Category Archives: Interdisciplinary Studies

Why become a WO Leader?

Most students and faculty can attest to the fact that our school is unique. It’s tiny and tight-knit. It has majors such as Ski Business Resort Management and Outdoor Adventure Leadership. It’s right on Lake Tahoe and surrounded by mountains.

However, there’s one bizarre activity SNC runs that takes the cake: Wilderness Orientation.

This orientation event allows student leaders to take new fall freshman and transfer students on a four-day backpacking trip in Desolation Wilderness.

Say what?!

“There is nothing like walking through rugged and majestic terrain to prepare students with the skills they need to be successful in SNC life,” says Wilderness Orientation and ODAL program director Rosie Hackett. “Skills like endurance, resourcefulness, tenacity, compassion, etc. Students return from the wild with an extraordinary experience in common with almost 50 other SNC students, with a supportive friend network, and a true sense of place…appreciating the unique environment they choose for their home and educational journey.”

The WO experience is just as potent if not more potent for the student leaders,” Hackett continued. “Through WO, they are given an opportunity to test their skills and knowledge, developed on their educational journey at SNC, and apply their unique style to an authentic leadership role. WO leaders empower participants with lasting social communities and a greater sense of school spirit.”

Fall 2015 WO Leaders

Fall 2015 WO Leaders

Interested in becoming a WO leader? Sasha Severance, a Fall 2015 WO leader and recent SNC graduate, gave me a sneak peek into what it was like:

I found wilderness orientation to be of huge value for student leaders,” she said. “It allows us as students to further explore and practice our own, unique leadership style. Wilderness Orientation allows us as student leaders to practice what we’ve learned in the classroom and actually use it and practice it in the field. Teaching and sharing what you know is a huge part of the learning process, as well as being an opportunity to connect with others.”

Severance chose to be a WO leader to give back to the ODAL program, which she claims has shared her into the motivated and confident woman she is today. (right on, Sasha!)

“As student leaders, WO reminds us of why this place, SNC and Lake Tahoe, has been the perfect fit for us. SNC gives us the opportunity to learn in ways that are engaging, interactive, and empowering,” she said.

Severance gained a lot from her experience as a WO leader. It has taught her the importance of planning and preparing, and being successful in any job/profession/career and in life.

“Leading in the backcountry has shown me how to be open and accepting of others, no matter how different they are or their opinions may be from my own,” she added.  “Guiding in the backcountry has shown me how incredibly lucky and fortunate I am to have the opportunities that I have in life. I’ve also excelled in my communication skills, which has already helped me in and out of the classroom and in my current job today.”

Some students may be intimidated or turned off by the fact that you’re venturing into the wilderness with a bunch of strangers – but fear not.

“You are given a group of strangers and the responsibility of keeping them safe, showing them an amazing part of the place we live in, teaching them various outdoor skills and principles, and making sure that they are having fun. There will be plenty of times in the professional world where I will have to communicate and connect with random strangers, while still being myself as a unique individual while maintaining a professional appearance.”

Severance said the hardest part of the trip was leaving Desolation.

“Our entire group wasn’t ready to leave yet,” she said. “The days went by too fast. We wanted more time to spend out there together.”

Severance said being a WO leader was one of the best things she’s taken part in during her time at SNC.

“WO is an opportunity for you to give back, to share your knowledge, stories, and skills, and to meet a new group of amazing people. Being a WO leader also empowers you in so many ways,” she said. “And… you get to spend two weeks in Desolation Wilderness! Who wouldn’t want that? The first week you’re on a Leadership Expedition with your fellow WO leaders and the second week you are taking out your own group!”

Severance said those considering it, but who are hesitant, should just do it.

“For those on the fence, I was too,” she said. “I had bronchitis right before the Leadership Expedition – I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do it. But I am so glad that I went. I would have regretted it if I hadn’t done it.”

On top of all of these potential benefits to reap while having a blast in Desolation Wilderness, being a WO leader now counts for three credits of ODAL curriculum for future ODAL graduates (just make sure you sign up for the summer credit).

Hope to see you all ready to lead in August!

Service Learning Presentations

Students in Interdisciplinary Studies who have complete their Service Learning will give presentations about their projects on Monday, Dec. 7.

The presentations will be held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences Room 139. The day will begin with a welcome, following by each student presenting for 20 minutes.

The schedule is:

9:10 a.m. – Carly Schleh (Art and Psychology): Starting an Art Club at Incline Elementary School, with community partner, Incline Elementary School.

9:30 a.m. – Calhoun Boone (ODAL and ENVS): Intro to River Management, with community partner, California State Parks.

