Stinson and Sherman Prioritize Inclusion, Accessibility

Author: Genevieve Redsten

Dane Sierra"

Sierra Stinson and Dane Sherman learned to love Notre Dame. Now they want to lead it as student body president and vice president. 

“The reason we are running is because we love Notre Dame, but that love took work,” Stinson said. “At least for me, that love was really hard.”

Stinson, a junior, and Sherman, a sophomore, have each struggled, at times, finding their place in the Notre Dame community. Both hail from the state of Washington — Stinson from Spokane, Sherman from Seattle. It took some time, they said, to adjust to the culture of Notre Dame.

“Notre Dame was very different. Indiana was very different,” Stinson said. “But luckily, I was able to find mentors and people who took me under their wing within student government. It kind of became my home.”

Student government gave the candidates a community and a purpose on campus. Stinson and Sherman both currently serve on the student government executive cabinet. Stinson is the director of academic affairs, and Sherman is the director of university policy. 

That student government experience, they believe, has poised them to hit the ground running. Their 26-page platform stresses accessibility for all students.

Much of Stinson and Sherman’s platform expands upon the work of previous student government administrations. This year, student government implemented Callisto, an anonymous sexual assault reporting service, the result of a years-long student government push. If elected, Stinson and Sherman hope to continue implementing and publicizing the service.

As members of underrepresented communities, Stinson and Sherman’s personal experiences inform their mission as well. Before he came to Notre Dame, Sherman was worried he wouldn’t fit in.

“I was like, ‘I’m also Catholic, but I’m queer. I don’t really know if I’ll feel welcome, especially coming from Seattle, at a Catholic institution in the Midwest that has a very particular history,’” Sherman said.

If elected, Sherman and Stinson would advocate for Notre Dame to add gender identity and sexual orientation to its non-discrimination clause. 

As a first-generation, low-income student, Stinson struggled with the academic and social transition her freshman year, she said.

“I never had to write anything more than three pages where I'm from, so having to write a 12- page paper was insane to me. It was terrifying,” Stinson said. “But I learned to ask for help.”

Seeking out support and resources, Stinson said, changed her experience at Notre Dame. As student body president, she hopes to expand resources and support to first-generation and low-income students like herself. 

Stinson and Sherman’s proposed Pre-First Year program would offer affordable summer classes and programming. The program would be open to all students but especially aimed toward first-generation and low-income students, helping ease their transition to college.

The Stinson-Sherman platform also has detailed plans for disability access on campus.

They propose updating the Notre Dame job board with crucial information for disabled students — details about the barriers and accommodations of each position. They hope to make the classroom environment more supportive, too — encouraging professors to be more accommodating of mental health struggles and personal emergencies.

Many students on campus, Sherman said, believe student government doesn’t do anything. Stinson and Sherman hope to bridge that divide between student government and the student body by collaborating with clubs and improving communication. 

Their proposed “Cultural Awareness” week would be a collaboration with Notre Dame’s affinity groups. Each day would spotlight a different region’s culture or faith tradition.

With extensive experience and detailed plans, Stinson and Sherman hope to continue making Notre Dame an inclusive home for all. 

“I think that there is a lot of possibility for making Notre Dame live up to its mission through the avenues of student government and student advocacy,” Sherman said