SHERIDAN — Dennis Zezas is a non-traditional student, a cybersecurity and computer network administration double major and current Sheridan College student body president focused on increasing student involvement on campus.
Last year, Zezas served as Academic Senator from the nursing department.
Originally from Buffalo, Zezas first attended the University of Wyoming after high school, where he first served on student government as a member of the freshman senate.
After his first year there, he felt it wasn’t the right time for him to attend school full-time and left, returning to school at Sheridan College three years later for the Spring 2017 semester.
When he first arrived at Sheridan College, he planned on pursuing nursing, completing the prerequisites and being accepted into the program.
“I completed the first year and then realized that my true passion was in IT, cybersecurity,” Zezas said.
Zezas said he had always had an interest in computers and took a number of computer science courses in high school and college but gained experience working on networks while working as an EMT at the Buffalo EMS. Though he doesn’t have a formal IT role there, he started taking on technical work because of his interest in computer systems.
“We had a project where we were installing new firewalls and some security upgrades for our computer system there, and in the process of doing that I realized that was actually something I really, really enjoyed,” Zezas said.
In high school, he had worked unofficially with a friend in the IT department because he enjoyed the work for its problem solving aspects.
“I’ve just always enjoyed kind of playing with computers and trying to make them do something that they couldn’t before,” Zezas said.
In high school, Zezas worked on the technical side of the theater club and was a member of FFA and Future Business Leaders of America. He also competed in speech and debate, which led to his initial involvement in student government at the University of Wyoming.
Zezas was elected vice president of freshman senate, where anything that went to the broader student government passed first.
Zezas said a highlight of his time in the freshmen senate was organizing a highly successful fundraiser for a student who had been hit by a car on campus.
During his first year and a half at Sheridan College, Zezas served as a student representative for the nursing program.
Last year, the student government worked to optimize student portal to make it more user-friendly, which Zezas learned this week will be put into place later this year. SGA also ran a survey to assess the need for a child care facility on campus and worked with athletics to come up with a new character.
“One of the things we do that’s really awesome is we have the hope closet in the Whitney building that has food, some personal hygiene items and stuff like that if there is a student who is in need,” Zezas said. “It’s there, it’s open whenever the Whitney building’s open, and they can just help themselves.”
Student government also partnered with a communications class to hold a food drive to stock the closet.
This year, Zezas has been working on an emergency textbook program for students with temporary financial issues that prevent them from purchasing textbooks and online course access codes in time for classes. One issue that students raised to student government was payment deadlines falling on days that the business office was closed, which Zezas took to the business office and should be changed for next semester.
“He really wants to make a positive impact on their college experience, whatever that looks like for each individual person, so he’s always looking at ways that we can improve processes, improve services and improve the experience that’s happening at Sheridan College,” Student Government Advisor Larissa Bonnet said. “He’s very motivated, so it’s nice to work with a student who’s motivated to make change.”
They’re also working on creating a weekly update of happenings in student government and on campus to increase student involvement and awareness and revising the student government bylaws.
“We had a committee that was working on it and we went through line by line, almost word by word at times so that we had something solid, so that any revisions we need will just be a couple of minor ones, and I’m actually hoping to have those passed before the end of the semester to take effect beginning of next semester,” Zezas said.
Zezas said a challenge has been increasing awareness of SGA on campus and filling a number of vacant academic senate seats. A major goal for the year is to increase student involvement on campus by supporting groups like Student Campus Activities Network, Campus Recreation, Venture Outdoors and others.
“This year we’ve had a student body that really has — way moreso than last year — gotten involved, and attendance at events has been really good,” Zezas said.
In addition to presiding over the meetings, Zezas serves as a liaison between students and administrators, sitting on the district council with the vice presidents and department heads.
“It’s a really good forum to bring feedback from students to them as well as take things that are going on in the district back to the students,” Zezas said.
Two weeks ago, Zezas attended a conference in St. Louis to meet with members of other student government associations.
“That was a great experience for him to be able to talk to other student leader and other SGA presidents and vice presidents and advisors to see how we hold up to other schools,” Bonnet said.
Zezas will graduate in Spring 2021 and plans to pursue a career in cybersecurity.
“I really enjoy the opportunities that I’ve gotten as far as just meeting people, getting to talk to people,” Zezas said. “I also really enjoy being in a position that I can try to make a change and help better campus.”
Zezas encourages any student with a concern or something they’d like to see addressed to reach out or attend an open Tuesday meeting at 4 p.m. in the Whitney Board Room.
“We’re here for students, and if there’s anything we can do, we love hearing from people,” Zezas said.