Sierra Nevada University students on a mountain high above Lake Tahoe
Sierra Nevada College is updating its name to Sierra Nevada University, reflecting half a century of growth and educational innovation.

Announcing Sierra Nevada University

On the eve of its 50th commencement, Sierra Nevada College, Nevada’s only accredited private non-profit university, is changing its name to Sierra Nevada University. The change comes as the institution reorganizes for the future and seeks to represent itself more accurately after 50 years of growth. The school was founded in March of 1969, and admitted its first class of 23 students that September. The next month Governor Paul Laxalt dedicated the Mountain Campus, on College Drive in Incline Village. Within four years of its founding, the College achieved candidate status for accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Accreditation was granted in 1976. Now, with approval granted by the NWCCU, Sierra Nevada College will become Sierra Nevada University beginning this semester.

The campus grew with the college. Music and Art departments were added, which attracted faculty from the many artists and musicians who live in the Lake Tahoe area. Continuing to draw from its community, which includes many successful entrepreneurs, SNC soon formed the Department of Management, now its Business Department. The initial concentrations of Entrepreneurship, Ski Business and Resort Management, and International Business (Now Global Business Management) remain today as key offerings, unique in design and headed by professor-practitioners who call Tahoe home.

The Teacher Education program was formed in 1989. By 2004 it had grown from its beginnings as a fifth-year post-baccalaureate program to become the first of the institution’s graduate-level programs. Teacher Education was followed by the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Program in Creative Writing in 2012 and the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts in 2015. Both the MFA-CW and MFA-IA follow an innovative two-year low-residency format. It combines distance learning with intensive twice a year residencies at the Incline Village campus.

With its growth, it soon became apparent that SNC needed a new campus. In 1991, the current 20-acre site of the Lake Campus, at the corner of Country Club Drive and Tahoe Boulevard, was acquired through private and foundation donations. In the ensuing years, the campus added 2 residence halls, administrative offices, the Prim Library, The Holman Arts and Media Center, and the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences.

This past June, after the retirement of President Alan Walker, Dr. Ed Zschau stepped in as Interim President. Under his leadership, the Incline Village campus has become the home of the College of Entrepreneurial Leadership. As Dr. Zschau shared on KTVN’s Face the State,

“Entrepreneurship isn’t about creating companies. Entrepreneurship is an approach to life. It’s about making good things happen. It’s about starting things from scratch that create value for others.”

The name change represents a drive to focus on the key features of this small, high-touch, interdisciplinary campus: learning-by-doing, involved professors and mentors, and an incredible and challenging location.