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News Senate Elections Student Senate

At-Large Senators candidates in Thursday’s election answer questions

Photo courtesy of Drake Student Senate

Four At-Large Student Senators candidates are on the ballot. Voting began today at 8 a.m. and will conclude tomorrow at 8 p.m. 

According to Senate bylaws shared on April 3, there are six Senator At-Large positions: academic affairs, civic engagement, community outreach, facilities and technology, health and safety and university services. 

Each senator chairs a committee and has varying responsibilities. For example, the community outreach senator’s duties include attending the meetings of the Drake Neighborhood Association, helping coordinate the “Help Your Shelf” initiative and facilitating the research and planning for all Student Senate community outreach initiatives. 

 

Payton Blahut

Payton Blahut Campaign Poster

My name is Payton Blahut. I am a sophomore studying Public Relations and Art History with a minor in Rhetoric. I use They/She pronouns (they/them is preferred). Students who want to learn more can reach out to me through email or follow one of my social media accounts; @Paytonatlarge for senate-specific posts and @paytonblahut for personal.

 

What are your goals for this position? Are there issues that you plan to address or projects/initiatives that you plan to start or continue? Is there a specific At-Large position you hope to fill? In that position, are there issues that you plan to address or projects/initiatives that you plan to start or continue?

I am specifically running for the Community Engagement At-Large position. Community engagement has always been something I am passionate about. I grew up here in Des Moines, right over on 39th Street. I went to Perkins Elementary School, just one mile away. Giving back to the community where I grew up will always be important to me. 

My goals are to further the work the community engagement team has done so far. I am currently on the committee for the Community Engagement team, led by Aaron Khan-Gumm. Together we have worked on projects that promote giving back and supporting others in Drake and in the Des Moines community. 

Projects like Lead the Way, where we work with the Children and Family Urban Movement (CFUM), were started by Aaron and planned out by the committee. Currently, I visit CFUM twice a month with other members of the community engagement team. I would like to expand this program to the rest of Drake and hopefully be able to maintain a healthy number of volunteers once a week.

“Help Your Shelf” is another project I’m proud to have worked on this semester. The “Help Your Shelf” was created through the John Dee Bright College and provides basic needs supplies for students including hygiene items, school supplies, healthy snacks, etc. By expanding Help Your Shelf, we want to provide a safe place for students to receive the resources they need to fulfill their basic needs. By creating a more open and accessible environment for this initiative, we are hoping to eliminate the stigma around basic needs insecurity.

 I want to start working with organizations that I have personal connections with and connecting those outside organizations to groups on campus. The Young Women’s Resource Center is one group I hope to connect with on-campus orgs like; Women in Business, Violence Intervention Partners (VIP), Women in Stem, Students for Reproductive Justice and any other groups that would love to help.

I also want to connect the community to art. Art education and community engagement are what I want to do as a career. Finding groups that want to learn from Drake students or finding ways to incorporate art into the community will be something I do during my time as Senator. Art is integral to any education. It allows people to express themselves. It can be therapeutic as well. Unfortunately, art has been underfunded in public schools, and creating a public program would let many young kids be able to explore their creative side.

 

What qualifications do you have that are relevant to this position, including but not limited to involvement with organizations on or off campus? How have these qualifications prepared you for this position?

My qualifications have prepared me for this role by giving me a diverse range of experiences to draw from in the future. Multiple of my roles have centered around communications, this is an important skill to have for any position, but I believe especially for [a] Community Engagement senator. Not only will I be reaching out on campus but also to people off campus. I currently serve as the VP of Communications in the Student Alumni Association (SAA). This role has strengthened my professional communication skills and has prepared me for this senate role.

 

As a Senator At-Large, you would chair a committee. What would you bring to the table that will help that committee and its members be successful in serving the student body?

I am very excited to chair a committee! I currently chair one for my position on the Residence Hall Association (RHA) digital media chair. A committee allows me to hear a variety of different ideas for a new project. I will be taking a lot of inspiration from Aaron and how he has led his committee. For the Community Engagement committee, it’s essential that we work together. One person cannot do all the work we do. To me, the best way to keep people engaged and wanting to participate is to have an enthusiastic personality. This passion rubs off on people and makes them excited to participate.

 

How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of the student body?

In the Community Engagement position not only would I have to be aware of the needs of the student body but also the needs of the community. Staying in touch with both and seeing where needs are not met is my strategy. “Help Your Shelf” was a program founded to address the needs of Drake students. I will continue to support programs like this while looking for new ways to support our campus and the community.

 

How would you ensure you dedicate proper time to your senate position despite other commitments? 

Time commitment has been something I have struggled with in the past. Through trial and error, I have gotten better. I have a disability that can make it difficult to make meetings. For this reason, a flexible schedule is vital for my mental health and commitment. Things like flexible meeting times and dedicated response hours have been useful in the past and will continue to be so. I plan to update hours through my social media platform, @paytonatlarge. I also am committed to responding to any questions through email quickly and thoroughly.

 

What’s your favorite part of the Drake Relays?

