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August 23, 2013
By John Trent
More than 2,600 new students began their educational journey at the University of Nevada, Reno hauling all manner of supplies, electronic gadgets, artwork, posters and the occasional industrial-strength mini-fridge and fluffy-to the-hug stuffed animal into the residence halls on Thursday.
Less than 24 hours later, on Friday, the same students, following the New Student Opening Ceremony at Lawlor Events Center, were no longer unpacking.
They were, if anything, adding on, as the ideas, the advice and the possibility of what the next four years might hold had been formally presented for the first time since their arrival on campus.
"You simply need to take a leap ... a little leap of curiosity," New Student Opening Ceremony keynote speaker Vincent Catalano, a professor of chemistry, told those gathered at Lawlor on Friday. "In the next four years, I challenge you to broaden your horizons."
Added University President Marc Johnson: "Your most important role in the next four years is to concentrate on yourself ... I urge you: Think of this time (at the University over the next four years) as an investment in yourself."
The investment had begun on Thursday, during "Move-In Day" when students began moving their things into the residence halls. A steady stream of students, their parents, and their friends, flowed from the parking garages and from street-level parking spots, wheeling hand-trucks piled high with possessions.
Matt McDaniel, a fifth-year senior majoring in journalism, was among hundreds of current students on hand to help the new students with their haul of things.
For McDaniel, the day brought back memories of his first day on campus. He had lived on the first floor of Argenta Hall, and chuckled at how easy that move seemed compared to some of the cramped, heavy-lifting maneuvering on Thursday.
"We blocked up an entire staircase for a good ten minutes," McDaniel smiled as he recalled huffing and puffing with a couch into the Nevada Living Learning Community.
"A day like today makes you feel so old," added Rachael Doble, a senior from Las Vegas majoring in international affairs and languages.
Age aside, Doble added that experience had its virtues. Her advice to the new students? "Go to every event you can," she said, "because you only get one first year. It all goes by so fast."
Becoming involved in the life of the campus was a top consideration for two freshmen from Boulder City, Nev., Massimo Barbieri and Keenan Sharp. They were wrapping up their move into Nye Hall.
"Absolutely," Sharp said when asked if he planned to join organizations and participate in events. "I want to get involved with everything the campus has. I want to go in with my eyes wide open and I want to experience everything I possibly can while I'm here."
Sharp said he hadn't even considered attending a college or university.
"Then I came during one of the orientations and I just fell in love with this place," he said. "It's such a beautiful campus. It's awesome." He smiled and pointed around him at the flurry of activity. "This, right here, is everything I could've ever asked for ... and more."
Barbieri said his older sister, Issabella, a senior at the University, was a Wolf Pack salesperson extraordinaire.
"My sister goes here, and she loves it here," he said. "It's been great so far."
So, too, was the move for the two business majors who hope one day to become entrepreneurs.
"It's been very easy," Barbieri said of their move.
During the New Student Opening Ceremony, the speakers emphasized tips for success.
ASUN President Ziad Rashdan told the students that the ceremony, a University tradition that includes recitation of "The Nevada Oath" and the singing of the Alma Mater, "marks the beginning of a story."
"The next four years will shape you into the person you are destined to become," Rashdan said. He urged students to consider Greek Life, and joining clubs and organizations.
"Make an effort to meet people," Rashdan added. "You've got to take that initiative and get out there."
Catalano, who has taught in the Department of Chemistry for 20 years, had the full attention of the students with a humor-filled keynote that nevertheless delivered an important message.
He told a story from 1978, when he and a neighborhood friend attempted to create a flying contraption, pre-Google and pre-YouTube, out of PVC pipe and little more. Catalano tried to become airborne in his PVC flyer, was actually airborne for maybe a "millisecond" ... before he crashed painfully to the ground.
Though he termed the execution of his first serious foray into the world of discovery as an "epic fail," Catalano, smiling, said he learned a lesson that has proven pivotal in his career. "That was the point," he said of thinking that he could actually fly with the help of little more than PVC and a prayer. "I knew I needed to think more, and jump less."
Catalano told the first-year students to take a similar approach: "Go take a flying leap," he said.
"Once you find your passion," Catalano added, looking out at the crowd of students who had spent the past 48 hours, in one form or another, unpacking possessions and then loading on new possessions in the form of new ideas, "learning will become effortless."