Changes in Government Relations reflect expanded role
Several personnel changes have been announced to reflect the growing and expanded role of Virginia Tech’s Office of Government Relations.
Chris Yianilos, who has served Virginia Tech as its lead government relations officer since 2013, has been promoted to vice president for government and community relations.
In addition, Elizabeth Hooper, who has served as the university’s director of state relations since 2013, will become associate vice president of government and community relations. She will remain engaged in state liaison work and expand into community and federal relations.
Rebekah Gunn, who has served as assistant director of government relations since 2019, will become director of government relations and Roanoke community relations. Her new duties reflect the growing presence Virginia Tech has in the greater Roanoke Valley.
A search will soon be launched for a director of local government and community relations in the New River Valley to maintain the strong partnerships the university has with the community surrounding the Blacksburg campus.
In 2019, the Office of Government Relations was tasked by President Tim Sands to lead the university’s community relations efforts in Northern Virginia, and with this announcement, the team will engage more deeply in similar work in Roanoke and the New River Valley.
“The government and community relations team has been an instrumental strategic partner in several major endeavors at the university,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands. “From the Innovation Campus, to the growth of the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, to the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative, and many others, this team has been invaluable to the university. Their work is a critical component in continuing to move the university forward, and I am pleased that these new roles will provide additional ways for the team to serve the university.”
Yianilos, who joined Virginia Tech in 2009, leads a team which represents the university before federal, state, and local government officials. In addition, the Office of Government and Community Relations closely monitors legislation and agency actions, facilitates interactions with university administrators and faculty in support of university initiatives, and cultivates relationships with elected and appointed officials to keep them informed on issues and initiatives important to the university and higher education.
Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Yianilos worked for more than a decade with U.S. Senator John Warner as his deputy chief of staff, legislative director, and legislative counsel. He also worked for the Hon. David A. Faber, U.S. District Judge in the southern district of West Virginia.
In 2010, Yianilos established the Virginia Tech Capitol Hill-focused internship program, Hokies on the Hill. This model experiential learning program offers students an opportunity to work in Washington, D.C, gain a full semester’s worth of academic credit while interning on Capitol Hill, and participate in small classroom seminars focused on real-world, timely policy topics. Yianilos will continue to lead the program, which has launched the policy careers of several Virginia Tech graduates.
Yianilos received his bachelor’s degree from Virginia Tech and a law degree from Washington & Lee University’s School of Law.
Hooper joined Virginia Tech in 2010 and was named director of state relations in 2013. She received her undergraduate degree from Radford University and a graduate degree from Virginia Tech.
Gunn joined government relations in 2019 after serving as vice president of public policy for the Roanoke Regional Chamber of Commerce. She had previously worked in North Carolina government and earned her undergraduate degree in political science from North Carolina State University.