Now for the fun question! My favorite part of Relays is the nostalgia. When I was a kid, the Drake Relays Marathon would run past my house every year. I would sit outside and wave to the runners, sometimes giving out flowers or blowing bubbles at them. Drake Relays is a staple for Des Moines. I love seeing how the community grows during this time and welcoming people into our campus. (I also love all the free food during relays.)


Chloe Lepak

Chloe Lepak Campaign Poster

Hi, my name is Chloe Lepak (she/her) and I’m a first-year from Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m studying Law, Politics and Society and Anthropology/Sociology with a minor in philosophy on the pre-law track. If you want to learn more about my campaign and values, check out my campaign Instagram: @chloelepak4senate and email me with any questions at chloe.lepak@drake.edu. I look forward to hearing from you; please ask any questions that you may have!

 

What are your goals for this position? Are there issues that you plan to address, or projects/initiatives that you plan to start or continue? Is there a specific At-Large position you hope to fill? In that position, are there issues that you plan to address, or projects/initiatives that you plan to start or continue?

My main goal for this position is to listen to the student body more. I want to specifically focus on sending out surveys and getting opinions from different organizations before making any decisions on their behalf. I plan to make sure that people feel like their voices are heard and that they have a say in decisions being made in the Senate meetings. I have more detailed goals depending on the position I receive, but they are all focused around the idea of connection, diligence and reliability. 

In all transparency, I would be happy with any position that is offered to me. I love the idea of working directly with students and creating connections, and I believe I can do this in any of the six positions. I would like to expand upon collaboration with the Harkin Institute and disability services on campus in general.

 

What qualifications do you have that are relevant to this position, including but not limited to involvement with organizations on or off campus? How have these qualifications prepared you for this position?

-Public Relations Co-Chair on the Student Activities Board (SAB)

-Alpha Phi Assistant Philanthropy Director 

-Executive Council Programming Chair Crawford Hall

-Unity Representative Interfaith 

-PMAC for 2023

-DEI and Scholarship Committee Alpha Phi 

These qualifications have prepared me for this position because they’ve shown me how challenging and rewarding it can be to lead committees and follow through with initiatives. I’ve learned that things don’t always go as planned, but adapting and going with the flow is important in leadership roles. I also consider myself a patient person who is not easily irritated, which will help me lead a committee with grace and compassion.

 

As a Senator At-Large, you would chair a committee. What would you bring to the table that will help that committee and its members be successful in serving the student body?

First off, I will be direct in the goals of the committee and the schedule of different events. I want the committee to be a collaborative effort where we create these goals together. I would bring an enthusiastic spirit and a willingness for change to the committee. If elected, I’m looking forward to advertising my committee and getting as many people involved as possible. Drake University has a lot of great things to offer and a lot of things that can be improved upon.

 

How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of the student body?

I love the idea of having QR codes around campus with an anonymous form to ask senate questions, but I would also like to go to different organizations’ meetings and speak to students directly. Instead of forcing students to reach out to Senate, I want to reach out to them first and make the initial connection. Creating forms after events and when new policies go into place would also be helpful so that we could get a general approval rating. Overall, I want to focus more on face-to-face connection but still promote forms for those who wish to remain anonymous and for accessibility. 

 

How would you ensure you dedicate proper time to your senate position despite other commitments? 

I have a detailed schedule where I plan out almost every single hour of my day. In this schedule, I would make sure that I am dedicating the appropriate amount of time to Senate. I have evaluated my schedule for the next school year and feel confident that I can take on this role. I considered my current time commitments before running, and I know that I have the time and enthusiasm for Senate.

 

What’s your favorite part of the Drake Relays?

I haven’t participated in Drake Relays yet so I’m beyond excited to do that this year! I’m looking forward to the foam pit party though 


Ashley Dyson

Ashley Dyson Campaign Headshot

My name is Ashley Dyson. Pronouns are she/her/hers, and I am a current sophomore here at Drake University studying both Politics and History with a minor in Philosophy and a concentration in Women and Gender Studies. To learn more about my campaign in running for Senator At-Large for Drake’s 37th session of Student Senate, you can check out my Instagram account @ashleydyson_4_senate or email me at ashley.dyson@drake.edu with any questions that you may have. 

 

What are your goals for this position? Are there issues that you plan to address or projects/initiatives that you plan to start or continue? 

My goals for this position are to be a voice for the general student body. Taking the issues that are the most important to the highest number of students is what will make change occur. In my time in the Student Senate, I would love to expand on the mental health assistance access initiatives that have been previously introduced in the Senate. Any other issues that I will address will be ones that are brought to my attention by the student body regardless of my own views and opinions. The implementation of successful projects and initiatives is something that I will make a priority in my time in the Student Senate. 

I have three main campaign points that are communication, reliability and adaptability. My first campaign point is communication which I hope to implement both within the Student Senate board as a whole and externally. Building connections with other student organizations by communicating with them is vital to the success and reach of the Student Senate. 

My second campaign point is adaptability. This is one of my greatest strengths in that I can respond to changes in the situation or environment when they arise. In being a part of something as fluctuating and unforeseeable as a Student Senate, being able to adapt to whatever gets thrown at me as a Senator At-Large is vital. 