9:50 a.m. – Cory Rudolph (Digital Arts and Management) Building Community: A free Cable Park Day, with community partner, Endless Ride.

10:10 a.m. – Danny Kern (Digital Arts and Journalism): Markumentary Film: Intro to Outdoor Adventure Leadership, with community partner, Sierra Nevada College.

10:35 – 10:50 a.m. Break

10:50 a.m. – Nick Galantowicz (New Media Journalism): Creating SNC’s Sports Broadcast Capacity, with community partner, SNC Sports.

11:10 a.m. –  Jake Brayton (Digital Arts and Management): Paddleboard Beach Clean-ups, with community partner, Laird Paddleboards.

11:30 a.m. – Matt Stomper (ODAL and ENVS): ARC in the Park and Sustainability in Music Festivals, with community partner, Adventure Risk Challenge.

11:50 a.m. – Logan Rooney (ODAL and ENVS): Wildland Fire Protection and Interpretive Trail Lessons, with community partner, North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

12:10 p.m. –  Meghan Herbst (New Media Journalism): The Tahoe Housing Gap, with community partner, Elevate Tahoe and Moonshine Ink.

Lost Sierra Hoedown: SNC alumni teach sustainable event production to students

By Justine Nelson

The third annual Lost Sierra Hoedown commences this weekend from Thursday to Sunday (Sept.24-27). The original spark of inspiration to support the Johnsville Historic Ski Bowl has transformed into a must-have experience! This four-day event features local music, simple and sustainable living, and the natural excitement of spending the weekend lost in the woods.

Drew Fisher on the left as one of the founders of the Lost Sierra Hoedown. It began as a Service Learning project in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Drew Fisher on the left as one of the founders of the Lost Sierra Hoedown. It began as a Service Learning project in Interdisciplinary Studies.

This third annual Hoedown has come a long way. Drew Fischer, one of the founders and now an alumnus to SNC, is teaching a one credit interdisciplinary and sustainability class focused on non-profit music festival production and is using the making of the Lost Sierra Hoedown as the example.

Topics covered in the class include sustainable practices, land management, social media coverage, stage management and event operation. Students not only get to learn about how to successfully plan an event, but get the chance to actually run an event as well. The students will help facilitate the hoedown and get hands on experience beyond what taught in the classroom setting.

Supported by six local companies and in association with four local organizations, the Lost Sierra Hoedown is a prime illustration of what SNC’s students are capable of, and continues to push the limits of achievement.

For tickets and more information visit the website at

Having fun at the Hoedown!

Having fun at the Hoedown!

Alumni Spotlight: Ben Bishop

Ben Bishop, a Sierra Nevada College alumnus, using his videography and photography skills throughout the world.

Ben Bishop, a Sierra Nevada College alumnus, using his videography and photography skills throughout the world.

By Justine Nelson

Ben Bishop, now an outdoor action sports filmmaker and photographer whose work appears on ROXY, ESPN, Red Bull Media House and National Geographic, reflected on how Sierra Nevada College prepared him to be successful in the professional World.

“Life has been all over the place since graduation, lots of projects with many different people and companies all over the globe. I feel very thankful for all of them”. He explained that the most valuable thing he learned at SNC was to engage and reach out for mentoring and advice to overcome obstacles. As a veteran world traveler who frequently clocks six months straight of travel and work in places like China, Japan, Canada, Colorado, Utah, he says, “I don’t think I would be anywhere if it weren’t for SNC”.

Ben says SNC guided him to identify a path he is truly passionate about through the unique academic experience of tailoring his major to his specific skills and interests. “I had to bring all these skill sets together in a multidisciplinary way…and that is what my career is now. It was valuable being able to be at a small school that had the ability to adapt and say, ‘I’m really interested in the outdoor realm; I’d like a degree in it, and then have my advisors help formulate a program.”

In 2014, Ben has just returned from a trip to the Arrigetch peaks in the Gates of the Arctic on a trip for National Geographic. He first joined the expedition as an aid to carry equipment for the camera crew, but when he was handed a camera he jumped in to help shoot the rock climbing documentary. Afterwards, he and a friend rafted the Atlanta River in pack rafts for a total of 140 miles in 7 days. “With a lot of time to reflect, I am very thankful for the knowledge I obtained from SNC so I could head off on adventures like the Arctic on my own.”

