Mixed reaction to UNLV president's coming departure - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Mixed reaction to UNLV president's coming departure

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University of Nevada, Las Vegas President Neal Smatresk, testifies for passage of SB501 as Chairman James Dean Leavitt and Attorney Mark Fiorentino look on June 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Lisa J. Tolda) University of Nevada, Las Vegas President Neal Smatresk, testifies for passage of SB501 as Chairman James Dean Leavitt and Attorney Mark Fiorentino look on June 2, 2011. (AP Photo/Lisa J. Tolda)
LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

UNLV will soon be searching for a new president. University officials on Wednesday confirmed Neal Smatresk is the only finalist to lead the University of North Texas.

Smatresk, a native of Texas, cited family in the area as his reason for leaving.

Once the shock of the announcement faded, students and those who worked with Smatresk had mixed emotions about the coming departure.

"He's absolutely the best president that I've worked with, and I've been vice president for 20 years," said Bill Boldt, vice president of university advancement. "A search firm came to him, and he was reluctant at first, but then his wife was really wanting to be closer to the grandchild."

Smatresk, who became UNLV president in 2009, spearheaded a $537 million fundraising campaign as well as an initiative to make the university a Tier 1 school.

Boldt said Smatresk leaves behind a great legacy and a platform on which the school can build.

"We have great initiatives going forward. We have the stadium project, we have the medical school, the renovation of the Thomas & Mack," he said.

One person who said he's not sad to see Smatresk go is Student Body President Mark Ciavola. He said that since 2009, tuition has gone up 50 percent and that students are being priced out of an education. Further, he said the quality of education and student services hasn't improved as tuition has skyrocketed.

"The goal should be to educate and graduate students. You know, we have a 12 percent four-year graduation rate. [The] eight-year graduation rate is still under 50 percent, so if your No. 1 goal of educating and graduating isn't being fulfilled, it's difficult to sell me on branching out and expanding and becoming a Tier 1 research institution when you can't get the basics right," Ciavola said.

Ciavola went on to say Smatresk was very focused on faculty and students suffered as a result.

"Personally, I think he's a nice man, but ultimately I think UNLV needs to move in a different direction, and I'm hoping that the next president takes the students and their personal experiences into account," he said.

The next meeting of the Nevada Board of Regents is set for March. At that time the board will either pick an interim president who would likely be hired as president or select an acting president and conduct a nationwide search.

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