Virginia Tech Magazine
Spring 2010
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From campus to community: SGA presidents embrace service and leadership
SGA news clippings from Virginai Tech
From one of the first Student Government Association (SGA) presidents to serve Virginia Tech to its current president, a familiar sentiment spans the decades: Serving cultivates a lifelong desire for community involvement.


In early 1966, changes loomed on the horizon for student governance at Virginia Tech. Until then, the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets had had its own governing body and elected its own presidents. In 1930, male civilian students countered with their own government and president. Not to be left out of the mix, female students in 1934 formed a women's student union. Five years later, in a move to wrest some of the power from the corps, the civilian governments merged to form the Civilian Student body. But with the world around Blacksburg changing and the university's civilian student population rapidly increasing, transformation of student government was inevitable. On April 19, 1966, the civilian and military student governments united under a single constitution, giving rise to today's Student Government Association.


Ray Smoot '69, '71

Ray Smoot '69, '71

Serving as SGA president gives students the opportunity to make changes--some of them lasting. Ray Smoot (English '69, MS education administration '71), treasurer of Virginia Tech and chief operating officer of the Virginia Tech Foundation, remembers the changes to student government. "Marshall Hahn was president of the university at the time and had established a very aggressive plan to grow the size and scope of the university. I guess, as many students did, I got caught up in the excitement, and I wanted to be a part of it."

Smoot decided to campaign for the SGA presidency in 1968 with two goals in mind: to increase student involvement in the university governance system and to obtain official university recognition of fraternities and sororities. He became a driving force for the atmosphere of positive change throughout campus, and today's Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life is evidence of his dedication and success.

"Serving as SGA president gave me a sense of being purposefully engaged in advancing Virginia Tech," Smoot says. "It profoundly influenced the course of the rest of my life by virtue of going into university administration. It also reinforced for me a desire to be involved in the community, which I have done since then by serving on the boards of community organizations."


Russell Thomas '85 (1985 Bugle)
Russell Thomas '85 in the 1985 Bugle
"Serving as SGA president was really a defining moment in my life. It was my first real taste of leadership," says Russell Thomas (political science '85), president in 1984-85.

Typically more into sports than student government, Thomas "got tired of hearing people talk but do nothing about their concerns. I decided I could do more in the game than on the sidelines," he says about his motivation to join SGA. After serving as an SGA senator, he ran for president and won.

One of his greatest accomplishments during his SGA service was helping to establish a seat on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors for an undergraduate student representative. Today, that position is highly sought after by some of the university's top undergraduate students.

After completing law school and practicing in Tampa, Fla., for nearly a decade, Thomas is now president of a company in Jacksonville, Fla., that helps improve the healthcare delivery system. Thomas says, "I love Virginia Tech. I think a lot of that feeling comes from the fact that I gave back to others while I was there, and I developed a deep loyalty to the university as a consequence of my service."


Just as Smoot and Thomas felt compelled to serve their peers, Missy Byrne Nelson (finance '92) also aspired to make a difference as SGA president.

Missy Byrne Nelson '92
Missy Byrne Nelson '92
Arriving in Blacksburg from New Jersey in the late 1980s, Nelson didn't know anyone. She decided to get involved with student government as a way to get better connected with the university and her classmates and was elected class president during her sophomore year. "Serving as class president got me hooked on the traditions of Virginia Tech and taught me so much about the history of the institution, but I wanted to be more involved in the current events throughout campus," says Nelson. That's when she decided to run for SGA president, and in 1991, she was elected.

During Nelson's term, she became involved with the Order of the Gavel and worked to improve the representation of student organizations and colleges. She also fostered friendships among the undergraduate and graduate student bodies.

Like her predecessors, Nelson's position as SGA president offered her an opportunity to get to know university administrators. She credits them with helping her realize her potential and encouraging her to pursue a career in medicine, as well as teaching her the importance of community service. Today, Nelson is a pediatrician in Richmond, Va., and gives her time to numerous boards and councils.


Sumeet Bagai was elected SGA president in 2005 and again in 2006. He is one of only two individuals in the university's history to be elected to two consecutive terms. (David Baker served 1987-1989.)

