2021 Student Body Elections: Meet the candidates

Video by Stephanie Du Par.

By: Sydney Johnson and Kristi Shields

The student body election candidates for the 2021-2022 school year have been finalized, and campaigning begins Feb. 28.

Five students are running for student body president, three students are running for vice president of clubs and organizations, and one student is running for vice president of academics.

Voting for primary elections opens March 1 at 12 p.m. and closes March 4 at 3 p.m.

Voting for general elections begins March 16 at noon and closes March 18 at 1 p.m.

Click here to vote.

The winners will be announced March 18 after 1:30 p.m.

Student body president candidates

Penny Mills

“It’s really important for our student voices to be heard, and I want to continue to be able to do that,” Mills said.

Class rank: Senior

Hometown: Orem

Major: Communication studies

Instagram: @penny2021sbp


  • DSU’s current student body president


  • Build new relationships on campus and build upon existing ones
  • Do things as SBP that she wasn’t able to during the pandemic

Campaign platform:

Mills is running for a second year as student body president. Mills’ platform consists of strengthening the unity among students, faculty and administration on campus. She wants every student at DSU to feel like they belong, and there is something for everyone to be involved in.

Ayana Brown

“I want to help students and future students realize how wonderful this university is, [and] how their student life can be joyful, exciting and happy, not just a work grind,” Brown said.

Class rank: Junior

Hometown: British Columbia, Canada

Major: Accounting

Instagram: @ayana.a.brown


  • DSU ambassador
  • On-campus employee
  • Being an international student has allowed her unique experiences to serve students and the university


  • Bring energy and a positive attitude to campus
  • Use her knowledge to connect, include and improve the students’ lives during their time here

Campaign platform:

Brown would like to see the students at DSU grow and connect together as a community. Her involvement in campus activities has grown, and she would like to use what she has learned to positively impact the university. Her main priority is for each student to be happy at DSU.

Cory O’Bray

“I would like to be the person that students can talk to if they feel an issue has come up or an idea they have that they would like to share,” O’Bray said.

Class rank: Senior

Hometown: Ivins

Major: Design

Instagram: @coryobray


  • Current vice president of marketing
  • Communication skills
  • Passion for DSU


  • Incorporate more ways to represent how diverse DSU is
  • Make students aware of what is happening on campus through more transparency

Campaign platform:

O’Bray wants to increase student involvement on campus by making the student body aware of all school events. He would also like to incorporate more ways to represent the diversity in activities, students and interests at DSU.

Makayla Ruffing-Teel

“What I’m going to bring to DSU is my passion, my passion to see DSU students succeed, see the school grow and prepare for our best future while also remembering where we came from and what got us here today,” Ruffing-Teel said.

Class rank: Junior

Hometown: Mountain Center, California

Major: Marketing

Instagram: @makaylaruffingteel


  • The care she has for the school, its students and faculty, and what they want to see happen
  • Resident Hall Association president during her freshman year
  • Involved in Institute of Politics for three semesters


  • Answer two questions: “What do you as students want to see from me and why are we doing things a certain way?”
  • Receive feedback from students about what DSUSA is doing and improve based on the feedback

Campaign platform:

The future of DSU is important to Ruffing-Teel as she strives to maintain unity between faculty members and students. She wants to embrace the traditions and heritage of DSU while still focusing on the ever-changing future.

Deven Osborne

“I want to make Dixie State University a better place for us to be at as students,” Osborne said.

Class rank: Senior

Hometown: Los Angeles

Major: Business administration

Instagram: @devenosborne1


  • President of the DSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee
  • Experience with leadership on campus
  • Worked with the city of St. George


  • Allow for the students’ voices to be heard
  • Make DSU a better place to learn and have experience

Campaign platform:

Osborne is DSU’s football team captain. Osborne’s motto is: “Don’t wait for the perfect opportunity. Create it!” He wants to make DSU a better place for all its students to learn, live and blaze trails.

