experiment Station, has been in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources since 1986.

Chris Pritsos
Associate Dean for Research of the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources and Director of the Experiment Station Chris Pritsos

"Our college and the Experiment Station have always had a commitment to the land-grant mission, that of serving the people of Nevada," he said. "Our research activities have always included work relevant to the entire state, whether that be in the area of agriculture, nutrition and health or natural resources. Over the years, while research relevant to the entire state was always being conducted, I would say that activities in other parts of the state may have varied – particularly when faced with severe budget cuts to our programs. In recent years, however, we have made a concerted effort to expand our research activities throughout the state, which is reflected in our programs and research activities."

These programs include:

  • Plant and animal production and health
  • Processing, distribution, safety, marketing and utilization of food and agricultural products
  • Forestry, including range management and range products, multiple use of forest rangelands and urban forestry
  • Aquaculture
  • Home economics and family life
  • Human nutrition
  • Rural and community development
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Molecular biology
  • Biotechnology

"The Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station supports research activities relevant to the nation, region and the state of Nevada," Pritsos said. "The Experiment Station maintains seven field stations throughout the state including in Churchill, Clark, Eureka and Washoe Counties. The Experiment Station also has a field station in Lassen County, California, just north of Washoe County. Much of the research supported by the Experiment Station directly supports agriculture-related issues important to different regions of the state."

For example, studies in Clark County have focused on the development of drought-tolerant crops, including cactus crops that can remove carbon from the atmosphere and provide biofuel, food and livestock feed. Other studies in Clark County have tested growing conditions for different varietals of grapes in the semi-arid regions of southern Nevada.

 
Kamol Das, right, and Yaqi You show a batch of lettuce plants that are used in the quantification of carbon nanotubes in the plant. The team in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering has been using hydroponic cultures of lettuce with culture solution and carbon nanotubes added to the solution.

The Experiment Station has also partnered with the Utah Extension Service in leading a regional research program to address the wild horse and burro management issues facing nearly every county in Nevada and Utah, as well as several other Western states. This project exemplifies the role of the land-grant university system in solving regional issues.

"Faculty with various areas of expertise have come together from seven Western Region Land-Grant Universities to gather research data to help inform both policy makers and stakeholders of the animal and environmental conditions surrounding this highly controversial issue," Pritsos said.

The Experiment Station is supporting the development of a new Research and Extension Center in Eureka to assist the sheep industry in Nevada as well as farmers in the Great Basin. This facility will complement the Experiment Station Gund Ranch Field Station in Eureka County that provides support to the cattle industry in Nevada.

“This fits exactly into the goals of the Experiment Station and land grant – contributing knowledge and meeting the needs of stakeholders,” Pritsos said. “Ranchers and farmers have unique challenges and problems that the research faculty can help them address and solve.”

The Experiment Station is providing $330,000 to fund at least five research projects on fire science, and its faculty have been very successful at attracting more than $1.25 million in extramural funding for research and Extension programs related to fire ecology and preparedness, in addition to the statewide Living With Fire Program.

"We have a great many partners towards this end, including federal and state agencies; other colleges within the University; other universities; federal, state and local firefighters; and dozens of individual communities,” Dean Payne said.

Similarly, Extension works with a myriad of agencies and other colleges and departments on the statewide Living With Drought Program, notably with the Nevada State Climate Office, one of the College of Science's public service departments.

Fairview peak fire camera
The Nevada Seismological Laboratory in the College of Science has installed thousands of mountain fire spotting cameras around Nevada and the West, including this one on Fairview Peak in partnership with the Nevada Bureau of Land Management.

Public service departments

In the College of Science, there are several public service departments that conduct statewide research and monitoring programs: the Nevada State Climate Office, the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology and the Nevada State Seismological Lab. Together these departments provide climate, drought, earthquake hazard and wildfire monitoring, as well as geologic sample retention and cataloging, and geothermal energy research that supports the development of the geothermal industry in Nevada. The three museums associated with the college – the Museum of Natural History, the WM Keck Earth Science and Mineral Engineering Museum, and the Fleischmann Planetarium – serve thousands of scholars, students and other visitors every year (in nonpandemic years).

