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Feeling college ready

Two students reflect on the positive impact of NevadaFIT and the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative

On August 18-26, the University will welcome incoming first-year students to their first academic class, NevadaFIT. The program kicks off with an Opening Weekend that includes residence hall move-in and the opening ceremony. NevadaFIT 2022 is the second year the program is required for all first-year students. It is also the second year that the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative provides every incoming, undergraduate student with an iPad Air, Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil at the start of NevadaFIT as part of the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative.

Felicia DeWald
Felicia Dewald, director of NevadaFit

NevadaFIT stands for Freshman Intensive Transition, and its goal is to help make the transition from high school to college as seamless as possible. Students attend lectures, are assigned homework, take exams and receive feedback on their progress. Participants also attend skill sessions where they learn tools to be successful college students, including iPad trainings, fitness classes and budgeting workshops. Students work in groups of seven called "Packs" with an upper-class mentor who is there to offer advice and lead study sessions.

NevadaFIT will have more than 500 students from upper classes to serve as mentors during this year's program. Erin Shaffer and Esham Mahmud are past participants, now mentors and Digital Wolf Pack interns, whose reflection on the program displays its impact on students. Here are some of their thoughts, in their own words, about the program.

Erin Shaffer, second-year student, Political Science and International Affairs

Only a year and a half after the world as we knew it shifted into the unknown, I found myself packing up my things and shoving them into my parents’ car to drive the eight and a half hours from Southern California to Reno, my new home for the next four years.

Erin Shaffer
Erin Shaffer is a second-year student studying political science and international affairs

Moving into college, I felt uneasy. I didn’t know anyone past or present who had gone to UNR, and I didn’t know how things would go with my roommate. Until NevadaFIT. NevadaFIT pushed me outside my comfort zone. It allowed me to open doors for myself that I didn’t even know existed. During one of the sessions, we met with our fellow students in the same major, with some guest professors to speak a little about what we were getting ourselves into. Through this session, I was allowed to make connections not only with my peers and future classmates but introduce myself to a few professors who would give me advice about all the things I needed to know and push me in the right direction. My expectations were exceeded after this moment in NevadaFIT. When talking to my group throughout the week, my feelings were validated in the sense that we all were nervous and we all had the same fears of not making friends, failing our classes, etc.; but most importantly, I learned that we all were excited to grow.

Near the end of NevadaFIT, we had the opportunity to discover how to use our brand-new iPads that were a part of the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative. We learned tips and tricks on how to use our iPad efficiently, secrets that only pro iPad users would know, but most significantly, we learned how to use them to help us succeed throughout college. Having an iPad changed my freshman year experience. I was able to learn how to create apps, take notes, create presentations, give presentations straight off the iPad, create movies, watch movies; the possibilities of what iPads can do for you are endless. The iPads come pre-downloaded with various apps and different features that are helpful if you use them efficiently. One of my go-tos is “Keynote.” In Keynote, you have the opportunity to create presentations, make prototype apps and present directly from the app. I use Keynote to create flashcards. The app features fun templates and different transitions and has many interactive tools to help make your experience using the app even easier.

Not only did NevadaFIT teach me how to be successful both with the help of an iPad and without the help of an iPad, but I left NevadaFIT feeling comfortable and ready for the school year to start. I met two of my best friends even to this day through my NevadaFIT Pack, and I couldn’t be more thankful having to go through the long week. Before going into NevadaFIT, I wish someone had told me that all my fears were valid, just like I had learned that week. Anything that someone may be feeling, there is a 100% chance someone else is feeling it too. By allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, we open doors to create connections, start conversations and learn more about ourselves in the process. By the end of NevadaFIT, it will feel like you’ve known your Pack your entire life, if you allow yourself the space to grow. I encourage incoming freshman to be vulnerable, make mistakes, speak up when you have something to say and be yourself. This is the time to find out who you are, and hey, maybe there’s an app that can help you get there.

Esham Mahmud, fourth-year student, Electrical Engineering

I was born and raised in Reno, and it was a no-brainer for me to join the Pack! In my time at the University of Nevada, Reno, I wanted to be as involved as possible. I am a part of the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), Theta Tau Professional Engineering Fraternity and Nevada Electric Racing. I am the current public relations officer for Phi Delta Theta and the current outreach officer and communications chair for IEEE. I am also grateful to have the opportunity to be a NevadaFIT Pack mentor for what will be my second year, as well as an intern for the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative!