VP of clubs and organizations candidates

Ryan Hafen

“I’m grateful for all of the wonderful opportunities that I’ve had through getting involved with clubs, and I want to be able to provide other students with that same opportunity,” Hafen said.

Class rank: Sophomore

Hometown: Southfield, Michigan

Major: General studies

Instagram: @ryan_hafen


  • Current recreational and entertainment club representative for DSUSA
  • Passion for helping students and getting them involved on campus
  • Experience with clubs on campus


  • Increase student involvement

Campaign platform:

Hafen’s platform consists of increasing student involvement on campus since he knows the academic and social benefits of being involved on campus.

Jose Toral

“I want to be an advocate and representative to those students who want to get involved but don’t know how,” Toral said.

Class rank: Junior

Hometown: St. George

Major: Communication studies

Instagram: @josetoral_98


  • Involved with the Student Alumni Association for two years
  • Worked closely with clubs and organizations
  • Quality leadership skills


  • Bring fresh, new ideas

Campaign platform:

Toral wants to continue being a student leader through DSUSA in order to be an advocate for students and he wants to teach students about what it takes to be a leader through the knowledge and experience he has gained.

Cesar Ruiz

“I want students as well as all the leaders on campus to learn from one another, to teach each other, and most of all embrace the differences we all have and celebrate them,” Ruiz said.

Class rank: Sophomore

Hometown: Littlefield, Arizona

Major: English

Instagram: @czr_forvpco


  • Bring empowerment to DSU
  • Embrace the differences among students
  • Inspire the entire student body

Campaign platform:

Ruiz wants to make DSU a place for students to connect and inspire one another. He believes it is important for each student to create memories at DSU and discover themselves.

VP of academics candidate

Katie Sanders

“I’m running because I strongly believe in the Dixie motto ‘active learning, active life,'” Sanders said.

Class rank: Junior

Hometown: St. George

Major: Biology

Instagram: @katie_sanderss


  • DSU biology and physical science senator
  • Intern at NASA Glenn Research Center


  • Be a source for students to share their voices
  • Bring innovation to DSU

Campaign platform:

Sanders plans to foster a strong community among students and make DSU a welcoming place for students of all backgrounds. She will be a voice for student needs and a listening ear for student concerns.

Softball gains ground at the Dixie State Tournament

Entering the Dixie State Tournament, the Trailblazers’ softball team had an overall record of 1-9; now DSU has won four of its last five games.

The Trailblazers battled it out at Karl Brooks Field Feb. 26-28 and defeated Utah State University, the University of Northern Colorado and Weber State University.

Head coach Randy Simkins said it’s phenomenal for his team to win four out of five games from the tournament, but he was also impressed by defeating the Wildcats because they’re known for having an outstanding softball program and running the Big Sky Conference.

Simkins said: “[WSU] don’t beat themselves very often [and] they don’t have holes in their lineup. They have a lot of speed; they play the short game really well where they bunt or they slap and steal bases. If you don’t play clean, if you don’t catch the ball, and if you don’t take care of stuff, they’re going to make you pay. That’s how they beat us the first time. We gave up four runs in an inning where we probably should’ve only given up one or two.”

Either way, it was an outstanding win for DSU against the Wildcats as well as defeating the Bears and Aggies. There are numerous takeaways from this tournament for the Trailblazers, so let’s go ahead and evaluate the successful turnaround for DSU:

Piecing together the lineup

From the beginning of the season to Feb. 20, the lineup has consistently stayed the same; however, during that time the Trailblazers struggled offensively and were shut out five times. During the first meeting between DSU and USU on Feb. 21, Simkins switched leadoff hitter Hannah Hughbanks, a sophomore exercise science major from Chino Hills, California, to bat second and put infielder Meagan Anders, a senior psychology major from Las Vegas, at the top of the order. He also moved first baseman Mikaela Thomson, a senior business major from Herriman, to bat fifth and moved outfielder Malory Eldredge, a redshirt junior biology major from Arvada, Colorado, to bat third in the lineup.

