Reflecting on a record year at the University of Nevada, Reno

May 26, 2016

University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson visits with graduate Jena Valenzuela (center) and Veterans Services Director Terina Caserto.
Credit KUNR

It’s graduation season throughout the area. And two weeks ago the quad was packed with thousands of cheering friends and tearful family members seated in rows of white chairs on the green grass amid a sea of black caps and gowns adorned with silver and blue.

The 2016 spring commencement ceremonies featured a University of Nevada, Reno record of 2,710 degrees awarded for undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and medical degrees. And with another record enrollment expected in the fall, this trend is likely to continue for some time.

Guests on KUNR's Beyond the Headlines (air date 5-27-16) reflected on the recent graduation celebrations and the year just completed. Guests were: University president Marc Johnson, Terina Caserto, director of Veterans Services and one of the chief deputies for the commencement activities, and Jena Valenzuela, who just received her bachelors degree from the Reynolds School of Journalism as part of the class of 2016.

Read Jena's reflections

Information from the University of Nevada, Reno
The University awarded the most-ever degrees through three Spring Commencement ceremonies. A total of 2,710 degrees were conferred: 2,114 bachelor degrees, 530 advanced-degree certificates (master’s and doctoral degrees) and 66 University of Nevada School of Medicine degrees. The University awarded 2,454 degrees last spring and has seen a 27 percent increase in degrees awarded since 2010 due to increased enrollment and improved graduation rates. When combined with the Winter Commencement, more than 4,300 degrees are awarded by the University annually.

  • The University also saw a 11% increase year-over-year for degrees given out compared to 2015.
  • University celebrated five cultural graduate celebrations. Organized through The Center for Student Cultural Diversity at the University, the celebrations were designed to recognize the cultures students brought with them to the University and shared during their time on campus.
  • Record number of student athletes graduated.

Commencement Logistics

  • Facilities Services starts working on the grounds months in advance to not only get the grass green, but the trees perfect to frame the event.
  • Over 500 volunteers are needed to put on the events – everyone steps outside of their job descriptions and works early morning, nights, and weekends for this favorite event.
  • The commencement planning team starts meeting over a year in advance to make sure logistics get set.  We’re already been reviewing data to make recommendations of number of ceremonies and what we can do to make it run more smoothly, but keep it individual for the graduates as this is their day.

Jena Valenzuela graduated from Arbor View High School in Las Vegas, Nev., in 2012, where she played competitive basketball, tap danced and conducted as the drum major of the marching band. She continued her love of music as a member of the Wolf Pack Marching Band playing alto saxophone at the University since her freshmen year. Valenzuela studied media graphics and strategic communications in the Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism. She won the “Best Published Article Award” her sophomore year, and in her junior year she earned the top grade-point average and was inducted into the journalism honor society Kappa Tau Alpha. She received the Paul A. and Gwen F. Leonard scholarship her senior year. Valenzuela interned for the Arizona Women’s Political Caucus and was a multimedia intern for the University’s Marketing and Communications office and co-creative director for Wolf Pack Relations, a student-run public relations firm.

Terina Caserto is the Director of Veteran Services. She has worked with our military, veterans and their families since 2009. Most recently Terina has designed and opened the Nevada Military Support Alliance Veterans and Military Center on campus. Her primary responsibilities include keeping the university within federal compliance to administer the Veterans Administration Education Benefit to over 600 students a term, create support services for military and veteran students, and promote veteran student success within the campus and greater community. Prior to her current role she owned a private vocational school and placement agency in the Reno community for 10 years. Terina earned her B.A. in Psychology from Fresno State, her M.A. in Counseling and Educational Psychology from UNR, and is currently working on her doctoral degree in Educational Leadership.