Esham Mahmud
Esham Mahmud is a fourth-year student studying electrical engineering.

My involvement with NevadaFIT has been some of the most rewarding times in my college career, filled with tons of stories I will never forget. I was originally part of E-FIT my freshman year, and it was one of the best weeks of my entire freshman year. From studying late at night to meeting amazing new people, I would not trade it for the world. When I decided to become a Pack mentor, I went down a different path, however. I will be going into my second year mentoring for ExplorationFIT, the camp for students who are still trying to decide on a major. I wanted to branch off from my major as a mentor because I know how it felt to be unsure what to make of my future. I probably had half a dozen serious options as to what major I wanted to take on in college, and even after declaring my major, I still wanted to explore other paths, leading to me declaring two minors on top of my major later on. I wanted to mentor for ExplorationFIT because I wanted to help freshmen who may have been in the same boat as me know that it is perfectly okay to not know what to do in college. It is possibly one of the biggest decisions they will ever make, and it is not something to rush. Being an ExplorationFIT mentor allowed me to help students who may be having those same thoughts explore other options before they commit fully into something they might not be interested in.

The Digital Wolf Pack Initiative completely changed how I am as a student, along with a large majority of other students who are a part of the Initiative. Before the DWPI, I would carry around a notebook or two for each of my classes as well as anything else I might need throughout the day, all in my backpack. I would have at least three or four different colored pens on my desk to color code different parts of my notes. If I happened to accidentally leave behind a notebook for a class at home, then my day would be ruined. Now, I have eliminated the notebooks and multicolored pens from the equation entirely. Now, everything I do is on my iPad. Not only has my backpack gotten a lot lighter and my spine a lot healthier, I also have been more productive than I have ever been in school thanks to the iPad. I can now take notes anytime and anywhere, along with starting and finishing assignments, working on projects, watching shows in between classes, the list just goes on and on.

I am not alone in this transition, either. In some of my classes, I don’t see a single physical notebook on anyone’s desk. Since the start of the Digital Wolf Pack Initiative, I have seen Nevada quickly transform into a digital campus. At the beginning of NevadaFIT last year was when this change was most apparent to me. I don’t believe I saw any of my mentees use or carry a single physical notebook with them, and I don’t recall most of them ever using a real pen! It was almost a night and day difference between the experience they had versus the one I had as a freshman in NevadaFIT. As a result, I saw my mentees be much more productive than I ever was during my week in the program. Even simple things such as submitting assignments have changed drastically. One of my favorite iPad features is how fast and easy it is to submit an assignment on Canvas. Instead of going into class and handing in a paper, I can simply share the document from whichever app I am using straight into Canvas, and from there I can choose which class and assignment I want to submit it under. The entire process takes me half a minute at most now, completely eliminates the possibility of misplacing my homework and is especially useful when I inevitably procrastinate an assignment and every second counts.

Looking back at NevadaFIT, I am not sure how I would have survived my freshman year without it. NevadaFIT was a great low-risk opportunity for me to make mistakes that freshman typically make without the stress of bombing my GPA lingering over me. In that week, I was able to fully transition my mindset from how easy high school
felt to how difficult college might be. I missed deadlines for assignments during NevadaFIT which got me mentally in shape to stay on top of it when the semester started, and it definitely paid off. I also felt a lot better socially going into college due to NevadaFIT. NevadaFIT is the perfect time to make new friends. I quickly realized that almost everyone you run into is just as nervous as you are, and just saying “Hi” might lead to a lifelong friendship. I made a friend that week just because they were also walking to the same building as I was and they introduced themself to me, and we ended up talking all the way there and for a few more hours after that.

Overall, my biggest piece of advice for incoming freshmen would be to not overthink things. That’s a skill I learned not only during NevadaFIT but during my time in college as a whole. Don’t overthink saying hi to a stranger; chances are they want to make a new friend just as much as you do. Don’t overthink a bad grade on an exam. Just seek out support to improve. Don’t overthink about asking for help. Everyone has been there. And last but not least, don’t overthink the college experience as a whole. One day, you will look back and wonder why you were ever so worried.

Photo collage with students wearing purple NevadaFIT t-shirts in the top left, Felicia Dewald headshot in the top right, Erin Shaffer headshot bottom left, Esham Mahmud headshot bottom right
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