Simkins said he moved Hughbanks to the No. 2 spot in the lineup because he wanted to take pressure off of her. He said pitchers are usually more tough on the leadoff hitter, so he decided to change it up with putting Anders at the top of the order.

“[Hughbanks and Anders are] both capable of hitting for a little bit of power, pretty high average, and a high on-base average, so they’re pretty much interchangeable there,” Simkins said.

As soon as Simkins made these adjustments to the lineup, the Trailblazers’ offense clicked.

Contributions from the lineup top to bottom

Throughout the Dixie State Tournament, the lineup from top to bottom contributed in some way by having an overall of 27 singles, 11 doubles and eight homeruns.

Two standout players from the tournament overall were Thomson and Eldredge. Thomson had a batting average of .412, hit five home runs, and collected 10 RBIs. Eldredge had a batting average of .530, hit six singles and two doubles, and racked up four RBIs.

“[We’re] at the plate winning pitch by pitch, winning at-bats, not just hitting [the ball] out [of the field], but [we’re] winning every pitch [to be successful on offense],” Thomson said.

Simkins said getting contributions from everybody top to bottom was huge and he knows how locked in his team was throughout the tournament offensively.

Pitching settling down

With the lineup finding its groove, DSU’s pitching staff has the opportunity to settle down and do its thing. Pitcher Carissa Burgess, a junior business marketing major from Ellensburg, Washington, and pitcher Ashtyn Bauerle, a redshirt sophomore sports management major from Syracuse, pitched three complete games combined and tallied up 22 strikeouts.

Simkins said having his No. 1 and No. 2 pitchers pitching three complete games was key to his team’s success and that’s something they need to do more often.

Simkins said: “[Our] pitching staff isn’t as deep as other pitching staffs [because] some staffs have six or seven pitchers on it and we only have four. We need to get pretty good contribution out of our No.1 and No. 2 to try to lengthen games a little bit.”

Burgess said what helped the pitchers ease into the tournament was playing at their home field to boost up energy and trusting the defense to have their backs.

Limiting errors on defense

The 11 errors the Trailblazers gave up defensively weren’t too costly for them in the games they won.

After losing the first game to WSU, Simkins told his team it couldn’t have mistakes to turn a small inning into a big inning, and he said he gives kudos to his defense for limiting the number of errors throughout the tournament.

Hitting the road

After a 10-game homestand for DSU, its current overall record stands at 5-10, and the team will be hitting the road to the University of California, Riverside for a three-game matchup.

The last time the Trailblazers were at an away game was at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas tournament at the beginning of the season where they didn’t have too much success.

Simkins said his team needs to play well on the road, have everybody continue to contribute in the lineup, have quality at-bats against an opponent they never played before, and get better as the season progresses.

DSU will take on the Highlanders March 5-6.

DSU baseball loses against Washington State University

Hot dogs, the seventh-inning stretch, sun burns, and home runs returned to Bruce Hurst Field as the Trailblazers hosted Washington State University in a four game home-stand over the weekend.

DSU was 15-3 before having the season come to an end because of COVID-19 regulations in 2020; however, none of these games played were against Division I teams. WSU is a DI, PAC-12 conference team and finished 9-7 last year. Going into the series, DSU knew this series would test them.

“[The] first series of the season and we’re playing a PAC-12 conference team; it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Tanner Harper, a junior business administration major from Paul, Idaho.

DSU laced up its cleats and was ready to bring DI baseball to St. George. The Trailblazers jumped out to a hot start to the season after holding a 3-0 lead after five innings in the first game. After the fifth inning came to a close, the momentum shifted completely to the WSU side. DSU gave up back-to-back three run innings in the seventh and eight frames, finishing the game with a 9-6 loss.

