Student success at the forefront of 2013's top stories

Student Achievement Center, Fitness Center top list of top stories

12/20/2013 - By: John Trent
Mackay Mines Building

Together, they are two gifts that promise to change the student experience at the University for years, if not decades, to come.

In late July, the University announced that the William N. Pennington Foundation had made a $6 million lead gift to name the William N. Pennington Student Achievement Center. The new Student Achievement Center, one of the cornerstones of President Marc Johnson's effort to create a more "remarkable" student experience through a myriad of student-success initiatives, began its most visible construction phase on Dec. 19 with the beginning of the removal of the old Getchell Library. Set for construction in the old Getchell site will be a 77,064-square-foot facility that will bring under one roof services that will include the Writing Center, Math Center, Tutoring Center, Service Learning and Engagement Center, Career Studio, Advising Center, Student Veterans, Disability Resource Center, Counseling Services, the Center for Student Cultural Diversity and TRiO Scholars Programs. The Center is slated for completion in early 2017.

In mid-September, another major student-centered philanthropic gift was announced with the news that the E. L. Wiegand Foundation had pledged an $8 million gift to support the E. L. Wiegand Fitness Center, a four-story facility to be constructed on campus near Lawlor Events Center, offering more than 100,000 square feet of multi-use space for fitness and recreation. Those on hand for the announcement on Sept. 16 said the gift would elevate the campus experience and contribute to the health, wellness and success of students for years to come.

The two gifts, representing $14 million in community support of the campus' effort to continue its emphasis on student success, also represented the Top Story of 2013, as chosen by members of the staffs of Integrated Marketing and Communications at the University.

In order to be considered, a story had to have appeared on the Nevada Today website as a news story.

Both gifts were welcomed by the University as major investments in the student experience at the University.

"Learning and development extend beyond the classroom and the total campus experience significantly contributes to the journey of students toward their future careers and lives as citizens," Johnson said.


Here are the other stories to crack the top 10 in 2013:

No. 2: University student population on rise with students increasing course loads, freshmen class largest ever with more than 3,000

In what has become an annual rite of passage each fall, the University again showed promising gains in just about every major enrollment category imaginable, reaching a record 18,776 enrollment, a largest-ever freshman class of 3,086 students, 14,830 students who were taking the minimum number of credits to graduate in four years, and the campus' most diverse student body ever at 31 percent, or 5,849 students.


No. 3: Ex-Pack QB Colin Kaepernick leads 49ers to Super Bowl

Former four-year starting Wolf Pack quarterback and 2010 graduate Colin Kaepernick had a January that few NFL quarterbacks ever experience. Elevated to starter in November by coach Jim Harbaugh, "Kap," as he was called by his Wolf Pack teammates, had a record-setting performance in the 49ers' Jan. 12 45-31 victory over the Packers when he rambled for a 181 rushing yards. Then, on Jan. 20 in the NFC Championship at Atlanta, Kaepernick helped San Francisco overcome a 17-point deficit in a 28-24 victory over the Falcons that propelled the 49ers to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1995. Kaepernick also became the first Wolf Pack player to appear in a Super Bowl since 1996.


No. 4: University's renowned Shakespeare scholar Eric Rasmussen weighs in on latest research, is featured in New York Times

Eric Rasmussen, during the course of a distinguished career as a professor of English, has become one of the "go-to" authorities of all things Shakespeare. Nowhere was this more apparent than in The New York Times in an article about Shakespeare's handwriting.  Rasmussen's encyclopedic knowledge of Shakespeare was on full display, all the way down to analyzing the idiosyncrasies of the world's most famous writer, who apparently had a tendency to "close up his u's to which made them look like a's."


No. 5: University holds three Commencement Exercises over two days for first time ever

Holding three Commencement Exercises over two days in May was a bit of a gamble for an institution that, although located in one of the world's well-known gaming towns, often follows a more deliberative approach. Yet the facts were hard to ignore. Years of record numbers of graduates had created pressure points for the University's most celebratory weekend. So, for the first time in the University's history, three ceremonies, one for advanced degree recipients on Friday afternoon, May 17, and two for bachelor-degree recipients on the mornings of Friday, May 17, and Saturday, May 18, were held. A mid-week weather forecast of possible showers for the weekend never materialized, and the ceremonies were held with near flawless execution. 


