Published in The Rebel Yell issue 11/05/2007
Sitting in the crowded Student Union food court, many UNLV students stop by the small table to give a high-five, tap knuckles and in one case give a kiss on the cheek to the current Student Body President Adriel Espinoza.
The 22-year-old nutrition major has very little time to hang out with his friends, let alone sleep. Espinoza, who lives off campus, spends about 14 hours a day on campus, talking a full load of classes and managing his job.
“This position takes up so much time and energy that sleep has become one of those things that I try to enjoy when I have the time,” Espinoza said.
He spends his days going to classes, doing research and reading about different issues on campus and attending events. Although his official title is student body president, Espinoza calls himself something different.
“I’m more of an ambassador for the students,” he said. When it comes down to the logistics of events and different issues around campus, Espinoza has little to do with the planning and organizing. “But I’m there to represent [the student body].”
Espinoza has been a part of student government since spring of 2004. While he was pledging for Sigma Delta Alpha in fall of 2003, during his first semester at UNLV, he learned about student government from a fellow fraternity pledge.
Then in spring 2004, a health sciences senate seat position opened. Espinoza ran for it, won and has been involved in student government ever since.
Having never been involved in student government during high school or earlier years, Espinoza didn’t expect or consider running for student government.
“It was great timing more than anything,” he said.
Espinoza became president May 1, 2007. He used his experience in student government and pledged to tie up the loose ends the former president left in order to win his position.
Since winning, Espinoza has worked hard on fixing many of the problems that face UNLV students. He and other student government members are taking small steps to fix the parking problem and assuring many students by telling them that another parking garage is in the works, even though they probably won’t be around to see or use it.
He is also working on problems with enrollment and many other issues on campus. But he realizes that many steps he has taken to fix the problems will not be recognized any time soon.
“I’m not doing things for the credit. I’m doing them so they get done,” Espinoza said.
Heather Brown, a political science major, ran against Espinoza in the student body presidential race. Although she lost to Espinoza, she is impressed with the role he has filled for the UNLV students and campus.
“I think Adriel is really trying to change UNLV and trying to make new traditions. He’s not trying to take all the credit,” Brown said. “He is really trying to make UNLV better for the students, which we haven’t seen from past presidents.”
The thing Espinoza is most proud of so far in his years in student government was his involvement in helping to start Rebel Nation.
Rebel Nation is an organization of active students who support UNLV athletics. It has reached out to get students involved in sports other than just the men’s teams and has developed an active Rebel fan base on campus. At games, there is a Rebel Nation section where participants can go sit and expect to see students wearing Rebel Red, singing the fight song and getting involved with the game, the cheerleaders and other students.
“Rebel Nation gives UNLV students another venue to get along and become united as Rebels to support a common cause,” Espinoza said.
Born into a Latino family, Espinoza was the first person in his family born in the United States, and he will be the first person in his family to graduate from college.
Espinoza’s dad, a craps dealer, and mom, a furniture store employee, tried to provide all they could for him.
“They always worked so hard to give me any opportunity, to give me better opportunities.”
He never felt that he really had a role model or someone to look up to, so he is trying to fill that void for his younger cousins.
“Honestly, as much as I do this for the students, it means a lot to me to hear my five-year-old cousin say to me that one day he wants to go to college,” Espinoza said. “I didn’t get teary-eyed or anything, but it did bring a huge smile to my face.”
Espinoza is very excited and grateful of his term in the presidency, specifically in 2007.
“I think it’s been absolutely extraordinary to be president during the 50th anniversary,” Espinoza said.
He has been able to help plan, organize, attend and participate in events like the opening of the new Student Recreation and Wellness Center, the Student Union and seeing the dedication of the new Hey Reb statue.
Espinoza’s term as president ends April 30, 2008. He plans to graduate sometime next year, but he still has no idea what he wants to do.
Although he has learned many useful skills for any profession, he does not know if this same kind of leadership lies in his future.
“Student government has helped me understand my capabilities more than anything,” he said.
He hopes to leave behind a good example for future presidents.
“[President’s] have to have a drive and passion to care about the students. So look out. Keep your eyes open, and listen to the students.”