Big Hill seismo station
The Nevada Seismological lab in the College of Science operates, maintains and monitors more than 185 real-time seismographic stations across Nevada and along the Sierra Nevada mountain range of eastern California to investigates the sizes, frequencies of occurrence, and distribution of earthquakes in the region.

Delivering service and solutions

"While our teaching and outreach programs help students realize their full potential in pursuit of their dreams, our research contributes directly to the well-being of our community, the region and the world," Dean Maragakis said. "Every department engages in research designed to solve real-world problems and improve the standard of living of our community and far beyond. A great example where this is most visible is our contributions to Nevada’s infrastructure.”

"Partnerships with state agencies like the Nevada Department of Transportation and RTC guide our research to address pressing concerns,” he said. “And the results of the work of our students and faculty translate into updates to building, bridge and pavement codes that are designed to make our streets and structures safer, greener and more sustainable."

"The essence of the land-grant mission is to deliver service and solutions to our communities and the state that address the challenges and opportunities of our time."

Through teaching, outreach and research, the College of Engineering supports the personal, professional and economic development of our region.

"What happens in our classrooms and laboratories attracts cutting-edge engineering and computer science firms and businesses from around the world, while fostering the next Nevada success story in the lives of our students and alumni," the dean said. 

As vice president for Research & Innovation, Mridul Gautam leads the articulation and implementation of a shared vision for research. He guides the administrative division focused on developing world-class research and discovery, the careers and competitiveness of faculty, and the institution’s capacity as an R1 comprehensive/doctoral university with very high research activity, as classified by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. This work is an economic cornerstone of Nevada.

Vice President for Research & Innovation Mridul Gautum
Vice President for Research & Innovation Mridul Gautam

"The essence of the land-grant mission is to deliver service and solutions to our communities and the state that address the challenges and opportunities of our time," Gautam, who is also an engineering professor, said. "Through their fundamental, applied and translational research, as well as their scholarship, creative works and innovation, our faculty are doing just that, and they are bringing leadership, excellence and commitment to this mission. This work, supported by staff and students, represents a significant and meaningful public good for our state and the world."

It is the mission of Research & Innovation to provide high-quality service and to support development of a competitive infrastructure to enable faculty and students to excel in their research, scholarly and creative endeavors. This includes industry outreach and partnerships, entrepreneurial activities and commercialization, workforce development, and collaboration with a myriad of agencies and organizations, all of which directly impacts economic development for the State of Nevada.

Gautam said, "I have long appreciated this quote from C. Peter MaGrath, whose distinguished career included service as president of the National Association of State Universities and Land-grant Colleges (today the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities): ’We serve ourselves best when we serve others and our communities.’”

 

 
Then Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval spoke at the opening of the Innevation Center, which brings the University community together with entrepreneurs, investors and commercialization experts. The Innevation Center has also been home-base for three industry-focused University initiatives: Nevada Center for Applied Research, Nevada Industry Excellence and the Nevada Advanced Autonomous Systems Innovation Center.

Research brings significant new funding to Nevada, and among the many benefits this presents is the creation of jobs and direct economic support.

"Our research and researchers fill an anchoring role in the development of emerging fields and industries in Nevada, such as technology, biosciences and advanced manufacturing, and they also continue to partner with and support important legacy industries and business sectors. such as agriculture, mining, health care and tourism,” Gautam said. "Behind all of this is the research, creative and scholarly activity that contributes so much to our arts, culture, environment, policies, health and K-12 settings … ultimately to our quality of life and regional vibrancy and heritage."

With the support of the Nevada Knowledge Fund, administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Gautam's office created and operates the Innevation Center and the Nevada Center for Applied Research.

"These programs are the foundations of our innovation ecosystem, providing industry, entrepreneurs and agencies access to the University’s sophisticated labs, equipment, expertise, resources and more," he said.

