Fundraising “oil” to the SNC machine

Known as the “Stanford of the Sierras,” Sierra Nevada College has a unique approach to education. The school offers a variety of programs that encourage students to think outside the box. However, keeping those innovative programs alive is a daily challenge.  

Unlike state-run universities, SNC is a private college that doesn’t rely on government funding to support its operations.  Fundraising is the oil to the machine that is SNC.  It finances everything from scholarships and student programs to faculty and facilities.

“SNC employs a systematic fundraising approach through individual giving, grants, corporate giving, alumni giving, parent giving and events,” said Dianne Severance, acting vice president for advancement and director of grants and sponsored programs.

Without help from the Lake Tahoe community, SNC’s success wouldn’t be possible. Local support is a major source of funding for the college, and a lot of their resources come from community engagement.

“SNC holds community events throughout the year, these types of events include its US Bank Speakers Series, Writer in the Woods and mentoring for the Business Plan Competition. We also have an Arts Council, hold community salons and the community-wide Warren Kocmond Janet Pahl Ski and Snowboard banquet,” Severance said.

Held recently in Patterson Hall, the Chinese New Year’s event is an example of community-wide fundraising.

Besides funding day-to-day operations, SNC fundraising backs student programs.

Suzanne Gollery, chair of the department of science and technology, was awarded a grant from NV Energy to further student education.

“NV Energy awarded us a $25,000 grant in 2014, with $5,000 toward student research costs, $5,000 for a science student scholarship, $5,000 for field and lab equipment and $10,000 toward purchase of a passenger van,” Gollery said.

NV Energy Grant helps get students exploring outside the classroom

Sprinter Van funded by NV Energy

Known as the SNC Sprinter van, this vehicle has taken students to locations all over the West Coast.

“We have field courses along the Rogue River in Oregon, the redwood forests of coastal California, the Great Basin desert and in the Lake Tahoe area. Students travel to these locations to study the ecosystems and resources,” Gollery said.

Gollery believes that, for students, this kind of interactive learning makes the natural world come alive.

“Our outdoor field labs are so engaging for students,” Gollery said. “It is much more interesting to learn about the geology of the Sierra Nevada while looking at the rocks and landforms as we drive across the range than to study them by watching videos online or looking at little pieces of rock in the classroom.”

Many other educational programs at SNC are funded by outside sources. Andy Rost, associate professor in the science and technology department, partnered with Nevada Systems of Higher Education (NSHE) to create a watershed project at the college.

“It’s a research and educational project that focuses on watershed visualization to improve student learning,” Rost said. “Teams of one faculty and one student develop visual tools to expand the educational experience of undergraduates in watershed science and earth science.”

Funding from partners such as NSHE keeps SNC professors working on exciting new projects. Through fundraising, professors can push the boundaries of higher education.

“This is vital to help faculty become better at what they do. In order for us to be at our best, we need to engage in our fields, develop relationships, partnerships and extend opportunities to our students through these experiences,” Rost said.

New fundraising activities on the horizon include SNC’s participation in the Tour de Tahoe on Sept. 11.

“It will be a rally ride to support SNC,” Severance said. “Team Eagle will join hundreds of other riders on a circumnavigation bike ride around Lake Tahoe.”

Students can register to participate in Tour de Tahoe and help Team Eagle bring more funding to the school.

“We are asking our teammates to support the college by raising money for the SNC Tahoe Fund, which helps underwrite student programming and opportunities at the college,” Severance said.