Aside from filming, Ben also loves to shoot still photography on his travels. He says, “It is a medium that I have always loved but have never considered as a career”. He is hired occasionally to help people with their photographic needs, and a few of his images have been published, but he says having a secondary film camera allows him to personally document his trips. On the Atlanta River trip when he visited the small Native Village of Allakaket he said, “I was completely taken by what I was experiencing; it’s remote, there’s no running water or roads that lead to or from the village and I wanted to show people what I saw there. Instead of filming, which is very specific and sometimes can take a lot of time to tell the smallest of stories, I chose to shoot photos instead. To me, photography in this situation spoke much more, and that is why I have chosen to consistently carry an additional camera around. In the near future, I intend to release a photo book of my personal work from many of my trips.”

Justine Nelson is studying Art & Psychology. She is interested in the power of thought and intention.

Alumni Spotlight: Nick Cahill

Nick Cahill excelled in an internship with Force 12 Media, turning the opportunity into a position with the media company as their videographer and photographer.

Sierra Nevada College alumnus Nick Cahill excelled in an internship with Force 12 Media, turning the opportunity into a position with the media company as their videographer and photographer.

By Justine Nelson

Nick Cahill graduated from Sierra Nevada College in 2013 as an Interdisciplinary Digital Arts and Management major and is now the Media Director at a the well-established niche publication company, Force 12 Media. Force 12 Media focuses on outdoor and military content which is distributed to over 40 million viewers monthly.

Cahill focuses on video and photography for the site and is also currently working on expanding their network to reach Apple TV and Netflix. Go to the “Team” tab on the website to see Nick’s bio or scroll down on the home page to see the various websites Force 12 Media provides content for:,, etc.

In addition, Nick just recently landed a cover image with National Geographic “Guide to the Night Sky” book set to be published in print fall of 2015.

Nick first picked up video and photography during his schooling at SNC, taking photographs of the race car he built, as well as videos of his friends enjoying the sweet adventures of life. Cahill also feels very thankful for his education he received at SNC.

Nick Cahill continues to make Lake Tahoe his home base, while traveling the world for Force 12 Media.

Nick Cahill continues to make Lake Tahoe his home base, while traveling the world for Force 12 Media.

“I owe Chris Lanier and Rick Parsons a huge thank you for guiding my photography and video skills, and pushing me to research beyond my knowledge and obtain a wider grasp on these incredible art forms”. Cahill also mentioned that it was through Lanier and SNC that he was introduced to Force 12 as an internship. He is now a successful member of their team.

Cahill still lives in Tahoe, and even though his job allows him to work anywhere, he chooses to stay here because of the tax benefits and lifestyle. “Lake Tahoe remains a home to me that fosters my creativity and love for the outdoors”. On the side, Cahill also has a passion for landscape and music photography. His works appear all around the Tahoe Basin, and he says he will continue to push his connections around the globe. You can check out his personal work at

Justine Nelson is studying Art & Psychology. She is interested in the power of thought and intention.

Holistic Sustainability Film Night creates awareness

1495267_10154860394870232_9097612480930717245_oDuring the 2014 fall semester, senior Rachael Blum added a honors component to the International Environmental Issues course. She chose to host a short-film film festival with discussions between each film. The project came to fruition through the course, after instructor Brennan Lagasse and Blum were discussing how the rest of the SNC community  does not have access to the Sustainability curriculum. This idea was also acknowledged at a Justice Club meeting with current and former students at the time. The students agreed that a discussion-based space must be made accessible to the entire campus.

The Holistic Sustainability Film Night was created, featuring a variety of short films highlighting biodiversity, desertification, capitalism, and welfare with discussions between each. Faculty Brennan Lagasse, Samantha Bankston, and Bob King were present as experts in the topics and aided in facilitating the discussions.

Approximately 23 people attended, and the event was cut short after 3.5 hours spent viewing and discussing the films. Those in attendance were happy to have a space made available to ask questions, express views, and learn about these issues. Snacks were provided by Uncommon Kitchen and the Justice Club. This also benefitted Kelly Benson’s coat drive for Project Mana. Overall, the event was successful.

Films that were shown include: Forest Man, Freegans: Living Outside of Capitalism, Love and Capitalism, How Welfare Does Not Work the Way You Think.  All movies can be found on Films For Action.


SNC organizes warm winter clothing drive again

A winter clothing drive, which was an idea born in the Social Justice Club, contributed over 150 warm items for underprivileged families in North Lake Tahoe.

Sierra Nevada College Senior Kelly Benson has organized the coat drive for the past two years. After collecting items for six weeks at five drop-off locations, the warm clothing was distributed by Project Mana on Dec. 17.  An article about SNC’s gift to the community was published Dec. 23, 2014, in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza.

Kelly is majoring in Global Business Management, but has a strong interest in sustainability and social justice.

