After the University of Nevada, Reno acquired Sierra Nevada University, now UNR at Lake Tahoe, in July 2022, there has been nothing short of buzz from administration about the new campus. However, students have been harder to wrangle in on the excitement, with no students applying to attend or live at the Lake Tahoe campus in the Fall ‘23 semester.
According to records obtained by The Nevada Sagebrush, 34 students showed interest, but none made the 37-mile jump to the Lake Tahoe campus.
The program was open to sophomores and juniors and was “tailored toward students studying the visual arts, environmental sciences and sustainability related disciplines,” according to their marketing materials.
Douglas P. Boyle became the Interim Vice Provost and Dean of the University’s Lake Tahoe campus on July 1. Boyle told The Nevada Sagebrush that the “Semester at Lake Tahoe” program was formed just about a year ago as a study abroad program. Students could take advantage of the cabin-like facilities, dorm rooms and dining hall, all within a mile walk to the Lake Tahoe shores, but not many seemed interested.
“I do know right away, it was clear we didn’t have classes … that formed a program for the Semester at Tahoe students,” Boyle said after being asked about the enrollment at the campus. “We could do that for the spring, but it’s really going to be tight because we’ll still have 55 [legacy] students.”
Boyle mentioned that the semester abroad can be a challenge since they don’t have the courses that allow for many students to get their major requirements just yet, forcing them to take only select classes.
A major issue after the acquisition which affected enrollment is former SNU students, now called legacy students, are being phased out, which leads to many classes being cut.
“About 121 SNU students decided to stay here [in 2022],” Boyle said. “We generally refer to them as the SNU legacy students, but they are UNR students.”
Currently, 71 legacy students remain; they anticipate 55 students will remain after the Fall semester and 38 at the end of the school year. Even after, there will be three more semesters before all former SNU students are officially phased out.
During the acquisition, the students were notified that they were allowed to stay on the campus to finish their degrees without going to Reno, which is now the main campus. Difficulty ensued when the requirements of their specific degrees were now defunct, forcing the university to create new degree programs so legacy students could graduate.
“The challenge that that presents us is that these students all have very specific curriculum requirements. We have to offer those classes and they have to take them in order to get their degrees,” Boyle said. “A lot of those courses are not going to fit with UNR main campus students … It’s a challenge to figure out how to bring in new students while this teach-out is occurring.”
For example, all of their students have finished their English courses required for their major, so no English courses are being offered during Fall ‘23 — isolating any English majors with interest in the Lake Tahoe campus.
“With a semester abroad, there’s that challenge of being away from your major for a whole semester,” Boyle said. “[We] really have to think carefully about how to do that. How does a student take courses and not get too side-tracked from their course of study?”
However, Boyle recognizes he needs to offer students from the main campus something that’s “high quality” for their program. He said they have a lot of ideas for bringing students to visit the campus, meet students and get a full campus experience in Lake Tahoe.
They predict they will have the teaching capacity in fall 2024 to offer more courses for students on the main campus to take. For example, silver core requirements could be taken at the Lake Tahoe campus, and newer courses that they can’t take at the main campus will also be offered to count towards certain majors.
“We want the students to come here and get something and take it back, so a certificate in sustainability or climate change, or something like that,” Boyle said.
Boyle said the program courses they have planned for fall 2024 should be announced in the near future, estimating late October for the course announcements.
However, after gathering a total of 43 responses from a week’s worth of posting the online survey about questions relating to the study abroad experience, only 24 people who voted knew what the semester at lake tahoe was.
The survey also asked if students were interested in doing the program and 25 said that they might be interested if it worked with their major, whilst the 9 said not at all and 9 said a definite yes.
There was also a section in the survey that asked why some reasons why students would not be interested in doing it and here were some of the notable responses:
“I don’t have a car, so I feel like if I spent a semester at Tahoe I would be absolutely stranded for four months. Without transportation, I don’t think it’s feasible,” said Mikayla Hadersbeck, an English literature major at the University.
“I might because I like the Tahoe area. I might not because I want to spend a semester abroad instead,” said Nate Allison, a political science major at the University.
Others that were interested said they would enjoy it because Tahoe is a beautiful place, or because it would work well with their major and time in school. However, many responses were concerned about still taking classes related to their majors.
Boyle said more information about the semester abroad in Tahoe is coming soon, including a possible “Adventure Center,” where they will have supplies for students to check out for camping, hiking, paddle boarding and other activities.
Jaedyn Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jaedyn_young3.