By Quinn Jonas

When I graduated from Elko High School in 2011 my first thought was “My best friend is going to Cornell and I am going to ‘13th grade’ at the University of Nevada, Reno.”

I was so caught up in the idea of prestige, tradition and the ivory-tower atmosphere of academia an Ivy League school stood for. But, I had no idea what it would be like to attend a university rapidly on the rise. I almost want to encourage you to drop everything and come back in 10 years because the fruition of all the hard work that has been put in by so many different organizations, people and students will start to pay off in a big way.

Right now, the UNR Campus Master Plan is being revised and finalized to set a vision of what our campus will be in the coming years. A Student Achievement Center, residence hall and fitness center will all replace the construction barriers we now see around campus.

The City of Reno Planning Commission just approved boundaries for a University District to contain the university, housing and businesses that have students as their primary customers. In the excitement of imagining what is going to replace the pit currently in the middle of campus, the goal of the university to achieve Carnegie Research Classification Very High classification by the next designation period means our university, my “13th grade,” will be on the same playing field as the best research institutions in the nation.

It’s not my intent for this to be a public service announcement or a rallying cry of school spirit. This is only my personal testimony how I came to understand that everything I do, as a leader in my fraternity, student government or any organization is part of this growth that was started long before I came to Reno. This growth of our university is occurring not just in infrastructure or academic research, but in the experience of every student. For my first year at this university, I only wanted to be part of somewhere with a more established tradition of excellence.

You’ll need to know my favorite place on campus is the Knowledge Center. I feel more productive there than anywhere else; I love the foyer, looking at campus through the windows, Bytes, but most of all I love the late hours I put in there giving it the old college try. I never knew how great my university was until this summer. On the Associated Students of the University of Nevada student road trip, we toured Oregon University, Oregon State University, Portland State and the University of Washington.

All are outstanding institutions in Pacific Northwest; however, every library we toured reminded me of a closed, silent, public library rather than an open area for collaboration and study. I immediately felt how our KC is a center for ideas, work and discussion, becoming of a great university. I’ve never been more proud of my university and where we’re headed joining the best universities in the West.

I forgot how empowering it is to be at a university where I am laying and improving on the groundwork of those who came before me. I was once told by a professor that the reason she came to the University of Nevada was to, “Have an opportunity to teach first year students like I was, out West, at a research university.” She reminded me that the origins of this university as an affordable pragmatic option wasn’t something to try and hide as I previously felt.

This university is able to serve first-generation students, those without the money to afford more prestigious institutions, and the Californians that California has no room for. If you haven’t experienced the feeling of being at a university on the rise yet, try the KC. If that doesn’t work for you, look around at all the construction — I promise you can’t miss it. It may take a while, but one day you’ll see that you’d rather be here than any Ivy League.

Quinn Jonas studies political science and english literature. He can be reached at dcoffey@unr.edu.