President Brian Sandoval hosts Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno President Dionne Stanfill and Vice President Bayla Fitzpatrick in this fifth episode of Sagebrushers. They chat about why Stanfill and Fitzpatrick chose to study at the University, how they got involved in student leadership and what goals they plan to accomplish this year. Fitzpatrick also explains why she believes improving accessibility on campus is so important, and Stanfill shares more about her love for powerlifting in the E.L. Wiegand Fitness Center. Sagebrushers is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and other major podcast platforms, with a new episode every month.
Sagebrushers – Ep. 5 – Dionne Stanfill and Bayla Fitzpatrick
Join host President Brian Sandoval as he and the Associate Students of the University of Nevada, Reno President Dionne Stanfill and Vice President Bayla Fitzpatrick talk about why they chose to study at the University, how they got involved in student leadership, what goals they plan to accomplish this year and more.
President Brian Sandoval: Welcome to Sagebrushers, the podcast of the University of Nevada, Reno. I’m Brian Sandoval, and I’m a proud graduate and president of the University of Nevada, Reno. I’m your host of Sagebrushers.
Each month at Sagebrushers, which by the way was our University’s first nickname, we take a closer look at the people, history and future of our university. We explain why the University, ever since its founding in Elko in 1874, has been about so much more than ourselves and why we remain Nevada’s best experiment in understanding who we are and what we are capable of achieving.
Today’s podcast is being recorded at the Reynolds School of Journalism on our University’s campus. In our fifth episode of Sagebrushers, we are so happy to welcome Dionne Stanfill and Bayla Fitzpatrick, this year’s president and vice president of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, Reno.
Dionne Stanfill is a third-year student from Spring Creek, Nevada, studying pre-law on campus in addition to serving as president of ASUN. Dionne works as a supervisor at the E.L. Weigand Fitness Center and is president of the Wolfpack Powerlifting Club, a member of Blue Key Honor Society and a member of the pre-law Phi Alpha Delta fraternity. In her free time, what little free time you have, Dionne is a competitive powerlifter and preparing to attend law school.
Bayla Fitzpatrick is a second-year student studying chemistry. She is a born and raised Nevadan from Gardnerville and hopes to attend dental school after graduating to become a practicing dentist. She was a senator for the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology and Natural Resources, where she was a strong advocate for student opportunities, accessibility and advocacy. As vice president, Bayla hopes to continue working on stronger student outreach, improved accessibility for students with disabilities, dining options on campus and much, much more.
Welcome, Dionne and Bayla. Very excited to have you be here. Let’s start with one of my favorite questions. You’re both from Nevada. You both love Nevada; why did you choose to attend the University after high school?
Dionne Stanfill: That’s one of my favorite questions, too. So, as you know, Bayla and I are both raised in Nevada, and in a nutshell, we are all things Nevada! So, in preparing to go to college, we both looked at different universities and found that the University of Nevada is the best fit. It has great programs, great people and great networks. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Yeah, same here. I’ve always wanted to come to the University of Nevada ever since I was in elementary school. In my sixth-grade yearbook, it says, ‘where do you want to go to college?’ and it says the University of Nevada, Reno, so it’s been a dream of mine.
President Brian Sandoval: So, is there something on campus that really attracted you as high school students?
Dionne Stanfill: I can’t lie; it has to be the E.L. Weigand Fitness Center. That’s my favorite place on campus. That’s where I spend probably at least 40% of my day.
Bayla Fitzpatrick: I just think the campus is beautiful, like the brick buildings, the trees, the quad. I think it’s a great place to enjoy and build community and make friends, so that’s probably mine.
President Brian Sandoval: So, what sparked your interest in participating in student leadership on campus?
Dionne Stanfill: I’ve always been passionate about student government. I’ve been involved since I was in sixth grade. I was also the previous FFA state president, so I’m big on agriculture, sustainability, and like I said earlier, all things Nevada. ASUN really was just the best way to connect with Nevada, not even just the students, but members of the community in the state. So, I started out as an intern for the Senate. Then, I was elected a senator for the College of Liberal Arts. Last session, I had the honor to serve as chief justice and keep the association honest and accountable. Then recently, a couple of weeks ago, I was elected president.
