Not Your Average President

Dr. Alan Walker officially arrived on campus on Saturday, Sept. 19, to begin his work as Sierra Nevada College’s new president.

Alan Walker
Dr. Walker riding his Harley from Ohio to Sierra Nevada College on Highway 50.

Walker, who hails from Ohio, had quite the atypical journey traveling from his home out to SNC. He rode his Harley motorcycle 2,400 miles across the country in a week’s time.

Walker rode on Highway 50, one of the few highways that spans across the entire U.S. from San Francisco to Washington D.C.

“I’ve ridden  the section  headed  east from  Ohio  to Washington  D.C.,” Walker said.  “I  told myself  that  when I  go  out  to  Sierra Nevada, I’ll ride the Harley and ride the section of 50 in the other direction.”

He started his journey on Saturday, Sept. 12, and arrived at SNC exactly one week later.

Walker averaged roughly 350 miles a day, and only encountered one day of rough weather on his week long trip.

“I hit a wicked crosswind when I was going across Kansas; that day was work. You’re fighting it – it was an exhausting day,” he said.

Although not exactly classified as rough weather, Walker did experience some crazy temperature changes as well.

“The morning I left Gunnison, CO, one of my overnight stays, it was about 38 degrees,” he said. “By the time I got across the border into Utah, it

Dr. Walker on campus in his motorcycle gear.
Dr. Walker on campus in his motorcycle gear.

was 98 degrees.”

Walker spent his first day riding from Portsmith, OH, to St. Louis, MO with a friend. However, from St. Louis up until reaching Nevada, his trip was done alone. “Until I got to Ely, NV, it was a solo trip,” he said.

“It was a good time to unwind from my previous job, and to think about coming to Sierra Nevada. It was a good time for reflection,” he said. “My bike also has a good stereo system, so I listened to music. It was a good transitional experience.”

Walker said his ride was a great way to see a lot of America, and claims that the final stretch of Highway 50 from Sierra Nevada College to San Francisco is on his to ­do list.

Walker will be living in the Campbell­ Friedman suite until presidential housing matters are set in place.

“It’s very nice  accommodation,”  he said.  “The  advantage is that you  are on  campus  and you get to meet  a lot of students. I  am enjoying it.”

“I met President Walker when he came to the Resident Assistant desk and introduced himself,” said Senior Kyle Kelly. “We both have motorcycles, so we talked about that. I think he’ll be a good fit based on the mere fact that he has his finger on the pulse of the college – the students.”

Walker’s involvement doesn’t end with that.

“I’ve been on white water rafting trips, gone on ski trips, rode team buses for intercollegiate athletics, and gone on camp outs. I plan on doing the same thing here,” he said.

“I have fun with students. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed this career is being around the students; they keep you young,” he said.

Dr. Walker competing in the NASTAR championships in 2015.
Dr. Walker competing in the NASTAR championships in 2015.

Walker plans on taking full advantage of the winter activities now that he is living in Tahoe. His wife and him are both avid skiers, and he has raced in the NASTAR (National Standard Race) circuit in both 2014 and 2015.

NASTAR  is  the  largest  amateur ski  racing  organization  in  the  country  and  is  managed  by

the  US ski  team.  The  organization provides venues for competitions – over 130 locations at ski resorts countrywide. At these sanctioned events, amateur skiers can race in age brackets, and can compete at the national championships if they qualify.

Walker qualified for nationals both years. In 2014, he came in 15th place in the country in his age bracket, and this past March, he took silver.

“I had a shot at gold,” he said. “I had silver locked up. There was one run to go, and I thought, you know, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m going to let

Dr. Walker with his silver medal from the NASTAR nationals in 2015.
Dr. Walker with his silver medal from the NASTAR nationals in 2015.

the dogs out.”

Unfortunately, Walker lost his edge while speeding around a gate, went airborne and crashed.

“I’m still healing up a little bit from that,” he said. “I came in second. Now, I have some unfinished business to take care of next year.”

Walker says he’d be very interested in running some gates with the ski team. “They’ll make me better,” he said. “I’ll try to keep up with them.”

While Walker has a strong passion for skiing, that doesn’t get in the way of him enjoying other sports. He attended the women’s soccer game on Sunday, Sept. 20 and cheered on the Lady Eagles to their first victory. “You’ll see me at a lot of sporting events,” he said.

Walker engages in plenty of outdoor activities alongside his sports interests. He has a long history of wilderness backpacking and was a search and rescue team leader while attending college at University of Idaho. He also enjoys white water rafting, sailing, scuba diving and bicycling.

One truly memorable event from Walker’s past is Ragbrai, an annual bicycling event held in Iowa.

“It’s the world’s largest, oldest, longest bicycle event,” he said. “Over 20,000 people do it every year. You ride from the west border of Iowa, starting at the Missouri River, and the tradition is to dip your rear tire into the river. You then spend a week riding across the state and end up of the east border, at the Mississippi river, and then dip your front tire into the river.”

Walker participated in the event all eight years he was the president at Upper Iowa University. “We started Team Peacock (Upper Iowa’s mascot) and had six people the first year. By the end we had 50 people – 30 riders and 20 people as our support group,” he said.

Walker formed the team to raise awareness as a PR event for the university, and also to raise scholarship money for students. By the end of the eight years participating in the event, Upper Iowa University had raised over $1.4 million for scholarships.

UIU’s  Team  Peacock  consisted  of  students,  faculty  members,  alums  and  board  members.  “It  built  a  sense  of  community  and comradery, and now it’s a huge tradition,” Walker said.

Walker’s passion for adventure and the outdoors is one of the reasons he wanted to be president at SNC. “At this school, aside from credentials, it’s all about a matter of fit. The president needs to fit into the culture of the school,” he said.

“College was a challenge academically for me,” he said. Walker’s father was in the military, and Walker said his family moved 17 times before he left for college.

“I got to see the world,” he said. “I lived in Italy, Germany, Turkey – it was great. It was an education in itself. But after all that, sitting in an auditorium with 200 other freshman, all one way interaction, I couldn’t do it,” he said.

“I would’ve done a lot better if I would’ve come to SNC,” Walker said, regarding the small size and focus on experiential education.

“In a lot of respects, I’m just like one of them,” Walker said, in reference to the students at SNC. “Things they like to do, I like to do. I can relate to a lot of them. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was an undergrad.”

“He really wants to get to know the students. It shows that there’s already a positive change in the air,” Senior Brittany Whicher said.