“I thought that it would be really interesting to learn about even if it’s not the career path that I choose, because it includes things that you can implement into your daily life,” Benson said.  “And so, coming here and having that be a major, and knowing that I could just learn what it means to be sustainable. Then, my mind was blown when I learned about Social Sustainability, because I didn’t even think about that before I got here. I started thinking holistically about the term, the environment and the people.”

Justice Club adviser Brennan Lagasse hopes to rally enough students in the fall to continue Kelly’s work for next year’s warm clothing drive.

Ecowatch publishes articles by Sustainability students


Professor Brennan Lagasse and six students from Sierra Nevada College had a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience with the Gwich’in tribe in August 2014 in Arctic Circle, Alaska.

SNC students who visited the Gwich’in Tribe in the remote town of Arctic Village, Alaska last summer, are sharing their experiences through a series of articles on Ecowatch.

Two of the six articles have been published at this point, detailing the sustainability issues the Gwich’in tribe faces as proposed oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would threatens the “Caribou people’s” way of life. The first article, “How Drilling in ANWR would threathen the Gwich’in People’s Way of Life,” was written by Rachael Blum and published Feb. 9. The second article, “Trash or Treasure?,” was written by Aaron Vanderpool and published March 5.

Students experience Gwich’in culture

Six students were able to stay in the village for a week and learn about the Gwich’in culture because Gwich’in Tribal Elder Sarah James invited SNC Adjunct Professor Brennan Lagasse to come and visit the tribe in Arctic Village, Alaska. Lagasse jumped on the rare and precious invitation to stay a week in the Alaskan village with James and her tribe, and the students traveled to Alaska in August 2014.

SNC is university partner

Brennan Lagasse, adjunct professor in Sustainability

Brennan Lagasse, adjunct professor in SustainabilityUniversity partner

Ecowatch has chosen Sierra Nevada College as one of its university partners and will showcase work by Sustainability students at the college. Ecowatch is a website reporting on environmental news, green living and sustainable business. As portion of its coverage, the website says it features content from students around the world, providing a venue for the millennial generation to voice their environmental concerns.

Lagasse said the affiliation with Ecowatch is a great way to:

  1. Show off the work the Sustainability program is doing.
  2. Encourage students that their work can make a difference in the “real world” as well as get published.

Scout Sorcic presents “Backcountry Games” at LA conference

Scout is a rockstar and a stellar ambassador of the ODAL Program.

Scout is a rockstar and a stellar ambassador of the ODAL Program.

Scout Sorcic (an Outdoor Adventure Leadership and Ski Business & Resort Management major) not only attended, but also presented at the Western Regional Outdoor Leadership Conference (WROLC) in Los Angeles this month.

Yeow! Here are her highlights from the adventure!

Highlights from Scout:

  • Being a solo presenter from Tahoe surrounded by  huge schools from Southern California and being the only one to present twice.
  • Having 46 people show up for her Backcountry Games Workshop. She also received 18 emails WROLCfrom enthusiastic conference attendees with new games to add to her growing list, found on her blog, YeeHaw Backcountry Games.
  • Learning about post grad positions and how to better apply for outdoor jobs
  • Sunny and 75°
  • Explaining to people that outdoor ed is her degree, not just a hobby.
  • WROLC5Hearing Brendan Leonard speak. He is the author of the “New American Roadtrip Mix tape” and owner of


Sustainability in the Arctic

Arctic-Sustainability-2014-450-1The Gwich’in town of Arctic Village lies north of the Arctic Circle and just south of the border of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), often called “the last great wilderness.”

In August, six SNC students met SNC Professor Brennan Lagasse in Fairbanks AK and took a bush plane to Arctic Village, to share the traditions of the Gwich’in Tribe and experience firsthand the majesty and vulnerability of ANWR. Those students will be sharing their experiences at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, in Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences Room 106. The event is free and open to the public.

The once in a lifetime opportunity for SNC students resulted from tribal elder Sarah James’s respect for Professor Lagasse’s previous work with Indigenous peoples, and the tribe’s commitment to make “friends in the south” to advocate for their environment and way of life.

During their time in Arctic Village, students went hunting and fishing with their hosts; participated in elder celebrations, and many interviews and discussions with local tribal members; ate traditional meals of caribou, fry bread, and ground squirrel; and hiked and camped amongst the rugged peaks of the Brooks Range.

The experience is one that excites Lagasse about the sustainability program at SIerra Nevada College. He was quote in an Eagle’s Eye story as saying, “What we did in Alaska, that’s it man. I guarantee any liberal arts school, any progressive sustainability program, anybody sees that and knows what’s up in the sustainability world would look at that say ‘Wow, that’s cool.’