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.
Sierra Nevada College tragically lost one of its freshman students in February. Shocked by the sudden and unexpected death of the Science student, faculty turned to his public Twitter for answers. The feed “offered red flags” and an insight into someone who “seemed to have it all together,” said Science Department Chair Suzanne Gollery.
SNC South Africa Aid
A group of Sierra Nevada College students are going to South Africa to help develop Hananani Primary School in Dixie Village, which is in desperate need of some attention. The group needs help with funding for supplies for students in the underprivileged communities. Find out more about the trip, how the money will be spent and how you can help this group of students meet their goal at - https://rally.org/f/8DnABnJYjqW?fb_action_ids=10153938867955514&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_ref=cta_bar&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582
In 2014, Allen was selected as the class Valedictorian out of a pool of qualified candidates based on her GPA, how she embodies SNC’s four core themes [Liberal Arts, Professional Preparedness, Entrepreneurial Thinking, Sustainability], community service and school involvement.