Sustainability has been a cornerstone of the Sierra Nevada College mission ever since its first days as an established institution. The original core themes of alternative energy and environmental science have given way to the much wider discipline of sustainability, but as the school grows and finds new ways to be economically viable it has become the responsibility of the students, faculty and administration to realize our sustainable potential as well.
According to Adjunct Professor Brennan Lagasse there is an incredible potential for SNC in the realm of sustainable education.
“I think that this school has the ultimate opportunity to be the most, and I mean this, progressive institution with regards to its sustainability studies that there is, in terms of a small liberal arts private school, with 500 people, with cap that exists at 1,000, that is right on the shores of Lake Tahoe in one of the beautiful places in the world,” Lagasse said.
Lagasse recently returned from a class focused on holistic sustainability in the arctic, in which he and six SNC students experienced the lives of members of the Gwich’in tribe in Arctic Village, Alaska. According to Lagasse this class represents all of the positive possibilities for the future of sustainable education at SNC.
“What we did in Alaska, that’s it man,” Lagasse said. “I guarantee any liberal arts school, any progressive sustainability program, anybody that sees that and knows what’s up in the sustainability world would look at that and say ‘Wow that’s cool’.”
The Student Government Association held its senator elections to solidify its board in order to productively represent the student body.
The senator elections were held to encourage not only freshman participants, but all students interested in becoming involved with the SGA.
In the pursuit to be more sustainable, the elections occurred via student email this year. Every student received an email with their own personal code, to ensure they only voted once. This year, there were 75 students that cast their vote.
Typically the SGA likes to have the sophomore, junior and senior elections in May along with all the other positions.
Since it did not receive enrollment for those positions, it was pushed back to the freshman senator elections. The SGA elected Freshman Frankie Sanchez and Senior Austin Farina on the board this fall, according to Sustainability Chair Marina McCoy.
“Class senators represent the voice of that particular class. But we also have senators that are for specific majors such as a Business and Psychology department,” Director of Events Haley Gray said.
In SGA, the class senators hold the important role of bridging the void between the students and the higher tier of student activities and clubs.
Grade senators now have more stipulations and duties than non-grade senators. Grade senators go to all the SGA meetings, events and press responsibilities.
“If the class has something they would like to voice, they generally would go to their grade senator so that they can come to meetings and share those ideas with SGA,” President Aaron Wiener said.
The SGA breaks down its board through an executive board and then through senators.
The executive board is divided in two committees: the Judicial and Events committee.
The Judicial committee consists of President Aaron Wiener, Vice President Cole Mizak, Secretary Mei Li Le Roy and Treasurer Brendan Wheelwright.
The Events committee includes Sustainability Chair Marina McCoy, Director of Events Haley Gray and director of Public Relations Katie Russie.
“It’s really great that we have a full board now. Hopefully next year for elections more people will be involved to better the school and the community,” McCoy said.
Students can contact the SGA at StudentGovernmentAssociation@sierranevada.edu or www.SNCSGA.com.
The Third Wednesday Readings taking place in the Prim Library are a way for faculty and guest speakers to informally interact with the students at Sierra Nevada College. On Wednesday Sept. 17, Thomas Wade Brown, instructor of Humanities and Social Sciences at SNC, led a presentation in the back of the library that attracted 25 people as he discussed “Delay Discounting”, or different forms of behavioral psychology. Brown’s presentation marked the first of two that will take place this semester as a part of the series.
The crowd of over 20 people consisted of faculty members, SNC students and even some high school students from Incline High.
“The turnout was incredible. I think at one point the head count got to 25 people, which was really unexpected. It was touching to see so many of my students and colleagues come out and show support,” said Brown.
During the one hour presentation Brown was enthusiastic about the psychological concepts he discussed.
“It is gorgeous!” Brown said, after switching through different graphs being presented on the projector.
“I am not a psychology major but the way Wade explained the different studies made me want to learn more about them,” Senior Rebecca Roberts said. “He has a good sense of humor that makes psychology more appealing.”
Brown finished his presentation by opening the floor to questions from the audience. It was an opportunity for the crowd to learn more about the topics he had discussed during the presentation.
Drought conditions are getting worse in California and Nevada as the summer comes to a close. According to the Drought Monitor report by U.S. agriculture and weather experts at least 58 percent of California is currently affected by the most severe drought seen in decades. Three months ago, only a quarter of the state was affected to this degree.
As the drought begins to affect more and more of California and Nevada, it feels as though Lake Tahoe is in a drought-free bubble. Where water is plentiful and residents are surrounded by lakes and rivers it is hard for the people living in the Tahoe Basin to understand the magnitude of the worst drought in recorded history.
As the school year begins, students scramble around campus getting back into their groove, smiles and small talk occur. High on the list of topics is the noticeable growth of Sierra Nevada College.
Since 2006, the SNC student population has doubled, and now has an enrollment of 549 undergraduate students. With many graduate students in the Masters of Teaching program and the Masters in Creative Writing, total SNC enrollment is now at 1,030 total students.
President Lynn Gillette is more than impressed with these growing numbers.
“I will say that no doubt, we are in a growth mode. We could see the student body going up by several hundred in the next couple of years; in fact, that’s a goal,” Gillette said.
Gillette is very happy with the increase in numbers, along with the academic quality of the university.
