NSights Blog

A student perspective: Four years and a million moments

With graduation looming on Saturday, J-School senior Jena Valenzuela takes stock of her time at the University

I graduate from the University at 8 a.m. Saturday, May 14, 2016. The bright green grass of the Quad will be covered with hundreds of white chairs where my friends and hordes of family members will gather. After ceremonial speeches are given, I will walk across the stage to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and shake hands with President Johnson.

This big moment is the one my peers and I have been working toward, and I am so excited that it is finally here! But that moment on the Quad will not be the best moment of my experiences here at Nevada. Not even close.

To me, the best moments of my college career are the ones leading up to commencement: Walking through campus and running into friends, working on a monster project while stress-eating an entire large pizza with a friend and taking spontaneous trips to Tahoe. The hours I spent writing, researching, complaining about an assignment before just tackling it, drinking coffee like it was water to just "get me through this week," with brief interludes of Netflix-binging and scrolling through Facebook­ – these are the kinds of moments I will miss the most. It's these moments that helped get me to the commencement stage.

The University, the Reynolds School of Journalism and my internship at the University's Office of Marketing and Communications have all provided me opportunities for a wide array of experiences. I've conducted interviews for projects with music therapists, a recovering alcoholic, members of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, a student veteran, pioneer reenactors in Virginia City and many more.

In addition to the academics, I've also participated in the University's Wolf Pack Marching Band playing the alto saxophone all four years, which afforded me opportunities to travel across the southwest and go on an unforgettable trip to New Orleans. I've met people from California to New York, Pakistan to Nigeria. I've also participated in symphonic concerts, showed my own art in an exhibition, networked with local professionals, developed a website and of course I've been to almost every free food event on campus that I could possibly attend. This University has opened my eyes to so many different areas of life and a variety of people.  I don't think I could've dreamed of a more exciting four years.

In addition to noticing my own growth, I've seen the University itself grow immensely. New buildings and renovations across campus have been a bit inconvenient sometimes, but so worth it once they are completed. I've seen our athletics program move into a bigger conference, and I've really enjoyed watching the higher competition. The businesses cropping up around campus within the past year have been a welcome improvement to the surrounding area, and I hope to see the overwhelming student support for these local businesses continue to grow. If I come back to visit in five years, I would love to see how our campus has expanded and how much the programs have adapted to fit the students' needs.

With my time at the University of Nevada, Reno coming to an end, I'm officially ready to join the real world. I've gained so many skills and have become so passionate about what I hope to start my career in, which is graphic design and strategic communications. While I'm extremely excited to start this next chapter of my life, I'm also sad to close this one. My time at the University has been extremely fulfilling, and I wouldn't change a single moment of it, not even the ones that were hard on me. I'm also sort of scared to leave; I feel like there is so much more I still have to learn. My head and heart are full from my college experiences and I want to hang on to every single one as I move on to pursuing my passions.

Although I'm moving on, I will never go anywhere without taking the University with me. Whether it's a memory, a lesson or even a Wolf Pack T-shirt, the University will be with me in some form or another.

This University means so much to me and I hope it continues to provide the types of experiences I've had to each and every future generation of students.

Jena Valenzuela is the 2016 Senior Scholar for the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism.

Jena Valenzuela