Enterprising Student Government Leader Earns Sam Lieberman Regents' Scholar Award

Mar 24, 2024

Go-getter! Self-starter! Achiever!

All of these superlatives describe Western Nevada College student government president Suzanna Stankute and support why she received the 2024 Nevada System of Higher Education's Sam Lieberman Regents' Award.

“I'm so honored to have been nominated in the first place and to have received this award,” Stankute said. “With everything I do, especially this award, I think it's important to understand that it isn't just my work that helped me receive it; it's also the great support from my peers. Without Professor Kylie Swenson, I likely wouldn't have stayed at WNC, and without my co-workers, Heather Rikalo, and my parents, I never would have succeeded in student government. I share this award with my friends, family and advisers, and I'm so grateful for all of their support and help during my time at WNC.”

Suzanna has already graduated from WNC, earning an Associate of Arts degree in 2023, and will graduate again this spring with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Deaf Studies.

suzanna and sisolak“I still remember the day that Suzanna showed interest in joining ASWN. She felt like she belonged at WNC and wanted to take on a greater role on campus,” said Rikalo, WNC Student Life coordinator and ASWN adviser. “I don’t know what I would’ve done without her over the last several years. She has helped us grow student government on campus and brought more awareness to what we do for the college and students. She is a very inspirational young lady and someone who has a very bright future.”

Why is her story different from the majority of students? She has accomplished all of this — and more — before her 18th birthday.

“Suzanna is a rock star student leader on and off campus. She has been extremely active at the college and has genuine concerns for WNC and our students,” said WNC President Dr. J. Kyle Dalpe. “We are very pleased that she received the prestigious Sam Lieberman Regents' Scholar Award to acknowledge her dedicated work at WNC and beyond."

Before attending college, Stankute was an active member of the Boy Scouts of America and is the second female Eagle Scout in Nevada. She began her studies at WNC in 2021, as the world was emerging from a health pandemic. As a former homeschool student, Stankute appreciates the hard work of her parents in providing her with a good education and ultimately deciding to let her join WNC's dual enrollment program

While studying at WNC, Stankute has discovered a love for creative writing, particularly screenwriting, thanks to English Professor Swenson, who shared the same passion. She continues to write books and screenplays, inspired by her professor's guidance.

In her final year in pursuit of an Associate of Arts degree, Stankute needed to fulfill the foreign language requirement and chose an American Sign Language class. While she was timid at first, from the first day of class, she was captivated by the beautiful language and culture; her professor, Cindy Frank; interpreter Shannon Council; and the class staff who helped facilitate her learning. During her American Sign Language 3 and 4 classes, Stankute learned more about deaf culture and the need for interpreters in schools. She decided to pursue becoming an ASL interpreter and is immersed in WNC's Deaf Studies program with plans to transfer to the University of Nevada, Reno.

A focal point of her time at WNC has been her involvement in student government, starting as a senator with the Associated Students of Western Nevada (ASWN)

“ASWN offered me a new look into WNC’s campus,” she said previously. “I learned about different initiatives and resources that are offered to students. I found that ASWN offered a unique community and I felt welcomed by the group. I noticed the wide impact that ASWN has on WNC’s students and wanted to see how I could help that.”

In 2022, Stankute was appointed ASWN president and continued in that role for the 2023-24 school year

“Since I first started here, I have noticed a great sense of community and support in our office, and I believe that has only grown in the last year. I am surrounded by an incredible team who consistently inspires and pushes me to do better in every area of my life. I have also met many individuals from other institutions in NSHE, and I want to ensure we are using ASWN to its full potential,” Stankute said.

Stankute also sits on different college committees and has served on the Legislative Committee for Funding in Higher Education. In addition, Stankute presides as the 2023-2024 Nevada Student Alliance chair, advocating for the state’s higher education students and their needs.