When J. Judd Harbin came to work at the University of Arkansas in 1998, his plan was to work there for three years before climbing the ladder.
He ended up staying for 16 years before leaving to become director of campus life assessment at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
He chose to join UNLV because he was looking for a position “more devoted to assessment work.”
Harbin, who is 46, works to ensure the programs the university offers are the best that they can be. He looks at metrics and learning outcomes to develop the university’s programs.
“In this program, it’s program evolution,” he said.
While at the UA, he was associate dean of students in the division of student affairs where he combined his love for psychology with student development.
In 1992, he graduated with bachelor’s degree in psychology and went on to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in counseling psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi.
His experience as a freshman at Birmingham Southern College led him to an interest in higher education and student development.
After he earned his doctorate in 1998, he came to the UA to work as a staff psychologist in the counseling center.
Between 2003 and 2006, he also had a private practice.
In 2006, he was elected as a member of the Arkansas Psychology board of directors and in 2009, then-Gov. Mike Beebe appointed him to the state licensing board for psychology.
Also in 2009, he was named to the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
Harbin considers the appointment to the state board the highlight of his career and an “awesome, exciting and fabulous experience.” He thought he would be in his 60s before achieving such an accomplishment.
While on the Arkansas Psychology board, Harbin became acquainted with psychologists throughout the state, and they knew he was faculty at the UA. When he was first considered for the appointment, he thought, “Wait, I’m pretty young.”
But he met all the necessary qualifications and had supporting letters recommending him for the appointment.
He served for three years, finishing out a former board member’s term. He decided against going for a second term, because at the time, he knew he might soon not be working in Arkansas anymore. And in 2014, he was on his way to Las Vegas, starting in his position at UNLV.
Along with his duties to assess and improve upon the university’s programs, he also serves on a committee to see the university become a top research university in the United States, and coordinates UNLV’s part in two nationwide surveys in which between 2,000 and 3,000 university students complete.
The university has nearly 29,000 students. By comparison, the UA has 27,194 students.
Harbin said his focus is the 24,000 undergraduates, and he mostly interacts with faculty and staff.
“UNLV is a very different institution,” he said. “Eighty percent of students are from Clark County,” which is where Las Vegas is located.
Only 5%, or 1,761, students live on campus. “That’s pretty much capacity,” he said. About 50% live at home with their parents, and the remaining 45% reside off campus with their own families.
The university also has no racial majority in the undergraduate class, Harbin said. The class is 40% white; 25% Hispanic; 25% Asian, American Indian or Pacific Islander; and less than 10% African-American.
Harbin said he’s returned once to Northwest Arkansas since he moved, but he misses the area. “There are a lot of people there I count as my closest friends,” he said. His sister still lives in Fayetteville. His parents, who are retired, live in Alabama.
Harbin, whose hometown is Haleyville, Alabama, serves as chair of external relations for Student Affairs Assessment Leaders, a nationwide professional development organization. He’s also a volunteer for the American Psychological Association dealing with lesbian, gay and bisexual issues, and a member of Western Psychological Association.
Harbin recently joined the Las Vegas Men’s Chorus, is engaged to be married and enjoys camping, hiking and watching “American Horror Story” and “Game of Thrones.”