The Virginia Tech Office of Government Relations reorganized last academic year upon retirement of long-time director, Ralph Byers.

Chris Yianilos, formerly director of federal relations, assumed leadership as executive director of government relations. He continues to work out of the National Capital Region office in Arlington.

Elizabeth Hooper remains in Richmond as director of state relations and Natalie Hart, former deputy chief of staff in the president’s office, has been appointed to a new position, director of government affairs.

As the Blacksburg anchor of the government team, Hart will work on both federal and state government relations activities.

After directing Virginia Tech government relations for more than 23 years, Byers stepped down in November, 2013 and Yianilos was appointed executive director.

“Ralph was a great mentor and dedicated most of his career in support of higher education. His steadfast leadership and institutional knowledge have long been major assets to the university, and we are fortunate that he will continue to advise our office in a part-time capacity,” said Yianilos.

Yianilos, who joining Virginia Tech as director of federal relations in 2009, will oversee all university government relations activities and remain in the National Capital Region intimately engaged in federal liaison work.

The Office of Government Relations is the primary liaison between the university community and elected officials and government entities at the state and federal levels. It monitors legislative issues and works with other colleges and universities in support of higher education. The office is responsible for advising the president on government policy and proposed legislation and in developing institutional positions.

In reflecting on his experience in government relations, Byers cites the university’s government relations policy as being very important to the university.

“When communicating with elected officials and state agencies it is important for our message to be prioritized and coordinated,” said Byers. “The government relations office works with the president and the university community in an open fashion to develop institutional positions on government policy and proposed legislation and to invite and host government leaders on campus.”

“It can become complicated quickly when public officials, particularly those high in government, come to campus. Security, interaction with university administrators, facilities and the like are important,” said Yianilos. “In many instances, the government official wants the explicit or tacit approval of the president of the university.”

“As Virginia’s land-grant university, we have much to offer in helping set state policy and our professors and students play an important role in requisite public discourse.” We can help in this regard, but we need to be involved,” said Hooper, who monitors state legislation and works closely with the General Assembly and state officials.

The policy on communications with government officials or campus visits can be found online.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.

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