History & Facts

Sierra Nevada University is a private, independent, accredited four-year liberal arts college with graduate level programs in education, creative writing, and interdisciplinary arts. It is located in Incline Village, Nevada, a mountain community on the north shore of Lake Tahoe.

SNU Tahoe offers 30 undergraduate majors and concentrations organized in five departments: Business, Fine Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences, Science & Technology and Interdisciplinary Studies. It offers masters degree programs in education, with classes in both the Reno and Las Vegas areas, and low-residency MFA degrees in Creative Writing and Interdisciplinary Arts. It also offers continuing education programs and an acclaimed summer arts workshop series.

img_clocktower_noborder-160hSierra Nevada University opened its doors in the fall of 1969 with 23 students. Among the goals of the founders was incorporation of the unique environmental qualities and characteristics of the Lake Tahoe region into the academic programs at SNU. Decades later, fidelity to this goal is still reflected in the SNU academic mission and core curriculum, which emphasize the importance of environmental, social, economic, and educational sustainability.

Within four years of its founding, SNU had achieved candidate status for accreditation with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), and accreditation was granted in 1976. SNU experienced substantial growth in academic programs during the ‘70s, adding the undergraduate departments of Fine Arts and Management (now Business).

Graduate level programs were added with the Teacher Education Program in the late ‘80s, culminating in the creation of the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) (2005), the Master of Education (MEd) in advanced teaching and leadership (2008), and the Master of Arts in Administration (MAA) in 2015. Innovative low-residency MFA degree programs inaugurated in 2012 allow aspiring writers (and soon visual artists) to learn from acclaimed professionals from any location.

SNU Tahoe currently enrolls over 500 undergraduate students and almost as many graduate students. Students come from throughout the United States and over 30 other countries.

campus-library-snow-160hAs SNU Tahoe grew, Ralston Hall, David Hall, and the MacLean Library were added to the historic Mountain Campus. In 1991, the Lake Campus was acquired through private and foundation donations and, for many years, classes and activities took place at both the Mountain and the Lake locations. Sensing that SNU students and faculty needed to occupy a single campus where continued expansion was possible, the leadership at SNU decided to sell the Mountain Campus and relocate all activities, classes, and programs to the new Lake location by the start of the 2006-2007 academic year.

The move to the Lake Campus went hand-in-hand with the opening of several new, carefully designed buildings to facilitate student learning in this new location. The Prim Library and Learning Resource Center was opened in 2004 to provide students with an open, beautiful, and well-equipped space to study, research, and access academic services. The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, the product of a historic partnership between SNU, the University of California, Davis, and the Desert Research Institute, opened in August 2006. The Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences is a cutting-edge, “green” building that allows SNU students to engage in scientific pursuits within the walls of a LEED-certified, Platinum-rated laboratory building, the first building in Nevada to earn this recognition. The Holman Arts & Media center opened in 2014, housing the Fine Arts programs in expanded spaces intentionally designed to foster collaboration and cross-fertilization.

In addition to these new physical structures, new technology was added to allow students to wirelessly connect to the Internet from all classrooms and public study spaces.

tces-160wAs the expansion of the Lake Campus proceeded, the Teacher Education program established satellite locations to to help address the growing statewide need for high-quality teacher education programs throughout Nevada. As a result of this expansion, SNU Teacher Education students can now complete their degrees in Incline Village, Reno, and Henderson, Nevada.

Sierra Nevada University has only just begun—this young, proud, and growing institution is destined to take its place among the best small liberal arts colleges in the country. It’s been a college that has always been characterized by its outstanding faculty and dedicated staff. Whatever the exciting possibilities the future holds for the college, one thing will remain the same: Sierra Nevada University will always stay true to its core mission as a liberal arts college. It’s simply in the DNA of the place.