“The academic quality is overwhelmingly higher than it’s ever been. We got a hell of a product right now,” Gillette said.
With this product and the potential to grow, Sierra Nevada College must tackle a new problem – how to handle the numbers.
“With the growth that we are experiencing, we’re having a nice problem, needing to add facilities,” Gillette said.
According to Gillette, As far as academic space for classes and faculty offices, the school could accept several hundred more students without having to add these facilities.
Recently SNC opened the Holman Arts and Media Center on Tahoe Boulevard. This new building has allowed the art department to really expand and has become a much more comfortable facility for the students and faculty.
Gillette said new structures need to be built over the next two years including dorms, food service space, parking and a president’s home.
“Right now, we have thirty five percent of the undergraduate students living in the dorms. So as we grow, we’re going to have to address the issue of more dorm space. As housing is becoming more expensive in the area, and it is, that’s an issue that we have to address,” Gillette said.
SNC also has to address more cafeteria and parking space in order to support the growing enrollment of the school. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has actually put a cap on how large the school enrollment can grow without adding additional land to the campus. According to the admission’s department, SNC’s maximum capacity is currently set at 1,000 enrolled undergraduate students.
The master plan encompasses goals for the future physical layout of the SNC campus.
“Everything that is planned for in the master plan is tentative, including a house for the president,” Gillette said.
The master plan has been designed to accommodate up to 1,000 students along with the president of the school, if and when it is completed.
“A master plan is kind of dynamic; it’s always changing. As we build out the campus master plan, the idea that the president’s home on campus adds to the campus experience. That’s the vision,” Gillette said.
Planning and fundraising could take anywhere from 6 to 18 months and actual construction of any new facilities will take 12 to 15 months.
There are no hard dates set for the school’s necessary facility completions but as school enrollment keeps growing, the pressure to get these facilities built will continue to grow with it.
Currently, planning and permitting is in action to build a residence on campus for Sierra Nevada College presidents by 2016. Funded by donors, a president’s house on campus would be a place to easily host potential and current students, faculty, donors and visitors.
With the high academic quality and growth mode in motion, President Lynn Gillette explained that the president’s house fits in with the school’s future.
“We are starting a major focus on marketing and branding,” Gillette said. “This is about the campus; it is not about the current president,”
If the plan goes as scheduled, construction will begin May of 2015. The project will take roughly 12 to 13 months, meaning completion sometime during the summer of 2016. The 1.2 million dollar project will be completely funded by an anonymous donor, with other donors possibly contributing. The house has been estimated to be 3,000 square feet.
Many students and faculty have been wondering why a house for the president is even in the master plan for the school, and some raise concerns over the proposed location, and loosing the demonstration garden.
Senior Rachel Blum, who will be graduating in December does not agree with the decision to build the house.
“Why would we build an exclusive house for the president when we could build a community space for the students or an amphitheater that could be used for outdoor classes, readings, or performing arts. I think that would be cheaper and more beneficial for the students,” Blum said.
With the admissions department involved in both the school’s branding and marketing,
Dean of Admissions, Steve Berry, points out the benefits of building a president’s house.
“I think it’s great for admissions in the sense that one of our biggest selling points right now is that our executive team, meaning our president and provost, still teach classes on campus,” Berry said.“They’re actively engaged within the campus community, they’re visible on campus.”
“Having the president’s house on campus will add more credibility to what we’re preaching to the students when they know our president lives on campus,” said Berry. “He’s accessible, he’s visible and he’s very student centered which is something we’re proud of here at SNC” Berry said.
Chair of the Interdisciplinary Committee Katie Zanto explains that having an active president living on campus will be good for the school and its students.
“I think that having a president on campus who is involved in campus events and is very involved with knowing the students and their interests will definitely benefit the school,” Zanto said.
One thing that has not yet been decided is the location of the house. Gillette shared that the board is still figuring out where the house will be built; this will depend on parking and utilities.
“There have been about four sites under review. We’re looking at how different sighting impacts the master plan, utility delivery to that site, parking availability to the site,” Gillette said.
According to Gillette another geographic aspect the board has been considering during the decision making process is, “keeping the residential core whole and the academic core whole.”
As the fall semester continues, the permits for the project may or may not be granted. If they are granted, a location will be decided on and building will begin. The four locations that have been proposed are shown below on the campus’s map.
As an incoming student at SNC, students must experience the dorms as an initial step in their higher education. With SNC’s largest incoming class arriving, many are questioning the residence hall policies.
“We have a total of 194 students in the dorms, one of the highest incoming classes. Last year we had around 180 which is only 10-15 more students this year,” said Lizzie Thibodeau.
While the increase of students is minimal, they have seen a large difference in the living situation among the dorms.
“What bothers me is that I requested a double (room) and they explained they were running out of space, and asked ‘do you think you could spare for a triple?’, just before school started. Therefore we involuntarily agreed and are working through the situation.” said Freshman Celine
For some students, this policy can be burdensome when trying to expand their horizons of Incline Village and Lake Tahoe area.
“The two year policy should be more of an option than a requirement. I think there should be a way you can prove that the second year is not necessary for an individual, rather than forcing it upon the students,” said Sophomore Nelly Steinhoff.
With the remarkable backdrop of Sierra Nevada College and an active assembly of students to match, SNC offers clubs that are both active and interest oriented.