Our spring leadership conference marks the capstone of each successful year of Virginia21 programming. Session is over, the academic year is winding down, the weather is warming up, and our members gather in Richmond to celebrate past accomplishments and gain fresh insights for the future from political, business, and community leaders across the state.
This year, members learned how to build on the What’s Your Number campaign’s social media success through a panel with McGuire Woods Consulting’s digital media and online advocacy specialist Charles Kelly, and how to leverage their growing familiarity with the GAB into a career in politics and lobbying with Virginia Tech’s state legislative liaison Elizabeth Hooper.
We also heard from special guest Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling, who spoke about the vital role of higher education in growing Virginia’s economy. From the commonwealth’s perspective, a thriving higher education system acts like a massive version of the “Virginia: Open For Business” signs posted on I95. When employers are deciding where to locate, access to a skilled and educated workforce is just as crucial as a business-friendly tax system or a strong transportation infrastructure. While young people see the need for public higher-ed investment in terms of college affordability — and that’s certainly an important factor — Bolling reminded us that it is also part of the basic maintenance program that keeps Virginia’s economic engine running and helps it beat out competing states to attract new jobs.
During lunch, VA21 singled out some of our favorite overachievers to receive special awards for their hard work to generate a staggering 10,000 petition signatures and nearly 15,000 messages delivered to elected officials to help prevent a student debt crisis. The George Mason chapter was recognized as “Best Chapter,” J. Sargeant Reynolds as “Best Community College Chapter,” and William & Mary as “Most Improved Chapter.” SLC chairman Waylin Ross was named “Student of the Year” for his powerful speech the What’s Your Number press conference in February, while the ever-delightful Jerry Solomon received the “Voice of a Generation” award for her tireless efforts in VA21 headquarters and superhuman ability to tolerate Tom’s bad jokes.
Last but not least, VA21 said a sad goodbye to Deputy Director Brittany Tyler. Brittany joined us way back in 2007 as a campus coordinator while still attending Longwood University, became Membership Director after graduating, and was promoted to Deputy Director in 2010, where she has done tremendous work to make this year’s successes possible. VA21 members know her as a tireless organizer, savvy political advocate, trusted mentor, and — for too many of us to count — a great friend. We wish her the best of luck in her new role as a principal at the Graham Consulting Group. Brittany, you will be missed!
But don’t worry, we’ll still be stalking @Btypes on the Twitters.