Bayla Fitzpatrick: And same here. I’ve always been an active part of like student leadership in my high school, elementary school, middle school and when I got to campus, it was the midst of COVID and we were all in the dorms. I saw great leadership within my RA’s, so I decided to pursue that. So, I have been an RA this year, which has been amazing and a great way to connect with students one-on-one. Through that, I’ve seen things on campus that I think need improvement, not to say this campus isn’t amazing. But I think that student leadership (and I saw that in Senate) was a great way to make some positive change and impact on campus and really work with students. Something me and Dionne really strive to do is work with students, not for students. When I was looking to what my next step was within the Association and on campus, the role of VP just seemed to fit all the things and goals that I saw and wanted to improve on campus.
President Brian Sandoval: You guys ran as a ticket, correct?
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Yes.
President Brian Sandoval: What was that like?
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Oh, that’s a funny story.
Dionne Stanfill: So yeah, funny story actually – Bayla and I did not like each other at first. We met with several people like, ‘Okay, I know I’m running for ASUN president; who’s going to be my vice president’ and then vice versa for Bayla. Then, ‘okay, well probably just for formality, we should probably meet together and we did.’ In that meeting, we both kind of reviewed what our goals were, and they matched perfectly. Bayla and I are a good match because she very much is like the fun community engaged, she’s involved in Greek life and then, I’m more the advocacy side. So, Bayla knows a lot of people and I know a lot of people, but the people we know are the opposite people. So, at first it took a lot of working together and getting over like, ‘Oh, I don’t know if we like each other,’ but now, we’re inseparable, and we spend every living second together.
Bayla Fitzpatrick: It’s so true. I remember our first car ride together. I like got in her car and we were sitting there like, ‘yeah, the weather’s pretty stormy.’ The most awkward conversation ever. Now, we sit in each other’s offices and do homework for hours and just we’re inseparable.
President Brian Sandoval: And you had a slogan as part of your campaign – you want to chat about that?
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Oh yeah, so our slogan was ‘Stronger with Nevada,’ and each part of the slogan has a lot of meaning to each of us.
Dionne Stanfill: Yeah, so ‘stronger.’ I think a lot of people associate that kind of like with my side because I am so involved with the gym and just like physical wellness. But there’s a lot more to me than just, you know, liking muscles. Bayla and I always say, we never in Nevada are lacking passion or resources, so we want to go with students, so that goes into the ‘with’ section. Everything Bayla and I do, we don’t want to do it for students, you know, we’re not here for students. We’re here with the students. So, ‘stronger,’ ‘with’ and then, ‘Nevada.’ I keep hitting this, but we are big Nevada girls, everything about Nevada.
President Brian Sandoval: That's wonderful. Now Bayla, you mentioned something that I want to talk about very briefly, but it's really important. You've been leaders during probably one of the most difficult times in all of higher education, given the pandemic. And so, you mentioned COVID, what's it been like, for the students in their experience moving through this?
Bayla Fitzpatrick: I think it's been really interesting. And I think each student has a completely different experience, based on like how comfortable they are with like the pandemic and their safety, which obviously comes first. Living in the dorms was such an interesting experience because we had our mask at all times. And then we'd go into the dining hall and all eat together, you know, and then you'd wear your mask in the hallway. And then we'd come into a room and take the mask off. So, there was this really weird just like digesting what was going on in the world and like our classes and Zoom University, as everyone called it, and still like making friends and keeping those connections, which is like one of the main reasons we're all here. So, I think that every student just has a very different story behind how they're dealing with the pandemic and how we're moving forward.
President Brian Sandoval: Is everyone happy to be back in person?
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Yes, everyone is very happy with in-person classes. I think that that's like the biggest thing that students, no matter how they felt about the pandemic was in-person classes and in-person, education is the best way that we can learn.
President Brian Sandoval: Oh, great. So, let's move on. And obviously, you have some goals and aspirations as leaders of the University. So, what's your vision and what do you hope to accomplish?
Dionne Stanfill: So, the biggest thing is bringing back traditions. And like the grassroots communication with students, when we want we want to accomplish that is with this new committee that we're starting. It's called Stronger with Nevada Committee. And what that looks like is bringing in student leaders from all corners of campus, whether that's Greek life, athletics, every coalition of club, ASUN, RHA, the list goes on, bringing those students in to have a conversation about how can we make the student experience better. So, that's something that we're drafting over the summer and it's going to take place for the next two semesters of next year. So really, just having those conversations from every group of campus will bring in that perspective so that we can accomplish Stronger with Nevada.
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Just making sure that campus is like a home for students. Because I think that through the pandemic, people have been like, nervous to come on campus just because we didn't have in-person classes for a while. So, now with in-person classes and in-person events, I think students are excited to be back on campus. One of my goals is just like to see people on campus, like I want to see people on the Quad, I want to see people in the Joe and the KC things like that. And then bring back traditions and starting traditions. So, March to the Arch. These big events that really built community and like provided opportunities for students to become a part of the University, I think are really some of our biggest goals to bring back to campus.
President Brian Sandoval: Well, you're talking to someone who went to school here 40 years ago, but you know, we had there were really great traditions. There was Homecoming, there was Wolves Frolic, there were Mackay Days, Winter Carnival, and those are just a few that that come to mind. So, are those some of the traditions that you're thinking about bringing back?
Dionne Stanfill: Yep, exactly. So, bringing back traditions, and then also starting new ones. And in the midst of COVID, I think we forgot about a lot of these traditions. So just bringing back that student in person experience and life again.
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Yeah, me and Dionne have been searching through the archives to make sure that we're bringing back all the exciting events.
President Brian Sandoval: No, and as a proud alum, I'm very happy about that. So Bayla, you have a priority, that's something that's really near and dear to my heart and accessibility for students with disabilities has been something that you've worked on in your time as a senator now as vice president. So why is this such an important topic for you?
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Um, I think that this goes back to just my passion for making sure that campus is a home for all students. If students can't get around campus, as students don't have the ability to do that, I think that that's a big barrier that we need to take down. So, sitting on some different committees for accessibility, I've been able to really see a lot of the amazing construction projects that have begun coming out of the pandemic again and just making sure that every student can access all of the things on campus, whether that's going to class. I know like for my building, Manzanita Juniper, it's like hard for students to even get into the building. So, there's a lot of things that I think still need to be improved. But I think we've made great strides towards having a more accessible campus, and this is something that I plan on continuing working on. I think that a lot of upper admin [and] your office is very passionate about this, too. So, I think at the end of this year, we'll have made great progress. So, I'm excited.
President Brian Sandoval: That's wonderful. And Dionne, let's talk a little bit about your powerlifting.
Dionne Stanfill: Yeah, so I actually just had my second meet this weekend. So, I had to cut 15 pounds in four days. And I did it; it was really hard. But I sent some PRs this last weekend. I compete at American Iron, which is this classic gym, that's by the airport. So, powerlifting is squat bench and deadlift. So, my squat, I hit 232 pounds. I benched 126 pounds, and then I almost deadlift at 303. I failed it and I hit 286, I believe. So, set some PRs there and we still got some more to go. And I also power lift at the E.L. Weigand Fitness Center.
President Brian Sandoval: That's remarkable. And I couldn't get anywhere near that. So that's very impressive. So, we're running short on time, but I want to give you to an opportunity to talk about anything you want to talk about that I haven't asked. So, anything on your mind.
Dionne Stanfill: Yes. Um, so for all of our listeners, I encourage everybody to follow our social media, especially our Instagram, which is @NevadaASUN, to stay updated on all upcoming events, resources and opportunities that we provide. So, if you follow that account, also, you can follow our personal campaign account, which is @StrongerwithNV, for any updates and those traditions that we were talking about. So, give us a follow and stay involved on campus.
President Brian Sandoval: I'm going to bet we're going to see a lot more students at the football, basketball games and other events, correct?
Bayla Fitzpatrick: Oh, yes.
Dionne Stanfill: You betcha!
President Brian Sandoval: All right, well, that is all the time we have for our fifth episode of Sagebrushers. Thank you for joining us today, Dionne and Bayla. This really was fun. I really enjoyed this, and I'm so looking forward to the impact that you will both make on campus in the coming year. Our students are really lucky and fortunate to have leaders with such passion and love for this this campus.
So next month, we will bring you another episode of Sagebrushers and continue to tell the stories that make our University special and unique.
Until then, I am University President Brian Sandoval and go Pack!