Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014 | 3:57 p.m.
For an hour, UNLV presidential candidate Dr. Ricardo Azziz fielded questions from the public about his plans for the future of the university.
He talked about how he would repair low morale among faculty and staff by surveying the campus for improvements, how he would work with legislators to get more funding for UNLV and his goal to help push UNLV to the upper tier of universities.
His quick and succinct answers impressed some members in the crowd, such as Rhonda Montgomery, an assistant professor at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration.
“I’m very pleased,” said Montgomery, who is also chair of the Faculty Senate. “I think he has a vision for UNLV.”
About 20 people showed up at the forum today, which coincided with Veterans Day. It was the public’s opportunity to size up the first of three candidates for UNLV president. The other candidates are University of Arizona Eller College of Management Dean Len Jessup and UNLV Executive Vice President and Provost John Valery White.
Azziz is the president of Georgia Regents University, where he helped merge Georgia Health Sciences University — a medical school — and Augusta State University into one school. He is also a medical doctor and has worked at UCLA and the University of Alabama-Birmingham.
His time at Georgia Regents University hasn’t been all smooth.
News stories out of Augusta, Ga., reported that he used a school bus for transportation and campus police for security for his niece’s wedding and attempted to build a $75,000 carport at the president’s home without regent approval.
Azziz said today outside of the forum both were misunderstandings and that he corrected the issues.
The public’s questions, however, focused on his plans for UNLV.
One person wanted to know why he would want to come to UNLV, which has had trouble gaining funding from state legislators.
Azziz said he wanted the challenge of pushing the university to the next level, like he did at Georgia Regents University. He said he wants the university to start working more with the business community and thinking like a private school.
“Are we going to get all the help from state that we need? No,” Azziz said. “We have to get away from that thought process and act like a private institution.”
A parent asked about how he planned to keep Las Vegas’ top students in the city, rather than bolting for other universities.
Azziz said it’s about selling the university and making sure the community understands the assets it already has. He said there is “tremendous potential” for the school to partner with the Clark County School District and businesses.
Other questions touched on how he would make life easier for students dealing with financial aid, tuition and administrative services, his management style, treatment of staff and the role of the liberal arts in a culture pushing science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Instead of standing at the podium, Azziz walked around the room and addressed each individual who asked a question.
His answers impressed attendees Tom Rodriguez. “From my perspective, this guy has everything that’s needed to turn this university around,” Rodriguez said.
Jessup’s public forum is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Nov. 13 at the Stan Fulton Building.
White will appear at a public forum at 10 a.m. on Nov. 14, also at the Stan Fulton Building. The UNLV President Search Committee may select the next president at its Nov. 17 or Nov. 18 meeting.