Dr. Alan G. Walker
President of the College
Dr. Alan G. Walker became the 13th President of Sierra Nevada College in September 2015. He is a visionary leader with over thirty years of progressively responsible teaching, administrative, and leadership experience in postsecondary education, including more than ten years as a college president; an excellent track record of achieving strategic goals and objectives that position organizations for success in an increasingly competitive, global, and dynamically changing environment; skilled at building high-achieving teams, developing and implementing effective strategic plans and resourcing them, and being constituency centered; and maintains a passion for changing lives, growing organizations and the continuous pursuit of excellence.
Before coming to Sierra Nevada College, Dr. Walker served as President of Upper Iowa University, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Shawnee State University (OH), Vice Provost for Extended University Programs at Western Michigan University; Director of the Fire and Emergency Training Institute at Louisiana State University; Director, Fire Service Training, at the University of Kansas; and Director of Fire Service Training at the Idaho State Division of Vocational Education.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Walker has gained expertise across a broad array of areas including:
- strategic change leadership;
- adult education, distance learning, curriculum development, and delivery system design;
- strategic alliance and coalition-building;
- process, system, and organizational architecture optimization;
- team building, and talent management;
- global business development;
- strategic positioning;
- enrollment management;
- fundraising and grant acquisition and management;
- regulatory and professional/industry standard development and compliance;
- financial management and strategic resource allocation; and
- legislative affairs.
Dr. Walker holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education Policy Administration from the University of Kansas; and both an M.Ed. in Vocational/Adult Education and a B.S. in Trade and Industrial Technical Education from the University of Idaho, as well as an Associate of Science degree in Fire Science from the College of Southern Idaho.
Dr. Walker and his wife of over 30 years, Debbie, are avid outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy cycling, skiing, camping, backpacking, and sailing; they are a part of the active lifestyle at Lake Tahoe. Debbie grew up in Washington State and Alan has family in Idaho and Washington State. They have one grown daughter, Emily.
Provost and Executive Vice President
Shannon Beets brings twenty years of experience in higher education as a senior administrator and faculty member. Immediately prior to assuming the role of Interim President of the College, Ms. Beets served for three years as Executive Vice President and Provost. She joined Sierra Nevada College in 2006 and has held a variety of positions across key academic areas, including Vice President for Assessment and Institutional Effectiveness, Associate Provost, Dean of Education for the Teacher Education Department, and Dean of Enrollment Services.
During her tenure, she has worked closely with faculty, the executive leadership, and the Board to create high impact academic programs, measure student learning outcomes, and assess institutional effectiveness. She successfully led the College’s most recent reaccreditation process; and she has launched three successful Master’s degree programs, including the Master of Arts in Education (M.Ed.), and two innovative, low-residency programs: the Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Creative Writing and the MFA in Interdisciplinary Art. Most recently she spearheaded the development of the College’s Strategic Plan for 2014-2021, through a process that engaged all sectors of the College community, as well as key external stakeholders.
As an innovative educator, she has passionately advocated for active learning, leading and collaborating with SNC faculty to create significant new initiatives to increase high impact practices in the classroom – a distinguishing hallmark of Sierra Nevada College. In addition to her administrative responsibilities and her work in designing innovative curriculum, she continues to teach, both in the landmark freshman year experience course, CORE 101, and in senior level courses in a variety of areas.
Beets is a frequent presenter on academic innovation and student engagement both nationally and internationally, recently representing the College in China during a multi-university tour to collaborate on teaching entrepreneurial thinking to Chinese youth. In keeping with her strong commitment to the community, Beets serves as the facilitator for the North Lake Tahoe-Truckee Leadership Program, which trains, informs and engages accomplished professionals throughout the region in preparation for leadership roles in the community.
Beets received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion and Philosophy from the University of La Verne, Las Verne, California; and her Master of Arts in Women’s Studies in Religion from Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, California.
