When the diplomas are being handed out, every University student marvels at the distance they've come. They've learned to articulate deep thoughts, solve complicated problems and accomplish things they never before could have imagined.
When you're standing on a 20,000-foot mountain peak—the Milky Way stretched out overhead and the city lights of Africa gleaming quietly below—there's no denying you've come a long way.
Heather Horn, a 2010 journalism graduate and former member of the rifle team, ascended the 19,298 feet from the base of Mount Kilimanjaro to the soaring Uhuru Peak as part of a documentary expedition for students. Not even a year since her graduation, Horn says she couldn't have imagined tackling such a feat before her time at the University of Nevada, Reno.
"[Climbing Kilimanjaro] would not have been possible for me without my training and experiences as a Nevada student and athlete," Horn said. "Without Nevada, I would have passed the Mount Kilimanjaro recruiting poster in the hall with little more than a few seconds of wistful fantasy."
But Horn did take more than a few seconds. She said she was drawn to two things: The opportunity to film an international documentary and to prove to herself that she could.
"There was a personal challenge aspect to it," Horn said. "I was never particularly athletic growing up, my parents were, my brother was, but I wasn't. So I had something to prove to myself."
Driven by self-determination and her love for international documentary, Horn signed up for the January expedition to Tanzania. The project involved creating both a group and an individual documentary; Horn used her documentary to film the guides and porters who usher visitors safely up and down the mountain.
Adding a documentary to an already strenuous mountain climb, however, was far from easy.
"You have maybe an hour in the morning to get ready and eat breakfast," Horn said. "Then by the time you make camp you don't have much daylight left.
"You're already working so hard to get up the mountain. Adding the filming aspect only makes it that much more difficult."
From the technical expertise to the physical readiness, Horn credits her time at the University with preparing her for these kinds of challenges.
"The Reynolds School of Journalism gave me the skills and confidence to know that I could find and film the story," Horn said. "The Wolf Pack strength and conditioning program transformed the way I approached exercise and gave me the tools I needed to train for the mountain."
Fresh from her trip to Tanzania, Horn is busily editing her documentary footage. With hours of footage still to work through, she hasn't had the time to decide on what exactly comes next, though she does hope to film documentaries in both Singapore and Africa over the coming year.
Reflecting on how far she's come since enrolling at Nevada, Horn strongly encourages students to pursue the same kinds of success in their own lives.
"Without sounding trite, you have to believe in yourself and have a goal," Horn said. "Even if you don't have a clear goal, look for ways to improve yourself.
"Don't discount something because you're not ready for it yet."