Sumeet Bagai '07
Sumeet Bagai '07
Bagai (business management '07) became involved with SGA as a first-year student and says that SGA quickly became a huge part of his life. "I think I knew when I ran for my first term that it was going to be a two-part mission. While I felt like I had a successful first term, I knew there was more I wanted to do and that I had more left to give to the university," he says.

During his two terms of leadership, student involvement in SGA grew--as did its success. Relay for Life and The Big Event, two SGA-sponsored events, enticed more students to raise money and volunteer their time serving others. In 2005, Bagai was asked by university administrators to represent the SGA in creating and signing the Virginia Tech Principles of Community, a document that affirms the university's commitment to create a welcoming community that nurtures learning and growth for all of its members. He has also been actively engaged in Hokies United and leads student efforts in serving those in need within and outside the university community.

Bagai is currently self-employed, a business decision for which he credits the SGA. "I knew as I evolved as an SGA president that I wanted to run my own company. I owe so much of who I am to SGA," he says.

Brandon Carroll '10

Brandon Carroll '10

Brandon Carroll, a senior majoring in agricultural and applied economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, is Virginia Tech's current SGA president. Like others before him, Carroll possesses a passion for service. His motivation to run for office was fueled by the university's motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve). "Our motto is a powerful thing," Carroll says. "As Hokies, it means that we put more into relationships than we receive, and we embrace that concept. Where else in my life am I going to be able to have a significant impact on thousands of people? What an opportunity and what a privilege!"

Carroll, whose term as SGA president ends this spring, says he's been humbled by the experience. It has allowed him to realize his calling in life, he says, which is to positively impact the lives of those around him. "Whatever my future holds, ... I know that my experience in SGA will help me."

Throughout the history of SGA, its presidents have become life leaders, and their love of service transcends campus to become a lifelong love of community. As SGA presidents have shown over the decades, the value of SGA involvement at Virginia Tech extends beyond an ordinary college experience, helping these student leaders to become citizens who embody the spirit of Hokie service.

SGA PRESIDENTS . 1966 to present

The first president of the Student Government Association (Unified Student Body during 1966-67) was elected for the 1966-67 session. In the only split term, Sharon J. Brown, the first woman president, assumed office in mid-year in 1980-81 upon the resignation of the previous president.

SGA presidents, listed by the academic year in which they served:

1966-67 M.G. Rigney
1967-68 William Coulbourne Jr.
1968-69 Raymond D. Smoot Jr.
1969-70 D.M. Norris
1970-71 R.L. Hawthorne
1971-72 Fred W. George
1972-73 C.C. “Chuck” Lacy
1973-74 Neil Burgess
1974-75 Gary Clisham
1975-76 Steven K. Bannon
1976-77 Mark B. Warlick
1977-78 Danny J. Ludeman
1978-79 L.J. “Chip” Fortier II
1979-80 James W. Tucker
1980-81 J.J. Zelloe (resigned)

1980-81 Sharon J. Brown
1981-82 Sharon L. Williams
1982-83 Bob Jones
1983-84 Jeffrey A. Swartz
1984-85 Russell S. Thomas
1985-86 Walt Williams
1986-87 Dan Mahony
1987-88 David Baker
1988-89 David Baker
1989-90 David Gilbert
1990-91 James Budd
1991-92 Melissa Byrne
1992-93 Kevin Motley
1993-94 Ronald Stephenson
1994-95 Seth Ginther
1995-96 Shiloh Bates
1996-97 Jay Hulings
1997-98 Steve Schneider
1998-99 Jody Olson
1999-00 Aaron McClung
2000-01 Kylie Felps
2001-02 Brian Montgomery
2002-03 Sterling Daniel
2003-04 Brant Snyder
2004-05 Sumeet Bagai
2005-06 Sumeet Bagai
2006-07 James Tyger
2007-08 Adeel Kahn
2008-09 Emily R. Mashack
2009-10 Brandon J. Carroll
MEGHAN WILLIAMS is the communications manager for the Division of Student Affairs.

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