An improbable president

3/19/2008 | By: Scott Gayer  |

Eli Reilly came to Nevada for his first year of college intending to transfer after two semesters.

He changed his mind pretty quickly.

"Everything I wanted in a college experience was here," Reilly said. "I just had to look for it."

Likewise, Reilly, the president-elect of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada (ASUN), had no initial intention of becoming student body president either. He avoided high school politics and wasn't planning on doing anything differently as a freshman residence hall student.

Leadership comes knocking

That's when fate came knocking, literally. Friends involved in the Residence Hall Association came to his door and invited Reilly into RHA meetings while he lived in Nye Hall. The following year he pledged the Sigma Nu fraternity, saying it allowed him the opportunity to meet students he would not have met otherwise.

Reilly's appetite for student involvement continued to grow. After a disappointing defeat for a seat on the student senate, Reilly applied to be the travel and recreation chair for Flipside, ASUN's programming board, his sophomore year. He used that position to help get him elected in 2007 as ASUN's Vice President for Programming. (During that election, ASUN also passed its new constitution which changes the vice president position to an appointed director position.)

Reilly, a 20-year-old history major, said he initially thought that being ASUN president was a pipe dream. After meeting Jeff Champagne, the ASUN president from 2005 to 2007, Reilly said "the whole job seemed like it was too much to handle."

"When I first met Jeff Champagne, I was like, 'Wow, that job looks hard,'" he said. "I never thought in a million years that I would have a job like that."

Yet, the possibility slowly grew during his tenure as programming director.

"I just kind of had this epiphany," Reilly said of his original decision to move forward in the campaign. "I don't think a lot of people enter ASUN with the goal of becoming president. I just never thought that I would be in a position where I felt I would be qualified to do it. To see it all come to fruition is truly an amazing experience."

Driven by values

A native of Southern California, Reilly is the first in his family to come to college. He said many of his values come from his family life and his high-school athletic involvement on the wrestling team. Luckily both sources taught him the determination he would need to endure an ASUN election.

As Reilly develops a vision for the next year of ASUN initiatives, he said he knows that he cannot do anything by himself. After spending many of his years in wrestling, he knows the value of working with others.

"I'm a big believer that you're only as strong as your team," Reilly said.

Working with others, he hopes to achieve some daunting goals, the first of which is moving closer to a 24-hour campus community. Reilly said his first test will be working with student union officials to devise a way for the Joe Crowley Student Union to stay open at all hours.

"Our living room shouldn't close at midnight," Reilly said of the new union. "Not every student has a computer but every student has a deadline."

Reilly's other top priority will be to have ASUN help fund the "blue-light" system, a series of call boxes around campus that connect users with University Police and Campus Escort.

However, the most important of his first actions in office will be to help craft the proposal to the Board of Regents asking that ASUN receive the proposed $5 per credit fee that was approved to appetite this year's state budget shortfall. In turn, the University would receive the $4.36 per credit fee that ASUN already receives. If the Regents agree, ASUN's budget would grow from $1.3 to $1.7 million.

As he sees it, Reilly's greatest charge is to show students what ASUN is capable of. During his visits to other universities, he has often come away realizing how Nevada is often superior when it comes to resources and activities offered to students.

"Ultimately we would love to create a new kind of culture and climate," Reilly said. "Anything you want to do can be done here."


For more news on the University of Nevada, Reno, follow @unevadareno on Twitter.

Get Nevada Today in your Inbox!