This spring break, a number of University of Nevada, Reno students traded in their beach towels for the opportunity to learn something new. Two groups of students, one through the University's Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement and the other through the University's College of Business, used their time-off to further develop invaluable professional skills.
Little Free Libraries
Eleven University students gave back to the northern Nevada Community and promoted the importance of early childhood literacy. The University's Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement partnered with United Way of Northern Nevada and the Sierra to offer students an alternative spring break activity that included the building of eight "Little Free Libraries" and installing five of them in Virginia City, Fallon and Reno.
"Little Free Libraries" are hand-crafted, all-weather structures that contain constantly changing collections of 20-100 books. These libraries, about the size of a large mail box, were placed throughout communities for the use of children using a "take a book, leave a book" philosophy. Each was stocked with books donated by the Washoe County School District, Washoe County Library and Grassroots Books, as well as from University faculty and student book drives.
The Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement networked and partnered with numerous entities and community organizations including University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Community Chest, the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe and local businesses and contractors who donated supplies and expertise to make this event possible. Through this civic-engagement project University students learned about the importance of literacy in Nevada and gained a deeper understanding of this community issue.
"This was not a 'typical' alternative spring break as it was also a community-building, literacy-promoting, and civic-engagement event," Marlene Rebori, associate professor and director of the Office of Service-Learning and Civic Engagement, said. "It was a great example of a civic engagement experience because it provided University students with the two key components necessary for successful engagement: education on a public issue and meaningful opportunity to engage on that public issue to make an impact. University students became educated on the issue of literacy in Nevada, as well as gained a deeper connection and appreciation with our community through the building and installing of Little Free Libraries."
Locations of the five new "Little Free Libraries" are:
- Mariposa Academy, 3875 Glen St., Reno
- Community Health Alliance, 1055 S Wells Ave., Reno
- Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe Education Center, 8955 Mission Rd., Fallon
- Community Center, 175 East Carson Street, Virginia City
- Community Center in Mark Twain , 500 Sam Clemens Ave., Dayton
"The large amount of gratitude and support we gained from doing such a fun and simple act of service was incredibly rewarding and overwhelmingly gave me a sense of heightened community," Pamela Hong, a freshman dual major in English and psychology, said. "Everyone is just so passionate about what they do. All the different counties we visited were welcoming, gracious and so inspiring. I saw a whole new side of Nevada."
Silicon Valley Business Familiarization Trip
Eight University Business Student Council members spent part of their spring break exploring Bay Area businesses with their faculty advisor, Jim McClenahan, the College of Business' director of corporate relations and outreach. Funded by the College's Alumni Association and the Corporate Partner Program in the College of Business, students had the opportunity to tour LinkedIn, Tesla Motors, Grand Rounds Health, Hewlett-Packard and Coupa. They met with recruiters and received the inside scoop on everything from company culture to a better understanding of what these businesses look for during the hiring process.
"This trip was a great opportunity to explore parts of huge companies and see how they function," Theo Meeks, a University senior management major, said.
The group started their Silicon Valley experience at LinkedIn, where they met with University College of Business alumna Tey Scott. Students toured the LinkedIn campus and were even given a strategic problem solving exercise, which they presented to LinkedIn directors and vice presidents. They were also given a take-home assignment to develop an original post on their personal LinkedIn page about why students should join the social network. The assignment was to see who could get the most likes on their post, demonstrating LinkedIn's ability to function as a content creation vehicle.
After LinkedIn, the group toured Tesla Motors. This was the first group of University students to tour Tesla's Bay Area headquarters and it offered students a preview into its company culture.
"The recruiter we spoke with, College of Business alumnus Brian Mitchell, was very candid and honest and provided a realistic view of what it's like to live in Silicon Valley," Meek said. "The tour had no frills and gave us a good glimpse into how Tesla runs."
Melissa Perez-Rios, a junior marketing major at the University, said the tours opened her eyes into what corporate America is like.
"There was a significant contrast between all of the organizations we visited," Perez-Rios said. "The contrast between corporate and start-up companies made me realize the direction I'll likely choose in my career path."
While LinkedIn, Tesla and Hewlett-Packard were companies many students were looking forward to seeing first-hand, pre-IPO startups like Grand Rounds Health and Coupa surprised the group. Both companies recently worked through the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada and opened significant operations in Reno. Grand Round Health, a medical concierge company, has grown its northern Nevada workforce to nearly 60 employees in the last six months. Coupa, a cloud-based spend management software company, opened its northern Nevada operations in the last two years and employs between 25 and 30 people in the community.
"The goal with this trip was for students to learn about and compare company cultures and collaborative environments," McClenahan said. "It's important for them to understand how to access company culture because that's what companies are hiring for and, just as importantly, our students are selecting jobs based on culture. It's no longer about who pays the highest amount."
While on assignment in Palo Alto, the group encountered an unexpected surprise.
"All of a sudden I got a text from Jim that Tim Cook was in the Apple Store," Meek said. "We ran into the store and there he was chatting with Jim. He was genuinely interested in speaking with us and we invited him to be part of our CEO speaker series in the fall."
Whether or not the CEO of Apple takes Meek up on his offer has yet to be seen, but meeting one of the most significant game changers in Silicon Valley was undoubtedly a highlight of this group's experience.