“We thought we had Thursday night’s game going into the seventh inning, and we had a big letdown after giving that one away,” head coach Chris Pfatenhauer said. “After that, Friday and Saturday went by too fast.”

The Cougars were flexing all of their muscles at the plate Friday and Saturday as they outscored the Trailblazers 34-6 after the two games Friday and Saturday. DSU lost both Friday’s contest 19-5 and Saturday’s 15-1.

It was evident over those two games that the Trailblazers were still getting their feet underneath themselves in DI ball. Regardless of who they are playing, the Trailblazers were going to keep the same mindset they’ve always had.

“We like to think that whatever the circumstance is we can bounce back and continue to grind,” Pfatenhauer said. “We didn’t do any facet of the game well on Friday or Saturday, but we regrouped and tried to grow and get better for Sunday.”

The closing game of the series came to an end on Feb. 28 as the Cougars showed they were just too much for DSU to handle, falling once again to the Cougars 10-3.

“Our egos aren’t too big to not watch the other teams do things right,” Pfatenhauer said. “We want to be a really good Division I baseball program, so why not bear down and watch what a PAC-12 team is doing well on the other side of the ball and get better? We are going to get better from this.”

DSU is staying positive and focusing on the good that came from the weekend.

“One of our biggest take aways from the series from the weekend is the experience we were able to get,” Harper said. “We got a lot of young guys to get some playing time and able to get some experience, which could really help us.”

DSU will head to Wichita, Kansas and square up against the Wichita State Shockers in a three-game series March 5-7. The Trailblazers’ next home game is March 16 when they host Brigham Young University.

EDITORIAL | Transparency matters for students, community alike

The ongoing theme from the Dixie State University administration and state senators seems to revolve around secrecy. The Dixie Sun News staff implores the university administration and state representatives alike to provide transparency in regard to items that affect our futures.

The DSU administration has led the name change discussion with many students and community members feeling left out. President Richard “Biff” Williams said in the House Education Committee meeting where the name change vote occurred that he was not always on board with it. This indicates that there was some sort of discussion regarding the name change that students and community members were not notified of until a decision was reached.

This feels unfair to students and the community alike. When there is no public discussion, we feel betrayed by those who should be transparent. Students pay tuition and fees to attend a school, therefore they are entitled to any discussion relating to their future. The community serves the university through partnerships, donors and support, therefore any discussion should require their input as well. Public institutions are no place for secrecy.

The theme of secrecy seemed to continue in the Utah State Senate with rumors that House Bill 278, Name Change Process for Dixie State University, was not going to be heard on the Senate floor, which led to protests from DSU students outside Capitol Hill. Some students expressed that they did not know a bill could be effectively killed before it reached the Senate floor. Without those rumors surfacing, community members and students would not have known until it was over.

The name change matter is not the only subject that requires transparency either.

The House also proposed House Bill 318, sponsored by Melissa Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, which in its original form would have allowed the Utah State Senate to reveal only the finalist’s name in the search for university presidents instead of the original three candidates.

This bill provision would have cut the public out of the selection process entirely, leaving fewer options for the public as a whole. While the House has rescinded that provision in the bill, it still has a possibility of being passed in the Senate.

Without transparency, we lose the democratic value that affects our lives. Giving no chance for public input leaves the community and students without a voice in who decides who gets to be their university president.

This would have immediately impacted the University of Utah, as it is currently in search of a university president. If this bill were to pass with the provision that only shows the finalist, it would silence public input on an important university matter.

Whether it relates to university administrations or political processes, transparency is key to any discussion regarding community members and students. To believe otherwise is dangerous and places a blindfold on our liberties.

University administrations and the state legislature need to keep the voices of the public in mind when making decisions like these. The role of these officials is to serve the public, so why would it make sense to keep the public in the dark or make decisions that are not in the public’s best interest?