The Research & Innovation office recently reported to the Nevada State Legislature the combined impact of just the two centers since their opening in 2015:

  • $108 million in venture capital raised by affiliated startups
  • 181 companies, agencies, organizations engaged with us through memberships or agreements
  • 490+ jobs created by affiliated companies
  • 29 companies with University-based operations currently
  • $25 million in grants, sponsored-research contracts and donations received
 
The Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 2014 and serves as a point of inspiration and clearinghouse for information and an idea space that facilitates entrepreneurship, moving ideas into action. The Center focuses on the development of students' entrepreneurial skills, assisting faculty in commercializing their research, and improving northern Nevada's entrepreneurial ecosystem.

The College of Business contributes to the economic development of Nevada in other ways. Consistent with the University's land-grant mission, the College serves as a resource to the community through applied scholarship, outreach programs and economic development. Examples include programs with the University Center for Economic Development in partnership with Extension and the Experiment Station, the Ozmen Center for Entrepreneurship, the Institute for the Study of Gambling and Commercial Gaming, the Center for Regional Studies, Made in Nevada, and the Nevada Small Business Development Center.

In just over one month, the Nevada SBDC helped clients receive more than $3 million in Small Business Administration disaster relief funds. Last year, the Center’s network counseled 2,060 clients, assisted 172 new business startups, created 533 jobs, provided $52 million in capital investments and held 73 public training events.

The College is considered the premier provider of business education in the region, preparing students to become competitive, ethical and innovative business professionals in order to drive economic development and improve quality of life for all citizens of the State of Nevada.

Global thinking, global impact

The benefit of the University’s work as a land grant to Nevada extends far beyond the state’s borders, even bringing global attention to the State.

"Our future will always be determined by the nature of the problems that we are charged to solve.”

"We’ve seen how the land-grant ideal of improving the lives of people in Nevada has become much more global in its implications, and I think our colleges and schools reflect this kind of thinking," President Sandoval said. "Knowledge generated by faculty in all of our colleges and schools has very clear benefits for our society and reflects its priorities and needs.”

"Our future will always be determined by the nature of the problems that we are charged to solve,” he said. "The problems that we are asked to solve may change through time, but our essential role to Nevada’s future remains the same and is critically important.

"By committing to our land-grant mission, we are moving Nevada one step closer to broad-based economic and social prosperity; higher levels of civic engagement by Nevada’s citizens; lower unemployment and the development of new jobs based on new industries and businesses; and an unparalleled opportunity to unlock the profound potential of our underserved communities through affordable access to higher education."

"The University is uniquely suited to advance the public good in all of our communities.”

Ultimately, every college and school on campus has the land-grant tripartite mission of teaching, research and outreach.

"From the initial enabling language when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Land-grant Act of 1862 into law, and the start of the University in 1874, look how far we've come," Sandoval said. "We have scientists who are developing drought-resistant crops. We have engineers designing batteries for future fleets of cars and other modes of clean transportation as we fight climate change.

"We have faculty who have played a role in expanding our horizons beyond Earth to the Mars Rover projects and others who are saving monster fish in some of the world's greatest waters. We have doctors from our Medical School and nurses from our School of Nursing who are administering treatments for COVID-19. We have medical researchers who are studying the spread of the disease so that we can ultimately curtail COVID spread in our communities.

"We have Public Health and Social Work graduates who are helping extend health care into our underserved communities. We have Extension programs reaching into Nevada's counties on a variety of fronts, to youth programs and our largest urban centers, to 4-H and wildland fire safety in our rural communities."

 
4-H campers enjoy the sunset at the Lake Tahoe camp, located in Stateline, Nevada

After 147 years, the University’s land-grant mission is engrained in the soul of the institution.

"Our commitment as the state's land-grant university must always be unwavering, far-reaching and ambitious if our state is to recover and indeed, prosper, post-COVID-19," Sandoval said. "The University is uniquely suited to advance the public good in all of our communities. From humble beginnings as Nevada was first realizing Statehood, our land-grant heritage is today moving our University, and our State, forward. Looking back now, land grant was an idea that was ahead of its 19th century time.

"Today in the 21st century, land grant is the idea we continue to need to help solve the most pressing challenges of our time,” he said. Land grant is our heritage – and our legacy – for future generations. Whenever we speak about land grant, we need to speak about the University of Nevada, Reno, because this continues to be a story of how an idea shaped an entire University and the State that it serves.”