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publisher’s Note

: Make a note of the dates and take part in Rebel Homecoming: Rebels Return 18.-22. October! One of the many events is the Annual Alumni Awards Dinner, which recognizes exceptional personalities who represent the ideals of higher education and the pride of the rebels. Here is one of this year’s winners.


Casey Barber

’17 BS Public Health
Honors college alumna of the year

If you unfortunately tested positive for COVID-19 – or know someone in southern Nevada – chances are you received a call from Casey Barber. She and three of her other UNLV alumni took action in late March 2020 to lead a team of student volunteers as part of the Southern Nevada Health District’s contact tracing effort.

Barber and the UNLV COVID-19 contact tracing team began calling infected patients and finding out where they were, contacting people who may have been exposed and advising on quarantine protocols.

As she joined the frontline of the state’s pandemic response, Barber plunged headlong into her chosen career path, gaining invaluable – and rare – firsthand experience during an unprecedented public health crisis. She continued an impressive trend of selflessly serving her community. During her years at Honors College, the Las Vegan researched the health effects of housing for life; was instrumental in promoting the university’s participation in the Rebuilding Together Southern Nevada program, which helps homeowners in need; and coordinated philanthropic efforts.

When she wasn’t helping her fellow citizens of Southern Nevada, Barber was busy making her mark on the Honors College community. She served on the Honors Student Council, served as President of the UNLV Public Health Student Association, was supported as an applicant for the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education, and even formed the Honors College internal basketball team. She also received the 2016 Regents’ Scholar Award from the Nevada System of Higher Education and was recognized as an Outstanding Graduate in her class in 2017.

“Honors College was the main reason I chose UNLV,” said Barber. “I loved the way this close-knit community existed on the larger UNLV campus; it made the transition from high school to college seamless. I was also interested in the smaller class sizes, the diverse class options for the honors seminars and the opportunity to do research as part of the Research Honors program. Everything about it fit perfectly. “

When did you know you were aiming for a career in healthcare?

Since I knew that at some point I wanted to do a master’s degree, I wanted to get into research as a bachelor’s degree. So I signed up for a research project with Shawn Gerstenberger, the dean of the School of Public Health. It was then that I began to learn more about public health and the ability to focus on population-level health issues. The research at the school was fascinating, so after my sophomore year I switched my major from life sciences to public health. Soon after, I discovered my interest in epidemiology and infectious diseases.

How has your experience leading a team of UNLV students in contact tracing impacted you?

At first we were a team of only seven volunteers, but in autumn 2020 and spring 2021 we grew to over 200 student employees.

It was an absolute whirlwind, but incredibly meaningful work. I was born and raised in Las Vegas so helping our community through the pandemic was very important to me. I’ve learned so much about public health interventions – especially the importance of planning and problem solving – and I’ve also gained confidence in my leadership skills.

While I, of course, wish there had never been a global pandemic – and pray it never happens again – COVID-19 has absolutely fueled my interest in a career in infectious disease epidemiology. And it renewed my commitment to public health.

What advice would you give the current UNLV student regarding admission to Honors College?

Find out about everything the college has to offer, visit the amazing space on campus, and speak to an Honors College student or advisor. Those who do these three things will have a hard time saying no.

Honors College offers so many options to students, and it has grown immensely since I arrived as a freshman. It was through Honors College that I made some of my closest friends and had some of my most interesting and interesting courses. The faculty, staff and administration are just as important; They do so much to support student success and engagement on campus.

What does the expression “rebel spirit” mean to you?

It means following your own path to doing what hasn’t been done before, asking thought-provoking questions, and thinking critically and creatively about ways to innovate and make change.

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