Rex Willis, Virginia Tech’s 2017-18 Student Government Association (SGA) president, steps into his new role with ambitious goals and the experience and passion to achieve them.

Willis, of Earlysville, Virginia, a senior majoring in management in the Pamplin College of Business, hopes to continue expanding on the initiatives he helped with as SGA vice president in 2016-17 while also creating new ones.

Willis wants to focus on reconnecting SGA with the student body to be proactive in learning about issues and creating solutions.

“There are always ways to improve outreach efforts, so one of our biggest focuses this year is rebuilding relationships with other student organizations, constituent groups, and students in general to ensure we are well informed and focused on the issues that are on the minds of students,” said Willis.

According to Willis, connecting with other student organizations will allow SGA to get a stronger sense of the views of a broader group of students, providing for a government more representative of the student body as a whole.

Along with continued engagement with student organizations, Willis hopes to encourage SGA to promote the participation of individual students in making changes on campus.

“I think there has always been an assumption that students know to bring their issues to their Student Government representatives, but on a campus this large and complex, that isn’t always the case,” said Willis. “Increased interaction starts with the members of SGA reaching out to their constituents, supporting their work, and showing them how SGA can help them achieve their goals.”

One way Willis hopes to collaborate with students is by engaging the student body through town hall meetings. Students can also be involved by attending SGA meetings, all of which are open, with the exception of meetings of the judicial branch. All undergraduate students are also invited to join SGA.

During his first two years at Virginia Tech, Willis was influenced by mentors in student government and was inspired by the work done to promote inclusion within the student body, which made him feel more welcome on campus. While these experiences helped and inspired him, they also made him aware of the amount of work that could still be done to ensure that all students feel welcome at Virginia Tech.

Willis admires fellow members of SGA, noting that they go out of their way to serve others and ensure that voices are heard. He knows the importance of listening to those around him and making himself accessible to those who are not often heard, both of which he believes will help him in life after graduation.

“Whether it is as small as the frustration of long lines in dining halls, or as big as feeling unsafe on our campus because of the way you look, I am driven by the passion in other students and their desire to see things improve for themselves and for those who will come after us,” he said.

Written by Jessie Rogers, of Suffolk, Virginia, a senior majoring in Language and Literature in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.