UNLV Later: Visions of Drones, Holodecks and an Urban Village

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

Illustration by Cierra Pedro

The dream, as you might guess, begins with the project formerly known as UNLV Now: an on-campus stadium that will hold 60,000 people; a student village—filled with housing, shops, restaurants and bars—that will stretch from the stadium to the Thomas & Mack Center. In 2034, says David Frommer, UNLV’s executive director of planning and construction, the university will be “a lively, active community with an authentic urban fabric.”

As a whole, the campus, although landlocked on 332 urban acres, will grow by another million gross square feet, mostly vertically, bringing the total building square footage to about 6.5 million. And, Frommer says, some new campuses may develop off-site—such as on a now sought-after 2,000-acre parcel in the northeast part of the Valley near the Mike O’Callaghan Federal Medical Center. Here, he suggests, we might see an extension of the engineering college, for research projects that require more land.

Good thing, because Rama Venkat, interim dean of the College of Engineering, envisions that by 2034, we’ll be building drones. Plus, the engineering faculty will double to 165, and the number of undergraduate degrees will jump from 171 to 400. The university’s new areas of expertise? “It’ll be a one-stop shop for unmanned systems testing and setup,” Venkat says. “We’ll be bringing drones to civilian life, for everything from agriculture to crime fighting. UNLV will specialize in that.”

At the same time, though, digital technology will have such an effect on the way students learn, says David Baird, director of UNLV’s School of Architecture, that “traditional lecture-based learning will slowly disappear in favor of interdisciplinary instruction that integrates digital resources.” Educational spaces may evolve into immersive digital environments, “similar to a holodeck depicted on Star Trek,” Baird says.

The faculty itself will be more diverse, says Joanne Goodwin, associate professor of history and director of the Women’s Research Institute: “The faculty will reflect the diversity of the community and student body. Women and faculty of color will move meritoriously into the academic ranks with sponsorship and parity.”

Moreover, the focus of getting an education itself may change, Baird says, because of the ever-growing mountain of information the world produces. “Learning will focus less on the transfer of information and more on the processes of learning, as well as how one uses or applies information.”

“The vision is still open,” Frommer says. “But it will be a wonderful place.”

Back to 2034: City of Vision.