A Reno native, Dr. O’Bryan earned his B.A.in English Literature at the University of Nevada, Reno; his M.A. in English Literature at the University of California, Berkeley; and his Ph.D. in English Literature at the University of Washington. He taught philosophy at Truckee Meadows Community College and literature, history, philosophy and religious studies at Old College in Reno, Nevada before coming to Sierra Nevada College in 1992. Currently, he teaches the Nevada Constitution, the Senior Course on Ethics, American Literature, and Masterpieces of World Literature.
O’Bryan became the Associate Provost in 2007, assisting in the daily functions of the academic dimensions of the college. He is the chair of the Curriculum Committee, works with department chairs and faculty to create annual goals and is an arbiter in any academic conflicts. His interests include historiography and the challenges that new perspectives such as postmodernism offer to traditional historical understanding; philosophy in terms of the intersections between Asian and Western thought; the psychological and sociological dimensions of religion; and the role of literature as the most sensitive reflection of any historical epoch.
In his role as Humanities Chair and Associate Provost, he has altered the direction and intellectual content of Senior Projects to raise the level of intellectual rigor while standardizing the approach; Senior Projects are carefully assessed on the basis of approach and application, content and knowledge of the topic, connections between the discipline and other areas of study and the disciplines as generally understood in the current academic world. The Senior Projects, together with the Junior Art Portfolio Review, the Business Plan Competition and the Governor’s Cup in the Business Department and the independent research typical of the Science Department now lead to the Senior Symposium, an active demonstration of the emphasis on a culture of excellence and academic achievement at the college.
Vice President for Finance and Administration (CFO)
Sue Johnson has been with the college since 2012, and brings a wealth of experience that is pertinent to SNC’s current needs: financial analysis, including program profitability analysis; budgeting and budget management; capital expenditure planning and facility master planning; and organizational change management.
Johnson brings over 30 years of progressive executive management experience. She began her career as a Senior Staff Accountant at Grant Thornton. She then served for over 9 years as the Chief Financial Officer for Harrah’s Lake Tahoe, where she oversaw a $160 million budget; and directed the functions of accounting, finance, purchasing, credit, regulatory compliance and strategic planning/analysis, among others. She was responsible for summarizing large quantities of business data into actionable information; led the process of identifying capital reinvestment needs and oversaw $7-$22 million in annual capital expenditures; and designed and directed business planning, long-range planning, and budgeting processes.
Following her time at Harrah’s, Johnson served as the Acting Chief Financial Officer for Carson City, where she oversaw 25 governmental funds and 11 proprietary funds with expenditures totaling over $117 million annually; coordinated the operations of finance, risk management and purchasing; worked with bond counsel to coordinate bond sales; and directed the annual comprehensive financial report. She subsequently served for two separate one year periods as Carson City’s Internal Auditor. Most recently, Johnson has worked for Freeman & Williams, LLP, a Carson City based accounting practice, where she has developed and managed their internal control review services for a widely diversified clientele.
Vice President for Academic Extension
Dr. Mark Atkinson is an innovative educator and business professional. His 20+ years of professional experience has ranged across continuing education, small business development, graduate studies, online education, and a variety of other academic and administrative programs. He has been a dean, assistant professor of educational technology, program administrator, and small business owner at six universities, public and private, and his own business.
Atkinson’s particular expertise is in online education infrastructure and pedagogy, from institutional strategies, policies, and personnel to technology infrastructure. He has built undergraduate and graduate online courses and programs, instructional design teams, faculty training programs, state authorization and regulatory compliance, enrollment management teams, and online student support services.
Atkinson received his BS in Spanish and Psychology – English from Weber State University, his MBA from the University of Phoenix, and his Doctorate of Education (Ed.D) in Instructional Technology from the University of Wyoming. A native of Logan, Utah, Mark is married to the love of his life, Ellen. They have 5 children and a very ambitious puppy. Mark’s personal interests include family, Disneyland, drumming (classic rock and jazz), skiing, scuba diving, classic ghost stories (boo!), cooking, and fitness.