Reflecting on 60 years of Honors at the University & celebrating graduates
The Honors College will graduate 74 students this spring. Honors student Catherine Asberger recounts the recent Honors Convocation and looks ahead to her own graduation.
When I enter the Ballroom on the fourth floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union, there’s a feeling of excitement that permeates throughout the room. For me, this is just another Tuesday. For 74 Honors graduates, these are the final weeks of college before they graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno and go on to pursue greater things. The graduates spread out on the ballroom floor, talking to fellow students they’ve gotten to know for four years. Parents are waiting out in the hallways for Convocation to start, talking excitedly amongst themselves. Some hold bouquets of flowers for graduates, professional cameras for photo-taking, or glossy headshots with their graduate’s faces on them. No matter how people show their excitement, you can tell they’ve been waiting for this moment for years.
By sheer coincidence, these students are graduating at a significant time for the University. 2022 marks 60 years of Honors at UNR, and the Honors College graduates are the first group campus-wide to attend a convocation event this semester. Not only that, they are also the first graduating class since 2018 to have their spring graduation on the historic Quad. It is truly a year worth celebrating.
Everyone takes their seats even before the clock says 2:30, anticipating the event to start. Graduates sit in the middle of the room at the front, with parents, friends, and faculty members sitting at their sides. The crowd hushes quickly as Matt Means, Dean of the Honors College, takes the stage. Means discusses how four years ago, these graduates joined an Honors program, and are now graduating as alumni of a far more prestigious Honors College. He acknowledges and thanks them for their hard work through all four years - for helping develop the Honors College into the college it is today.
After an introduction from Matt Means, UNR’s very own President Sandoval takes the stage. Having graduated from UNR in the spring of ‘86, he understands and shares in the excitement of the graduating class. He exudes pride as he recounts the trials and tribulations these students have experienced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they kept reaching for their goals despite it. How, at this moment, they are sitting in front of him on the tail-end of their senior years, and the next, they’ll all be off on their own journeys. ”And as we all know, every extraordinary journey starts with a first step, and then another, and then another,” Mr. Sandoval says. “And everything seems impossible until suddenly, it becomes possible.” After expressing his congratulations and well wishes, he sits back down, Jason Ludden taking the stage after him.
Jason Ludden goes over a brief history of the Honors Program until 2019 when Matt Means took over as Dean to create a brand-new Honors College. Kety Luna and Madison Tatseo take the stage next, talking about the creation of the Honors Peer Mentor Program which pairs first-year students with mentors who can provide insight and knowledge of the University to them. Tatseo, a sophomore in the Honors College, knows the power of the Mentor Program firsthand. “I’ve had experiences in this program that I wouldn’t have been able to get anywhere else.” She said.
After an inspirational speech from Vallery LaBarre, the President of the Honors Parents Club, each of the 74 Honors graduates have their names and Capstones read off before they head onto the stage to pick up their Honors medallion and a paper award. Not everyone stops to make a speech, but the few who do thank their friends and family. A few talked about their experience with the Honors College. “I applied to the Honors College in the summer of 2018… it ended up being one of the smartest decisions I made in my college career.” Matthew Friedler said, “Not that I made many of them,” He added, which earned a snicker from the audience.
Three-quarters of the way through the graduates, Rachel Roach takes the stage. She is the only graduate that I saw with her cap decorated - white foam letters spelling out the words ‘lessons learned’ with colorful faux flowers adorning the edges. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without Honors - so, It really does make life meaningful.” Rachel Roach said tearfully.
David Shintani takes the stage after all of the graduates have received their awards. He gives them some parting words of advice: “Call your parents once a week… they need to know what you’re doing… that you’re still there, and you still love them.” He also adds that occasionally, it is worth reaching out to someone from your university days - whether that's a college friend or a professor who helped you over the years.
Daniel Villanueva comes on after, discussing the Honors College Alumni Chapter before presenting peer-nominated awards to both faculty and graduating students. Matt Means makes some final remarks - thanking and congratulating all 74 graduates for an amazing four years.
I graduated from high school only a year ago, and the ceremony is still fresh in my mind. Today, I am in the back few rows of the convocation, silently taking in the celebration as people I barely know graduate in front of me and go on to better things. But in a measly three years from now, I’ll be in the front, wearing my graduation robes, looking around at the peers I’ve gotten to know for the past four years. I’ll listen to faculty members talk about us and our achievements. Mr. Sandoval will talk to us with a smile on his face, and I’ll think back on all of the things I’ve accomplished over the years and smile back.
Congratulations to not only the Honors graduating class, but to everyone graduating in Spring 2022!