Encircle collaborates with DSU for poetry workshops, anthology

The best thing about poetry is that it’s a creative and inclusive way to express yourself. That’s why, in a partnership with Encircle, Dixie State University is hosting four poetry writing workshops for LGBTQ+ students and allies.

Cindy King, assistant professor of English, initiated the collaboration last year with support from a DSU Community Engaged Learning Mini-Grant for her proposal, “Student Writers in the City: Blazing Trails in St. George.”

The workshops are hosted by her upper-division poetry students, and it gives them the opportunity to showcase what they’ve learned in class.

King said: “It’s for everyone; it’s a place for support. In a more practical sense, the poetry students can now say they’ve worked with diverse and marginalized populations.”

The purpose of the workshops is to provide a creative outlet for the LGBTQ+ community and spread the word about Encircle’s resources. The grant will also fund an anthology of poems and visual art from workshop attendees.

“After the anthology is published, there will be a launch party for contributors and participants to showcase their work and celebrate it by giving a reading at the Encircle house,” King said. “It’s a great platform to say your piece.”

The St. George Encircle home functions as a safe environment for LGBTQ+ youth, young adults and their families to come together through friendship circles, therapy and community events. Students can even stop by during drop-in hours for a quiet place to do homework and get a free tour of the house.

Julie Benson, program manager for Encircle St. George, said the organization was created as a response to Utah’s high rate of LGBTQ+ suicide.

According to Encircle’s website, “LGB youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers [and] forty-eight percent of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt.”

Benson said she’s excited about the poetry workshop partnership because it gives the St. George LGBTQ+ community a chance come together and network with one another.

“We wanted to bring in that creative conversation, and this is another way to connect and get your stories told,” Benson said.

Naji Haska Runs Through, a two-spirit freshman art major from St. George and Encircle DSU intern, said they’re glad the anthology is creating a legacy for queer voices but wishes more people would attend the workshops.

“Sometimes it’s hard not to feel alone in the queer community in St. George, so it’s refreshing to know that trans people exist here that I haven’t met before,” Runs Through said. “I would love to see more people come. Humans are creative beings and these workshops are for everyone; it doesn’t matter what skill level you are.”

The workshops are free and can be attended in-person in HCC 477 or through Zoom. The remaining dates are March 2 and March 16 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The deadline to submit poetry and visual arts to the Encircle Anthology is April 1. Submissions should be sent to [email protected], or for more information, contact Cindy King at [email protected].

To learn more about what Encircle offers, visit encircletogether.org.

DSU Career Services team creates checklist for career readiness

Between juggling classes, homework and extracurricular activities, students can often find themselves forgetting one of the reasons why they are sweating over a bachelor’s degree in the first place: To launch their dream career.

Some anxious seniors, in their last semester, might even be thinking, “What am I going to do next?” or “I just graduated college… now what?”

Don’t fret — the Dixie State University Career Services team is willing to prepare and train you for what’s ahead with its version of a career readiness checklist.

Do you have the physical necessities?

Career coach Gina Gottfredson said almost every employer will ask for a completed resume, so it is essential to build one over your four years of school. A resume is not something you just want to throw together last minute; it should be taken seriously.

“I would start by really focusing on creating a targeted resume,” Gottfredson said. “[A resume] is what is going to help you land a job interview in the first place, so it needs to catch the eye of your future employer.”

Career coach Rochelle Blatter said to enter a job search, students need to make sure they also have these physical elements:

  • Cover letter
  • Online profile for LinkedIn
  • Online profile for Handshake
  • An online, professional portfolio (depending on your major)

Shane Blocker, assistant director of Career Services, said to use your school work as a way to upscale and sell yourself to your future employer.

“Don’t just do papers to do papers,” Blocker said. “Most of the time, we get done with a big group project or finish our senior capstone paper and think, ‘Cool, now I never have to look at that again,’ when really you should take that content and put it on your LinkedIn profile so employers can see your abilities.”

Are you networking?

