Reno as a College Town – Is it possible?

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Nov 14, 2013 No Comments ›› DaveAiazzi

There has been a lot of discussion in the Reno area lately revolving around the theme. “How do we make Reno a ‘college town’ again?”

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In President Johnson’s State of the University speech — “Building a Culture of Competitive Excellence”–, he brought up many points that give me hope this can be accomplished. He spoke about community often using the terms “Learning,” “Discovery,” and “Engagement.” as key points to his speech.
His third pillar is “Engagement, which is the outreach connection between our campus and the communities and businesses we serve.” In the third point of this “Third Pillar” he specifically brings up the “college town” concept. I quote, “Instilling the “college town” feel. There has been a lot written and reported on lately about this whole “college town” idea. Never before has the University and our community been more perfectly aligned for this to happen.”
I too have had my share of discussions around this topic and I am hopeful there is an impetus to move from idea to concept to discussion to plan (or many plans) that could accomplish just that.
To accomplish any goal, we must first set out the problem to solve. The first issue isn’t “How to instill a “college town” feel.” But a more general, “What IS a ‘college town’?”
To me a college-town would be seamless. You wouldn’t necessarily know exactly when you were on-campus. Students interact with non-students in areas off-campus where they still feel free to sit and study, meet with strangers (and each other) and be just as comfortable as they would be on-campus. Many students would live off-campus as there is easy transportation so cars aren’t required to get from home to school to entertainment. Speaking of entertainment, there would be lots of it, and much of it would be all ages so Nevada students under 21 would be welcomed off-campus. The Police Department would enforce drinking laws in a much less onerous way so that businesses wouldn’t be so afraid to conduct their business for fear of being “stung”. Relentlessly.
On the University side, there needs to be a connection between the faculty and students who use the campus everyday and residents who have no idea what goes on at the university other than football and basketball games. We need to be welcomed. We need to see that this institution that all the taxpayers of Nevada help pay for (whether we have attended Nevada or not) offers something for us. As it stands now, as it has stood for twenty years, the main problem I hear about is parking. It is sparse and mercurial for students, faculty and those of us who would like to think of Nevada as “our University”.
At the end of the day, every student that matriculates at our University would not only be proud to be attending the University, but they would be proud to say they live in Reno. The obverse side would be that those residents of Reno would be extremely proud to live in a University Town because they have a working knowledge of what goes on there, what is offered, what is being accomplished. They would also know that there is more to the University than what happens “on the hill”.
There is a feeling out here that the University doesn’t have a real connection with the citizenry at present. A trust has to be built up. And it doesn’t involve spending millions of dollars making a more beautiful entrance into the University. It begins with simple steps. Maybe the first step was having the homecoming parade start at the Arch. The next could be equally innocuous and is in President Johnson’s court.
This event is happening tomorrow:

The Salon

The Salon is a gathering where a select group of panelists and members of the audience have a conversation about thought-provoking topics and ideas. Part panel discussion, part conversation, part social event, The Salon encourages participants to explore new ideas in facilitated conversation and then together informally while enjoying refreshments. Past Salon topics include discussions about art and revolutions, interdisciplinary thinking, video games as art, and sense-of-place writing.


Join us for our November Salon! This month we’ll be discussing the development of the local food movement in the Reno/Sparks area.

I would ask the University to involve itself in meaningful conversation regarding University Farms. Engage those who might not otherwise see a connection between themselves and the University. Let’s begin discussions on how we can help each other, without millions of dollars in up-front costs. Just meet. Let’s make our first 2014 resolution to bring the University Farms to a place where everyone is proud of the outcome.
In President Johnson’s conclusion he stated, “This is our moment to lead our state. To be outstanding and to do awe-inspiring work. This is our moment to be bold.”
I couldn’t agree more.

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