15 March 2023
Nevada is a place of reinvention. Whether it is evolving the economy to include additional industries beyond mining and agriculture, or the Las Vegas Strip manifesting itself as a global entertainment destination, our state is forward-looking with a vision of what is possible and a plan to get there. Nevada’s evolution includes our citizens’ demographics, and as our state changes, we must maintain the commitment to address historical racial disparities and inequities in the Nevada of the future.
Our reinvention continues, albeit on a smaller scale, as Nevada State College looks to celebrate its 20 years of progress and service to our state by becoming Nevada State University. This idea was announced in September of last year and has received enthusiastic support from the business community, public officials, communities across the Nevada State service areas, students, and faculty. Perhaps the most exciting part of this evolution is the opportunity to include diversity, equity, and inclusion on the front-end of planning efforts, and to ensure this important goal remains a priority throughout Nevada State’s transition.
In addition to being elected to serve on the Nevada State Board of Education, I own several small businesses and I’m in the process of starting a new consulting firm that will focus on work that has a positive social impact on our community. As a Board Member, I’ve gained considerable insight into the educational needs of communities across Nevada, as well as of the certificate, degree, and training programs we offer to address those needs. These needs have continued to evolve in our state, and a third university is an important step forward toward the ultimate goal of providing the best post-secondary educational opportunities for everyone.
While serving as a board member, I am pleased to help form a workgroup focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion and participate in a local workforce development workgroup. The workgroup is focused on increasing college-level and career readiness and increased access to STEAM learning. This work is important to ensure that underserved communities in our state have more opportunities to pursue the training, certificates, and degrees necessary to enter the workforce or to advance in the career of their choice.
Nevada State has fully embraced this mission of inclusion and is at the forefront, striving for equity in our workforce development and education systems. The demographics of their student body tells the rest of the story: More than half of Nevada State students are first generation students; three quarters are non-white, with nearly half of its student body being Hispanic. Nevada State is, in other words, a destination for those seeking to grow and learn in a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The work they are doing is improving the lives of the Nevadans they serve every day.
Changing the name of Nevada State College to Nevada State University will not change its mission or its commitment to serving all Nevadans. It will, however, recognize the tremendous work Nevada State is already doing. Like its university counterparts, Nevada State provides baccalaureate degrees in education, allied health sciences, nursing, and other critical fields for Nevada’s workforce. The degrees they grant provide opportunities for the students they serve to grow, learn and improve. These students will go on to reduce racial and social disparities in Nevada’s workforce into the future.
As Nevada continues to reinvent itself, we must continue to address inequities and disparities in our state. There is work to be done to achieve this goal in every aspect of our state. Changing the name of Nevada State College to Nevada State University will recognize their progress over two decades — and fully reward Nevada State students for their efforts.
Felicia Ortiz serves as treasurer of the NM Highlands University Foundation Board and is a member of the WestEd Board of Directors. She is also the president of the Nevada State Board of Education.