Blocker stressed the importance of networking as a way for students to start preparing for future jobs and connections to job opportunities.

“You have to know people,” Blocker said. “So many times we go to class and pull out our cellphones and start ignoring everybody around us, but if you just start talking to the people in your classes, the network that you start now opens up a lot of things post-graduation.”

Blocker also said students should take any opportunity they have to introduce themselves to guest lecturers and all of their professors who have their own webs of networking that can assist that student.

“[Students] need to network with professors, they need to network with potential employers, they need to network online, and they need to — most importantly — network with Career Services,” Gottfredson said.

Starting early and building these connections now through networking with others will ease your stress as you prepare to graduate and land a job, Blatter said.

“The more you engage with others, the better you will feel prepared,” Blatter said. “The more connections you make through friends, family, instructors, faculty and staff, the better.”

What’s in your wardrobe?

“Dress to impress.”

We’ve all heard that saying over and over again, but as you navigate your way through college, it’s important to start collecting professional clothing to prepare for your future career, Gottfredson said.

“It would be expensive and some students would not be able to afford to buy a whole month’s worth of professional clothing all at one time,” Gottfredson said. “So I would suggest students prepare a professional wardrobe while they are attending school.”

DSU Career Services has a “career closet” of professional work clothing that was donated by students on campus that anyone can take from if they are in need of clothing appropriate for the workplace.

“It’s always better to be ahead than behind,” Gottfredson said. “Starting early when collecting these pieces of clothing will give students one less thing to worry about when starting a job.”

The staff members of DSU Career Services are available to assist any student with reviewing documents, practicing mock-interviews, acquiring professional clothing, and more as long as they make an appointment online first.

By Sydney Berenyi

Students to see tuition increase, student fee decrease

Editor’s note: This story has been corrected to clearly identify that the SFAB determines solely student fee changes while administrators determine changes in tuition.

At the Truth in Tuition meeting Feb. 25, student leaders and administrators revealed that for the coming 2021-2022 academic year, the amount of tuition will be increased and student fees will be decreased, but the final cost has not been decided yet.

The Student Fee Advisory Board, which determines student fee changes, and administrators will propose their final decision to the Board of Trustees March 5.

Bryant Flake, director of planning and budget, said tuition can potentially increase from 3% to 7%. For residential students, this will add between $72 to $169 per semester onto tuition, and for non-resident students, it will add $231 to $540 per semester.

Graphic by Emily Wight

Flake said tuition on average increases by 4.5% every year, but this year it may have to be substantially larger because of the current circumstances caused by COVID-19.

He said about half of DSU’s funding is given by state appropriation from the Legislature and the other half is from tuition; however, because of COVID-19, the state had to set aside a portion of the money for colleges to help with the pandemic.

The administrator leaders were unclear about how much the state had to set aside from the college funds.

“COVID-19 came along and turned everything upside down; we were anticipating getting state appropriation and almost all of that amount ended up being cut, and then later in the summer they cut more from our base appropriation,” Flake said. “It did leave us in a position where we essentially lost over $5 million that we were counting on.”

Flake said this proposal is just a worst-case scenario. The 7% is only if the Legislature doesn’t give the university enough of an appropriation to help fund essentials.

He said the budget of $2.45 million, which is equal to a 7% increase in tuition cost, will be used for salary for full-time and part-time staff, faculty rank advancements, risk management insurance, Division I athletics, new student orientation, Banner software, and to pay for the student fees being absorbed into tuition.

Fees that may move from student fees to tuition are: I.T. Support, the Testing Center, the Tutoring Center, radio and broadcast advertising, fine arts, the Writing Center, the Dixie Sun News, and the AED.

Student Body President Penny Mills, a senior communication studies major from Orem and chair of the SFAB, said moving these fees was something that the SFAB has been wanting to do for a long time.

