Celebrating Fifty Years

Graduate College
Graduate College
Graduate College located in the Flora Dungan Humanities building

As the central organizational and support system for graduate students, the Graduate College has, over the years, played an important role in recruiting top students, supporting research, and cultivating a national reputation for UNLV. Although the university offered some graduate courses in the 1950s, it was not until 1964 that Nevada Southern officially established graduate education with the Division of Graduate Studies. Under the leadership of Charles Adams, professor of English and coordinator of graduate studies, the newly established division provided graduate classes designed to meet the growing needs of both Nevada and the region.

Graduate Growth

In 1967, the first group of students graduated with master's degrees—nine from the School of Education and two from the School of Science and Mathematics. Several new graduate degree programs were particularly relevant to residents of Southern Nevada:

  • Master's degrees in biology and zoology focused on ecology, supported by a research museum herbarium containing large collections of plants and animals of the Southwest.
  • The master of science in physics provided professional development opportunities for the Nevada Test Site work force.
  • With four graduate degrees—including the master of arts, master of science in education, master of education, and the master of vocational counseling degrees—the School of Education provided advanced professional and academic study for much-needed teachers, counselors, administrators, and other professional school personnel.
  • The master of business administration offered by the School of Business sought to prepare students for careers in business management.

From Division to College

In 1972, the division became the Graduate College, with theater professor Lawrence Kuhl serving as its founding dean. At the time of his appointment, the graduate degree programs offered had increased to include the master of arts in economics, French, German, Spanish, history, political science, and psychology; the master of education in physical education; the specialist in education; and master of science in mathematics.

Dramatic Growth

By 1977, more than 1,600 graduate degrees had been conferred. That year, five of the 262 candidates for graduate degrees received the first doctor of education degrees conferred by the university. By 1984, graduate enrollment had grown to more than 700, and 30 graduate degree programs were offered. This period was followed by a decade of dramatic growth for the entire university, reflected in enrollment and program growth in the Graduate College.

Importance of Research

Research is the cornerstone of graduate education. From its earliest days, the Graduate College has supported graduate-level research and continues to encourage graduate students to pursue scholarly and creative activity. In 2002, an administrative reorganization integrated the Graduate College with campus research units to form the Division of Research and Graduate Studies. This strategic move will further the current university goal of strengthening research by enhancing the graduate studies that support it.

Preparing Leaders

Graduate education plays an integral role in preparing leaders in society. Today, more than 6,000 graduate and professional students are enrolled at UNLV. Nearly 120 graduate-level programs—including 36 doctoral and professional programs—are offered, representing a wide variety of disciplines. More than 16,000 graduate degrees have been conferred since 1967, including nearly 500 doctorates.

In the years ahead, the college will continue its mission: to support and advance high-quality graduate education and research; strategically develop graduate programs; support graduate faculty; encourage superior mentorship; and train and graduate students and scholars who contribute regionally, nationally, and internationally.


1972 - Lawrence Kuhl
1977 - Joe McCullough, interim
1980 - James F. Adams
1985 - Ronald Smith
1998 - Penny Amy, interim
1999 - Paul Ferguson
2003 - Gale Sinatra, interim
2006 - Mark Rudin, Interim Vice President for Research and Graduate Dean
2006 - Ron Smith, Interim Vice President for Research and Graduate Dean