No. 6: Jonathan Carral learns in surprise gathering that he's the University's newest Truman Scholar

Sometimes it pays not to let the cat out of the bag. Or, in the case of Honors Program student Jonathan Carral, to not let the honoree in on the honor until the very end. Carral attended an awards ceremony in April with the knowledge that he was in the running for a prestigious Truman Scholarship. It wasn't until a polite correction from Johnson of Honors Program Director Tammie Valentine that Carral learned that, in Johnson's words, "Jonathan, you are not a finalist for the Truman Scholarship, you are the University's newest Truman Scholar." The international affairs major and graduate of Reno's Galena High School "quickly covered his head with his left arm" as he was notified of the $30,000 Harry S. Truman Scholarship, the third awarded to a University student since 1985.


No. 7: Fleischmann Planetarium and KUNR celebrate 50 years

They are two of the University's most effective means of connecting with the community. And both the Fleischmann Planetarium and KUNR celebrated important milestones in 2013. In 2013, both campus fixtures turned 50. The Planetarium, which celebrated its birthday on Nov. 15, has become a community landmark and a place where scientific knowledge regarding space, the solar system and the field of astronomy has been shared with an estimated two million public visitors. KUNR made a 15-minute debut on the airwaves on Oct. 7, 1963. Since that time, KUNR, which is located in Cain Hall and is an affiliate of National Public Radio, serves 45,000 weekly listeners in 20 communities in northern Nevada and northeastern California.


No. 8: BioFit, the University's first academic boot camp, preps freshmen for success

New Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Carman has brought a number of new ideas and a fresh perspective to academic issues on the campus since arriving at the University from LSU this year. One of Carman's biggest initiatives was the University's first academic boot camp, BioFit, which was designed to give new students a head start in finding academic success at the University. Some 48 biology and neuroscience students lived in the same residence hall, attended classes, worked in study groups and took exams. The program, held in August prior to the beginning of regular fall semester instruction, "offered a glimpse into the University's rigorous academic expectations and college life prior to the start of the semester." Plans for more boot camps, incorporating more academic areas, are already in the works for August 2014.

No. 9: University is Top Tier ... again

Good news never gets old, particularly when the news is revealed that the University was again ranked in the top tier of "best national universities" in the U.S. News and World Report annual rankings for 2013. Schools in the "best national universities" category offer a full range of undergraduate majors, masters and doctoral degrees and are committed to a productive research program.


No. 10: Ethan Leaverton wins country's most prestigious collegiate acting competition

Ethan Leaverton's victory was the type that is remembered not only for its historical significance - Leaverton, a senior from Spring Creek was the first University student to win the nation's top collegiate acting prize, the Ryan Acting Competition - but for the way it was done.  Along with his acting partner, Cameron Miller-Desart, Leaverton on April 20 at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., culminated a thrilling journey in which he bested more than 2,000 students from across the nation to claim the top prize. "When I heard someone else say, 'This means Ethan and Cameron are the best college actors in America,'" said the ever-humble Leaverton, who seemed to enjoy every step of an mentally rigorous and physically challenging process and graduated with a degree in theatre a few weeks later, "I had to take a step back and go, 'Whoa.'"


Other stories receiving votes:

Engineering student Cameron Chappell blends music, engineering during summer internships with Steinway; Two University of Nevada, Reno programs target special education instruction needs in Nevada schools; Navatar Glass App may help blind individuals navigate indoor environments; U.S. Department of Education recognizes University's College Life 101; TEDxUniversityofNevada brings inspiration to University, wins awards; Mridul Gautam named new VPRI; Reynolds School of Journalism students show their reporting chops with Nevada Media Alliance coverage of Nevada State Legislature; New Executive Vice President and Provost Kevin Carman arrives on campus from LSU; Brian Polian named new head football coach; Doug Knuth named new AD; University lauded for work to accelerate Latino student success; University continues leadership in transportation, infrastructure, and earthquake engineering by receiving Tier-1 University Transportation Center grants; Aquatic Ecosystems Analysis Lab discovers giant goldfish at Lake Tahoe; Glick Ballroom dedicated in Joe Crowley Student Union; University honored as one of top 10 "high-altitude" colleges; School of Medicine, Renown Health announce partnership exploration steering committee; University graduate students sweep graduate team awards at Governor's Cup competition; Expanded Earthquake Engineering Laboratory nears completion as other major University construction projects move forward; "Chris Ault Field" unveiled; $23 million research grant to study links between environment, water, solar energy; New summer camp encourages girls to explore engineering; Guatemalans learns from Tahoe to help save Lake Atitlan; Planetarium's Dan Ruby flies for NASA for research on center of galaxy; A new window into the nature of the universe may be possible with a device proposed by scientists at the University and Stanford.


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