By Caden Fabbi
A week and a half ago, the city and university community came together for one of the greatest collaborations in our town: Homecoming at the University of Nevada, Reno. Despite the lack of excitement surrounding the football team this year, the community still came out in numbers to celebrate UNR.
It’s no secret that many people in the community still view UNR as the “ivory school on the hill.” The university is moving in a positive direction against this view, without question. The opening of the Innevation Center in downtown Reno, involvement with city projects and the fact that students are consistently doing community service in the Reno-Sparks area are all good things that will bridge the connection.
But some are simply stuck in their view that UNR is some sort of elitist institution. This can be a difficult perception to change, but it’s important that the community sees the university as the accessible space for knowledge and sharing ideas that those of us here know it is.
So, what’s the solution? Here’s mine: Let’s bring the campus to the city, and the city to the campus. We need our community to understand the innovative and exciting things that are happening on campus—from the performing arts, to the research fairs and the important work that our students and faculty are doing for our community and beyond.
It’s the small things that matter if a culture shift is going to occur—like decorating the area around campus in Nevada Wolf Pack town gown and encouraging businesses to offer deals to students. Why not invite our city to join us on campus for our special events; in fact, let’s ask our community what it wants to see and learn about. Small projects such as these, which show off our Pack pride and foster support in the community, show connectivity between the city and the campus.
At the same time, supporting big initiatives such as the proposed Gateway District project will be key. A new, inviting entry to UNR that expresses the personality of our campus and our city through businesses, restaurants, arts and more could be a game-changer for both our campus and city. This project will take investment from the university and external entities in both the private and public sectors.
The university is also investing in the industries that are coming to and growing in northern Nevada—particularly engineering and advanced manufacturing. Engineering is our fastest growing college on campus, and a good portion of our graduates stay in Nevada to contribute to the economy and workforce. The positive connection between these two facts is palpable, although investment from external entities like the state of Nevada will be important for it to be taken to the next level.
Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve has said that she is creating a University Board, which will create even more collaboration between the university and city. She has also said many times that “Now, more than ever, we are a university town,” so it’s clear that there is genuine interest on both sides of this topic.
“Opportunity” is a word that often floats around here. That’s because the next few steps and investments in building on our university community are some of the most important — and exciting — that we will have in a long time. If our campus invests in the city and the city invests in the campus, Reno will become the university town that we have all dreamt of.
Caden Fabbi studies political science. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @cfabss.