My third and final campaign point is reliability. Being a trustworthy listening ear and someone that a student can go to with their concerns or questions for and/or about the school is something that I can be as a student senator. Acting on these requests is what will make me a reliable Senator At-Large. For a more in-depth explanation of all of my campaign points and how I plan to apply them to my time as a Senator At-Large, please check out my Instagram @ashleydyson_4_senate.

 

Is there a specific At-Large position you hope to fill? In that position, are there issues that you plan to address or projects/initiatives that you plan to start or continue?

I think that I would be greatly suited for either the health and safety position or the academic affairs position that is specific to the senate at large positions. In the health and safety position, I know that in the past there have been initiatives to push for more and/or better mental health services here at Drake. I would be honored to continue to improve upon that project during my time in the Student Senate. 

In the academic affairs position, as someone who is a double major, has a minor, and a concentration, I am always looking for new places and opportunities to expand on the areas of study that we have available here at Drake University. A well-rounded education is something that everyone who is pursuing higher education should receive in their time here at Drake University, in my opinion. I would make it my goal for this to be accomplished by all of the student body as the Academic Affairs Senator At-Large. 

 

What qualifications do you have that are relevant to this position, including but not limited to involvement with organizations on or off-campus? How have these qualifications prepared you for this position?

In my time at Drake University, I have been involved in several student organizations and other positions of leadership. I am currently involved with the Student Activities Board as the 2022 to 2023 spirit co-chair. In this position, we are tasked with planning and organizing many free and fun events for all of the student body as well as the Des Moines community, such as the Fall Carnival, Halloween Spooktacular, Taste of Des Moines, and the March Madness Bracket Competition. 

I am also involved in the Adams Leadership Institute which is an exclusive leadership organization on campus in which students learn valuable leadership skills that can be applied to our time at Drake and beyond, including in our future career areas. In being a part of this institute, I have learned the value of being someone that other people want to follow by listening and being a valuable team member all the time. I work as a student life clerk at the Student Life Center as well, which helps me with connections with other students and student organizations. Because of this position, I am very familiar with many of the student organizations here on our campus and what they stand for. Being involved with all of these organizations and other positions on Drake’s campus has given me a lot of experience in being in a leadership position. These qualifications will help me succeed in the position of Senator At-Large because I understand the ins and outs of working in a large student organization and have made many connections along the way. 

 

As a Senator At-Large, you would chair a committee. What would you bring to the table that will help that committee and its members be successful in serving the student body?

As the chair of a committee within the Student Senate, I would bring consistency, input, discipline, responsibility and adaptability. These are my five main strengths which I rely upon in any leadership position. Utilizing these five qualities of myself, I believe that we would build a team-like setting within our committee so that we would better function together which would in turn help us better serve our community and the entire student body. Along with building a team-like atmosphere in my committee, I would also pay close attention to detail and the little things. As a disciplined and responsible leader, attention to detail is something that I excel in. In any large student organization, this is a vital part of success. This is something that I would do well as a chair of a committee within the Student Senate. 

 

How would you make sure you are aware of the needs of the student body?

Communication is a vital part of ensuring that the needs of the student body are being met and being heard and is one of my main campaign points. To make sure that I am aware of the needs of the student body, I would utilize my office/drop-in hours. Office hours are a vital part of any position here on Drake’s campus. This is the time that I would dedicate out of my week dedicated to my work for Student Senate and Student Senate only. This is usually when a member of the senate is sitting in Starbucks or in another location where the student body is invited to come and ask questions or give their concerns on what is happening on campus at any given time. This is the time when I will be aware of the needs of the student body. Additionally, my email is always open to other questions or concerns from anyone. Ensuring that the needs of the student body are met is one of the most important tasks when being in the Student Senate, and this is something that I will aim to always accomplish. 

 

How would you ensure you dedicate proper time to your senate position despite other commitments? 

Being a part of a large student organization on campus is something that I have experienced in my time on the Student Activities Board as the Spirit Co-Chair for the academic school year of 2022-2023. This position was a high-commitment position, but I continued to be a part of other organizations and other activities here on campus. Balance is a key part of the position on the Student Senate. However, with my experience balancing “Drake Busy” in the past, I have extreme confidence in my ability to be able to dedicate proper time to my senate position despite other commitments. 

 

What’s your favorite part of the Drake Relays?

My favorite part of the Drake Relays is the carnival that will be held on the 26th of April from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Helmick Commons. This event is great because there are so many fun things to do with your friends. It is also great because you get to see your favorite professors or other staff members on campus have their time in the dunk tank! Another one of my favorite aspects of Drake Relays is being around the extended Drake and Des Moines community. Relays are the time of year when a lot of alumni come back to their home turf and spend time with fellow Drake students. This is a great way to build connections and networks with other alumni who may have similar interests as you! 

 

Candidate Abby Tillotson did not reply to a request for answers to these questions. 

 

Editor’s Note: These Q&As have been edited for style and lightly edited for clarity. 

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