As the Class of 2021 moved into the residence halls Thursday, and then participated in the New Student Opening Ceremony on Friday at Lawlor Events Center, they were greeted by hundreds of excited student and faculty volunteers determined to help set a positive, welcoming tone.
While friends and family helped get them settled, or lingered in the halls, freshmen were eager to explore their new life as college students. Will Williams, an incoming freshman from Douglas, Nev., majoring in information systems and accounting, was beaming.
"I'm really excited to be an individual and do my own thing," Williams said.
Williams, the oldest of six siblings, said his twin sisters were eager for him too, so much so that they already took over his room back home. He laughed, saying he slept on the couch the last night he was home.
When asked about how he planned to get involved on campus, Williams said he was captain of both his football and wrestling teams in high school and that he hopes to do intramural sports. Not one second after Williams mentioned his interests, one of the hall's resident advisors walked up, telling Williams that if he was interested in intramurals, he was the one to talk with. The two exchanged introductions and a newfound bond was quickly formed.
For Loma Porter, a grandmother from San Francisco, move in day was not an entirely new experience. The grandmother of nine was accompanying her youngest grandchild, Rebekah Wright, a criminal justice major, as she moved into the halls.
"I've got my cap and gown wall," Porter said. "It has a picture of me in the middle with my cap and gown on and eight framed photos of my grandchildren surrounding me in their cap and gowns. I tell my grandchildren, 'In order to get on the wall, you have to graduate college.' There's just one more I need to add."
As usual, some of the hardest workers on move in day were the parents. Plenty of them were schlepping boxes, bushing carts and lifting heavy loads into their child's dorm room. Donald Prater from Roseville, Calif., was preparing to leave his daughter, Dominique, at the Living Learning Community.
"When I leave the dorm, it'll be real," Prater said. "I don't think she'll be coming back home. She's independent and determined."
During the New Student Opening Ceremony, the students learned the Alma Mater, and recited the Nevada Oath, and speakers provided wisdom for the coming four years. The messages stressed diversity, unity and tolerance.
President Marc Johnson touched on the events of two weeks ago in Charlottesville, Va., which included the participation of a University student in a white supremacist demonstration.
"On this campus, through the sharing of ideas, perspectives and viewpoints, our University teaches us the critically important skills of empathy, tolerance and understanding," Johnson said, noting that the University fully embraces all aspects of its mission, which includes a commitment to a culture of excellence, inclusion and accessibility.
"We are an institution that is not defined by the action of just one student," Johnson said. "We are defined by the actions of us all - our students, our faculty, and our staff, who acknowledge our core principles, and live them every day. We treat people with respect, fairness and with dignity. We believe in the inherent goodness of humanity of all people. And most of all, we believe in you - our students."
Johnson shared a letter from the faculty, which reaffirmed the faculty's values as educators, and their commitment to the University's mission. The letter read, in part: "We unequivocally reject white supremacy and racism. The racist violence in Charlottesville requires that we reaffirm our commitment to equality, justice and democracy in society, on campus and in our classrooms. No matter the name or label, white supremacist, anti-Semitic and racist thought and action our antithetical to our values." The letter also read: "We want you, our students, to know that we are committed to creating a campus where all can learn. Our doors are open should you want support."
Keynote speaker Angelina Padilla, a lecturer in the College of Engineering, told the first-year students to be cognizant of how much they were capable of doing during their first few months in college.
She encouraged them to get involved, but cautioned with so many responsibilities asked of students in a new place that they "make commitments you can keep, but don't make too many."
She also stressed the importance of having good mentors. Padilla, whose mother was born in Ithaca, N.Y., and whose father was born in town not far from Guadalajara, Mexico, noted that she was a female Latina in a field that often can be male and white. She showed slides of her time as a student, which included her faculty advisors and mentors at UC-Davis, Kansas State University and Stanford University. Often, the slides of her professors were of white males.
"You can tell by the slide that we need more diversity," Padilla said, adding, "But even if your mentors don't have the same background as you, sometimes that is better because they can show you a different perspective."