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The Past, Present And Future Of The Black Mountain Institute

The Black Mountain Institute at UNLV just turned 10.


The international literary center grants fellowships and degrees, holds readings and panels, and provides asylum to persecuted writers.


Actually, Black Mountain Institute is the old name. The full name for the organization is the Beverly Rogers and Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute.


BMI’s two namesakes joined KNPR's State of Nevada to talk about what the organization has accomplished so far, and what they hope to do in the future.


Carol Harter is a former president of UNLV and a founder of BMI. She said the idea for the institute began with Glenn Schaeffer, the former CEO of Mandalay Bay. He came to her when she was president of the university about creating a program similar to the legendary but shuttered Black Mountain College in North Carolina.


“Glenn thought this was such a wonderful idea to teach using artists that he came to see if we could create sort of a college within the university that would be patterned after Black Mountain College,” she said.


Beverly Rogers is a book collector, benefactor to the arts, and an expert on Victorian publishing practices. She helped establish BMI's program for persecuted writers, and later fundraised for the institute.


Rogers said she and Harter worked to get people around the community involved with the project, but the big boost came when Rogers' late husband, Jim Rogers, noticed how much time she was spending on BMI and decided to help with an initial gift of $10 million in 2013. Eventually, through his trust, another $20 million was donated to the institute. 

“I view it as something that he did to honor the time I spent with [Harter] on it and my devotion to it," Rogers said, "Frankly, he did it to honor me, which will go down in my history as one of the most wonderful things on Earth he ever did.”

The money has allowed the institute to expand its City of Asylum program, which gives a home to writers who are being censored or threatened with imprisonment or violence in their home countries. 

Harter and Rogers credit executive director Josh Wolf Shenk with pushing new programs at the institute. One of those projects is a new creative nonfiction program.

“With Beverly’s largess, we are able to start a creative nonfiction track so that we will have three different kinds of writing being taught at UNLV,” Harter said.

The center is also going to print a creative nonfiction magazine. Shenk's contacts with other similar literary centers around the world could help BMI set up partnerships with an eye to working with more writers.

“One of the big aims, of course, would be to be able to expand our fellowship program so we can take in more budding writers,” Rogers said.

Rogers said uplifting the Black Mountain Institute will uplift UNLV, which will uplift Las Vegas.

“My goal in life has always been since I moved here at age 12 to not have to go someplace to visit family and friends and have them make fun of the fact that I live in Las Vegas,” she said. 

Harter said finding support for the institute was not easy at first. “It is so against type, when we created it originally people would shake their heads and say, 'In Las Vegas?'"

Now, 10 years later, the answer seems obvious: Yes, in Las Vegas. 

Carol Harter, former president of UNLV and a founder of BMI; Beverly Rogers, chairman, The Rogers Foundation 

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Kristy Totten is a producer at KNPR's State of Nevada. Previously she was a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly, and has covered technology, education and economic development for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. She's a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism.