It’s been nearly five years since the first Journalism Freshman Interactive Transition (JFIT) camp took place a week before the 2014 fall semester at the University of Nevada, Reno. In the years since, journalism students from that camp have become alumni, most of them graduating last spring.
Paul Mitchell, a professor with the Reynolds School of Journalism and the JFIT coordinator for recruitment and retention, describes the camp as an immersive week of intense training for incoming college freshman. The experience is meant to show students what college will be like during stressful times of the semester, like midterms, before they even start school.
“What we do in the [Reynold] School is production-based,” he said. “We’re just trying to give kids a little sample of what that’s like for their first seven days while they’re at the camp.”
The week-long event originated with the creation of the University’s NevadaFIT in 2014. Within NevadaFIT, each college on campus runs their own boot camp, totaling in eight: ScienceFIT, CABNRFIT, LiberalArtsFIT, FIT2Care, HealthFIT, E-FIT, BizFIT and, of course, JFIT.
According to Mitchell, JFIT emphasizes skills that will not only be used throughout the students’ college careers but also ones incoming students wouldn’t normally associate with journalism, such as math.
“The research shows that the better you do in math, the better your chances of matriculation, meaning going from freshman to sophomore, sophomore to junior, that kind of thing,” he explained. “A lot of the kids think, ‘Well, journalism, there’s not a lot of math.’ But that’s not true.”
Mitchell also emphasized the importance of bonds between JFIT students and their mentors. Mentors are college students enrolled in the journalism school, who help guide incoming freshman through the boot camp and even throughout upcoming semesters. For many JFIT students, mentors are their first look at what college students are really like.
One recently-graduated student from the 2014 camp, Marina Drab, not only participated in JFIT but also became a mentor the following two years after her freshman year.
“My experience as a mentor was definitely awesome because I felt like I was relearning all of the things I missed when I was a freshman going through the program,” Drab said. “It was awesome to foster relationships with incoming freshman that I still check up on today.”
As a participant of the first JFIT boot camp, Drab mentioned how much she enjoyed talking to other Reynolds School alumni and seeing how far they made it after graduating. On the flip side, Drab also said the hardest part of JFIT was finishing a multimedia project.
“We were to create multimedia content for various platforms, and with very little experience, we were terrified,” she said.
Another recently-graduated Reynolds School alumna who participated in the 2014 JFIT, Dominique DiPietro, described JFIT as an eye-opening and rewarding experience and even the best decision she made in college.
“When I first walked into JFIT, I was immediately welcomed with open arms by the faculty and staff,” DiPietro said. “Being a first-generation college student, I really didn’t know what to expect, so JFIT was the perfect opportunity for me to understand the culture and values at the Reynolds School of Journalism. ”
DiPietro went on to list the ways JFIT helped prepare her for her next four years of college and for her career after graduation. Among other things, she learned through JFIT, students succeed most when participating in real-world journalism projects, like the ones completed during the boot camp.
One of those projects included a group presentation that she and her group mates lost a night’s sleep over.
“I will never forget my first presentation in JFIT, my first ever presentation in the Reynolds School to be exact. My group and I presented what we have vigorously worked on for the past 24 hours,” she said. “The applause broke out, and I breathed a sigh of relief because that was the moment that I realized that I was home.”
Despite the ups and downs of JFIT, Drab reflected on how fast the week — and the rest of her college experience — went by. She stressed the importance of looking around more often while being in school and enjoying the experience as much as possible. In terms of advice for incoming freshman, she advised everyone to use their resources and to not to be afraid to ask for help.
DiPietro also offered a word of advice to incoming freshman: make friends with everyone — students, faculty, anyone who can help students build connections in the industry. And, like Drab, she advised students to take it all in while they’re still in school.
Incoming students looking to enroll in JFIT can apply online. Every student that applies and has been accepted by the University is guaranteed a spot. For more information about the boot camp, contact the JFIT coordinator Paul Mitchell.