“I first want to make sure you know that overall, the Student Fee Advisory Board proposes a 5% decrease for the student fees in 2021-2022 school year,” Mills said. “Student fees will go down about $21.”

Mills said the Utah Board of Higher Education advised the SFAB to move certain resources into tuition because they relate more to what tuition covers in their funds.

Tuition is the amount students pay for their education and programs associated with education. Student fees are separate costs for student services outside of the education realm, more so dealing with events and student culture that a college provides.

“Most of the things that are moving are related to academic programs, which is what your tuition is for,” Mills said. “The Utah Board of Higher Education recommended moving anything academic or administrative to tuition.”

Paul Morris, vice president of presidential affairs, said even though tuition is going up students have to remember that student fees are going down.

Morris said since student fees will be going down by $21, that money will instead be going into the tuition funds to pay for the newly absorbed sections that used to be part of student fees.

“It isn’t quite as high as it looks like it could be,” Morris said. “Tuition is going up an equal amount that student fees are going down.”

DSU is waiting to officially decide what the tuition increase will be until they hear back from the Legislature later this month, Flake said. He said he understands why the state is being cautious and that he hopes this next year DSU will receive enough appropriations not to increase tuition by the full 7%.

DSU football opens spring season, DI era at Tarleton State University

After practicing throughout fall and winter, Dixie State University football is finally kicking off its first season as a Division I program Feb. 27.

Last season, the DSU football team finished 8-3 overall and 7-3 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference led by returning head coach Paul Peterson.

The highly anticipated season was supposed to start back in the fall, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced DSU to play in the spring instead.

“In the fall, we got a ton of work done,” Peterson said, “We used that time to help our athletes develop in the weight room and get classes taken care of.”

With the spring season underway, DSU’S coaches are excited to see the players compete against higher level teams.

“My main focus with the coaching staff is to regenerate that momentum and give our team some success and growth,” Peterson said.

The team had a lot of drive in its last season at the Division II level.

“We identified who we want to be as a program and showed some toughness,” Peterson said.

According to DSU Athletics, the team averaged 34 points per game and had 1,937 rushing yards, 3,378 passing yards, and 50 touchdowns in the 2019 season.

Chase Hess, a senior communication studies major and tight end from Taylorsville, is returning for his final season as a Trailblazer this spring. Hess scored a total of seven touchdowns last season.

Hess said the team is using the spring season to its advantage and has prepared well for the upcoming season despite all the COVID-19 restrictions placed upon it.

“Going into the first game really excites me,” Hess said. “We have younger guys playing their first college game and we have prepared them well. We have put in the training and now it’s go time.”

Wide receiver Deven Osborne, a senior business administration major from Los Angeles, said he is ready to compete against people other than his teammates.

Osborne said he is coming into his senior season with high hopes. Last season, he played in all 11 games and made 13 receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown.

“We’re excited to finally play some games,” Osborne said. “Our coaches have put together a great plan. We just have to execute it and take all the coaching points.”

DSU’s first football game will be at Memorial Stadium in Stephenville, Texas Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. against Tarleton State University. This will be the Trailblazers’ first game as a Division I program.

The Trailblazers are playing to win, and they will get another chance against Tarleton with a home advantage March 13. Tarleton has also accepted an invitation to join the WAC football league. These two games will be a preview for years to come.

It was also announced that DSU would participate in the WAC Football conference starting in Fall 2022. The team will also compete against fellow WAC member New Mexico State March 7.

Dixie Sun News adapts to the journalism challenges of COVID-19

It’s been almost one whole year since COVID-19 started ruling our entire lives. For organizations like the Dixie Sun News, that brings a lot of unique challenges. As a student news organization, we’ve grown and adapted in many ways to our new circumstances.

Despite all the challenges, this staff has persevered. Here are some of our stories:

Rhiannon Bent

DSN Adviser Rhiannon Bent, assistant professor of media studies, said COVID-19 was a great learning experience for her student journalists.

