In December of 2014, Shannon Beets, Sierra Nevada College executive vice president and provost, was appointed interim president. Beets, who has been with SNC for nine years, will take on the role of president as the school board searches for someone to permanently fulfill this position.
On April 10th, students, faculty and staff gathered in Prim Library to hear Beets speak about the current state of the college and its goals moving forward. Dan O’Bryan, Humanities professor and associate provost, who has worked closely with Beets at SNC since his employment in 2007, introduced her with great admiration.
“I can testify to the central role she played then and now in the creation and preservation of a college that is stable, dynamic and well positioned for the challenges of the future,” said O’Bryan.
O’Bryan also spoke of Beet’s contributions over the years, which include teaching, serving as vice president of assessment and institutional effectiveness and acting as dean of enrollment services. She has worked closely with the faculty to help create high-impact programs built upon active learning and innovative curriculum.
Beets welcomed an audience of about 50 people and began her presentation by speaking of the recent changes within the board of trustees. After 20 years of service, Wayne Prim stepped down from his position as Chairman of the Board and is now Chairman Emeritus for the college. The position was filled by Atam Lalchandani, former vice chair of the board. Beets parallels this transition with the state of SNC.
“Even as we are in a time of transition, we are in a period of growth. We are in a period of increasing stability, and we are at a moment in our history where we can think about who we really want to be,” said Beets.
Beets urged her audience to consider what it means to be a small liberal arts college today, in a time when the world of higher education is changing. Institutions similar to SNC are feeling the pressures of declining enrollment, financial instability, and the changing demographics of graduating high school students.
Although SNC has managed to increase enrollment, this is a crucial time to stay on top and remain distinguished in order to continue thriving.
Beets said she believes that the mission of SNC separates it from other colleges in the area and across the country.
“We want entrepreneurial thinking from all of our students. By that we mean creativity, innovation, and the ability to solve problems and implement a solution. Another thing that sets us apart is that we equally value professional preparedness. We are not just developing character and giving students a broad based education, we want to make sure they’re really ready for their first job. And also to continue our focus on sustainability and our commitment to the environment we live in,” Beets said.
Looking toward the future, the college will continue to improve its engagement with the community and partnerships.
“We live in a unique part of the world. There is unusual human capital in this area, and we really want to work harder at using those uniquely talented people to improve the educational experience here,” said Beets.
In sight of this goal, SNC is currently working with Sierra Angels, an investment group that has offered internships to students over the last 20 years. To involve the community, SNC is also launching advisory committees for fine arts and entrepreneurship and inviting local business to speak on campus, among other endeavors.
Beets would also like to form lasting connections with SNC alumni, which she believes will be beneficial to current students.
Alumni can be utilized as mentors and a source of externships for students entering the professional world. Suzanne Gollery, Department Chair of Science and Technology at SNC, is pleased that the school has increased its efforts to connect with alumni, which she has rarely seen in nearly 18 years at this institution.
“It does our current students a great disservice to not utilize our alumni as a resource,” said Gollery.
The school board has also come to better understand the current students of SNC and is making efforts to accommodate their interests.
As a result, the athletics program hopes to expand to include men’s and women’s soccer, golf, and cross country in the fall of this year. Possible additions might eventually include volleyball, tennis and swimming.
As the value of a higher education is put into context in terms of measurable outcomes, Beets ensures that the students of SNC are profiting.
“We put you in circumstances where you have to synthesize everything that you’ve learned across the breadth and depth of your education into one moment where you are asked to meet a challenge head on, perform under pressure, and be judged by people who are experts in your area,” said Beets. “This is a valuable real-world skill if ever there was one.”