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Simple Advice for Our New Students

The featured speakers from UNLV Creates share their wishes for this fall's incoming students.

Campus News  |  Aug 22, 2017  |  By UNLV News Center
A speaker on stage

A speaker at the last year's UNLV Creates addresses new students. The annual academic welcome ceremony includes inspirational talks. (Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services)

The fifth annual UNLV Creates will take place during Welcome Day on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. The entire campus community is invited to the event to welcome new students and their families to the university and educate them about the transformative opportunities of a college degree.

We asked some of this year’s speakers what they hope the Class of 2022 gets out of their experience here.


Anita Revilla: Claim Your Right to Thrive

What I would like our first-year students to know is that there was a time when a higher education and intellectually stimulating environments were reserved for the wealthy elite; however, women, people of color, and working-class people of all backgrounds demanded the right to an education and access to universities that were previously denied to them. While an education may be seen by some as a privilege, I believe it should be a right to which we are all entitled.

As a first-generation academic (and college student), there were times when I questioned my own abilities and rights to be at the institutions I attended — Princeton, Columbia, and UCLA — and came from extreme poverty. Initially, I tried simply to survive in those environments, but eventually I decided that I did not want to just survive, I wanted to thrive. To do that, I realized I needed to claim my space and right to be at the university.

I overcame incredible fears and challenges to be there. I soon learned that even though many of my classmates came from extreme privilege and had much more access to college preparation resources than I had, anything they knew, I could learn and master. But what I knew and experienced, they would never be able to learn. My life struggle, as a woman, Latina, and Queer, who grew up in poverty, offered me a deep knowledge of the world that very few of them knew anything about. It was my struggle that pushed me to succeed and eventually thrive.

I encourage our incoming class to enjoy the intellectual opportunities they will gain at the university, to claim their space at UNLV, to demand the right to both learn and share their own expertise with their peers and professors. I hope you all not only survive but thrive at UNLV.

Anita Tijerina Revilla is an associate professor and director of gender and sexuality studies at UNLV. Her research focuses on student movements and social justice education, specifically in the areas of Chicana/Latina, immigrant, feminist and queer rights activism. She is the co-editor of the book Marching Students: Chicana/o Activism in Education, 1968 to the Present. (U Nevada Press) and is working on two new books: Raza Womyn Re-constructing Revolution: Building and Sustaining a Muxerista Consciousness and What Happens in Vegas, Does NOT Stay in Vegas: Social Justice Activism in Las Vegas.


Finley Cotrone: Three Tips for College Success

Welcome to the start of you UNLV journey! From the beginning of your experience here explore campus, explore ways to get involved, and find your passion! To get the most out of your experience, I have three recommendations for you.

First, find what you love doing so much, you would do it for free and then find mentors who will help you figure out how to make a living at it. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors, advisors, and other staff who can share their experience and advice with you.

Second, find your tribe! Find that group of friends who have similar goals to yours who will lift you up when you fall and who will help you hold yourself accountable when you stumble.

Third, keep your eye on the prize! Make a poster that includes your graduation date and hang it on the wall where you do your homework. Put your expected graduation date on your resume – right at the top. Distractions will happen at every turn, but remember no opportunity is as important as completing your degree! When you’re struggling in a class – look at that date and find the support you need. When you lose focus – look at that date and refocus! Keep your eye on the prize so we can celebrate your accomplishment in the Thomas & Mack in four years!

Finley Cotrone is an assistant professor in residence in the Harrah College of Hotel Administration. She is a leadership development expert whose greatest joy supporting the development of the young people in her student organization: The National Society of Minorities in Hospitality.


Michael Green: Take Advantage of the Buffet

When I was growing up in Las Vegas, my family often went to the cheap buffets. Now the buffets aren’t quite so cheap, but they are bigger and better. So are Las Vegas and UNLV.

As a freshman here myself in the fall of 1982, UNLV had little in the way of counseling to help me figure out my classes. I tried to sign up for classes I didn’t need and wasn’t eligible to take until I read the fine print in the course catalog. At the time, we had one residence hall — Tonopah — and there was talk of tearing it down. The campus was usually quiet on late afternoons, evenings, and weekends.

Today, UNLV has invested in many resources to help student succeed. Its multiple housing complexes (with the U-District student apartments opening next year) have created a true residential life on what is still largely a commuter campus. From major symphonies and dance companies in big venues like Ham Hall and the Judy Bayley Theatre to speakers in the College of Liberal Arts’ University Forum lecture series, something is always happening on campus to keep students and staff alike around.

True, UNLV had some of these attractions when I was a student but I was taking a full load, had a job, and was a loner. I learned a lot, made time to go to some great events, and developed some lifelong friendships. I treasure all of that. But I could have had a lot more to treasure if I had taken advantage of all UNLV had to offer even then.

So, my tip for new students is to think of UNLV as being like one of those buffets: there’s staff to assist you, but you'll also have to carry your own plates to get all of those great dishes to sample.

Michael Green, ’86 BA and ’88 MA History, is an associate professor of history and teaches courses on everything from Lincoln to Las Vegas. He is the author of Nevada: A History of the Silver State.


Samuel Song: Find Your Passion, Not Just Your Major!

The question for you today is, Will you let college develop you as a person?

This idea of college developing or growing you as a person may be new for some of you. Our culture strongly emphasizes the “instrumental” value of college with messages like, “You should major in something that will get you the highest-paying job” or, “That major sounds fun, but will it get you a job?” Of course, we all need to make a living as adults and attaining a college does help with that.

However, you might be cutting yourself short if you don’t also embrace that college is an experience that develops you and changes you. The most important recommendation to do this given the brevity of this article is to find your passion, not just your major.

Some of you will select majors due to pressure from your family or society to make money or bring prestige. However, you may not be best suited for that major because of your talents, goals, or motivation (i.e., passion). I personally know of a number of stories where college students majored in an “esteemed major” but that did not fit them. They unfortunately graduated with a low GPA and were not able to go on to graduate school, find a job that was related to their “esteemed major,” or that was satisfactory in terms of money. Other students majored in something that suited their skills, but did not resonate with who they were; they either dropped out of a prestigious graduate training program or are working as a professional but are not happy with their career.

Given that people on average switch jobs five or more times in a lifetime, using college to discover or fine tune your passion for life is a good use of your time.

Of course, some of you have the gift of knowing what you want to do as a career since childhood—go for it! But even as you pursue your major, continue to refine your passion within your major and see how other aspects of life such as community service may be linked to your passion.

You should take the time to challenge yourself academically and socially, embrace the many opportunities that college has to offer through clubs and community service, journal your reflections about your college experience, and keep talking with friends and classmates about your learnings, life, and society. Along the way, you will develop who you are as a person. College will change you, if you let it!

Samuel Song, is an associate professor of school psychology in the UNLV College of Education. His research focuses on strategies that promote healthy school cultures and climates for all children including the "ecological minority." Current projects focus on preventing school bullying and reducing racial/ethnic discipline disparities through the implementation of restorative justice practices. Song seeks to advance this social justice mission in the field of school psychology and psychology broadly. He loves In-N-Out burger and loves to talk to students who may be interested in pursuing careers in psychology, education, and school psychology. Email Song to connect on either of these or both simultaneously.