“I think COVID-19 was the best active learning activity I never could’ve come up with,” Bent said. “I think for stretching student journalists for creative thinking, for critical thinking, it has done everything I have wanted it to.”

Bent said how proud she is of her students for continuing what they are doing and pushing through their challenges. She said they are learning how to do things differently and sometimes even more logically and creatively.

Bent said this year in particular, it is so important to have news because of all the tension going on in the world.

“If anything, we need journalism now more than ever, especially over all the other things that have happened this past year,” Bent said. “It’s not just the pandemic; think of all the racial injustices and tensions that have happened, all the things with politics. There are so many critical stories that need to be told now more than ever.”

Stephanie Du Par

Producer Stephanie Du Par, a senior communication major from Santa Rosa, California, said when everything came crashing down around the newspaper last year, Bent came in and kept them all together.

When the staff found out about school closing and everyone having to return home for the quarantine last March, many found it easiest to just give up and stop, Du Par said.

“Our saving grace was Rhiannon Bent, who was so determined to find a way to keep printing and to keep doing our show even though we were all in different states,” Du Par said. “Rhiannon was like the glue that held us all together.”

Since the new regulations made communicating in person difficult, everyone had to learn how to continue doing their jobs online, Du Par said. She said communication had to start changing and the whole group had to get good at it fast.

“The best part is communicating what works best for everybody, and it kind of eliminates excuses because everyone is on the phone and on their computer,” Du Par said. “I feel like we’ve done well adapting, but I wouldn’t say we’re perfect by any means.”

Kristi Shields

Editor-in-Chief Kristi Shields, a junior media studies major from Salt Lake City, said DSN has become more multimedia based and also more creative in how it produces work.

Sometimes things just don’t work out how you plan, and in the moment you have to figure it out despite the complications, Shields said.

Shields said she’s been exploring more video assignments for DSN this year, and it’s caused some interesting, creative challenges. Sometimes you just don’t get what you need, like an interview for example, and it causes you to think on the fly, she said.

“We have to explore other ways to make a video if you don’t have a visual interview,” Shields said. “Definitely with [Zoom] we’ve had to adjust how we do video.”

Shields said it’s nice to have all this technology in order to still communicate with sources and staff, but sometimes there is a lack of a line drawn between work and break time.

“When do you have that cut-off?” Shields said. “When do you know when you are going to just turn off and not be available? We’re so used to having that as a sole communication now, [and] it’s definitely helped communication between us.”

Breanna Biorato

Breanna Biorato, a sophomore art major from Las Vegas, said last March was a uniquely difficult situation. As the photography editor, she had to find a balance between making everything DSU related and COVID-19 related, all the while being home in Las Vegas.

She said during this new school year, she was extremely hopeful for things to get easier than having to do things from her hometown last year during quarantine.

“When August came, I was kind of on the iffy side of things because [of] Zoom and hybrid classes, but I was glad to be back on campus and glad to be working back with the newspaper,” Biorato said. “It made things so much easier knowing at least I was in the same state.”

Biorato said the biggest difficulty with online meetings for her and her photographers is that sometimes they get forgotten. Everyone is so busy talking about the stories and what they need to do, it’s easy to forget about the art and it’s harder to cut in over Zoom, Biorato said.

Biorato said: “The writers always have the full time to talk and plan, but then the photographers come and it’s like, ‘We’re done, let’s go write in the chat.’ It’s definitely one of those things I prefer in person because it’s like we’re not there sometimes.”

Now, almost a year later, the staff is different, the format to release DSN’s news has shifted to a completely online base, and it feels like a whole new world in the newsroom. There will never be a perfect situation, and COVID-19 is a perfect example of how you work with what you are given, which is exactly what staff members at DSN are doing.

“Tragedy, trauma, drama; these are the things that bind people together,” Bent said. “I hope that students walk away after this year feeling like they can do more than they ever thought they could do before.”

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