The the treasure trove that is the University of Nevada's W.M. Keck Museum of Earth Science and Mineral Engineering was sparkling with anticipation and good cheer last Friday night as winter graduates of the Mackay School of Mining and Engineering were honored in a holiday themed graduation reception.
More than 100 graduates, friends, family members and faculty and staff were there to celebrate the following day's graduation ceremony and the passing of yet another handful of bright, eager and well prepared mining and earth science professionals out into the real world of job hunting, though a number of graduates already had job offers.
If there is one thing the December 2011 Commencement class should remember, says Bryce Leinan, who will receive a degree in general studies with an emphasis in criminal justice, it is that all graduates have the capacity to impact the world in real and meaningful ways.
During the Caughlin Fire on Nov. 18, when more than 10,000 residents of Reno were evacuated, 1,946 acres of land burned and more than 30 homes were lost, Leinan took it upon himself to create a Google Map — the "Caughlin Fire Map" — that, first based on police scanner traffic, and later, when opened to the public for editing, provided continuous updates of the fire's movement, as well as the locations of vital safety information such as relocation centers.
Leinan's " Caughlin Fire Map," which was viewed by anywhere from 450,000 to 600,000 people, is believed to be one of the first such "crowd-sourcing" maps to follow and update the progress of a wildland fire. His map was used extensively by national and worldwide media in the hours and days following the fire.
For Leinan, who has worked as a help desk technician at the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center, the map was just one example of the great reach the Winter Class of 2011 can have once it enters the workforce following this weekend's Commencement ceremony.
"Too often, people graduate from college thinking about what kind of career they are going to go into, and aren't always looking for ways to serve," he said. "It really isn't that difficult to make a difference—it takes something as simple as creating a Google Map, or something small, to make a huge difference in the world."
Leinan and more than 1,500 other degree candidates will gather for the University of Nevada, Reno's Winter Commencement on Saturday, Dec. 10 at Lawlor Events Center. A total of 1,101 bachelor's degrees and 446 advanced degrees or certificates (master's and doctoral degrees and education specialist certificates) will be awarded.
Students and faculty leaders will assemble for commencement at 8 a.m., and the formal processional begins at 8:30 a.m. University President Marc Johnson will welcome attendees.
The University awarded 1,549 degrees at the December 2010 ceremony and 1,467 degrees at the December 2009 ceremony.