Despite not actually being Panhellenic, Emily Virgin of Norman, Oklahoma is the perfect example of what a Panhellenic woman should be—poised, empowered, and compassionate.
This young woman graduated from OU in 2009 and then was elected into the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2010—at the age of 23.
If you’ve ever had the opportunity to be around her, you can see why she was elected despite her young age; her commitment to Oklahoma and willingness to go the extra mile shines through her. Keep reading to learn more about this strong leader, her thoughts on the state of Oklahoma, and what you as a college student can do to help.
Emily Virgin has always had a servant's heart, even from a young age.
“I’m one of those weird people who actually grew up and did what they said they wanted to do when they were 5-years-old,” She said. “I always knew I wanted to be a lawyer and public servant. But I definitely wasn’t thinking I would start my career in politics so early. My legislative seat was being vacated by a legislator who was subject to term limits. My dad actually kind of planted the seed with me about potentially running for this seat, because it was going to be open in the next election, and I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head. I knew I was qualified and could help the people of my district, and so I decided to run.”
She knew that she wanted to serve Oklahoma in some way, and eventually decided she could best do that by running for public office and going to law school. “I realized that the best way I could do that was through public service – that’s just the best way that I could put my gifts and talents to use. I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to figure out the best way to use their talents to help other people.”
Last week, she took the Bar exam, so she’s well on her way to filling her 5-year-old wishes. Speaking of 5-year-olds, we discussed her childhood. She started with this tragedy, “I always wanted a My-Size Barbie, but never got one.” Luckily, her dad made up for it. “I had an awesome Playmobil dollhouse that was probably the coolest thing I ever owned," she said. "It took my dad all day on Christmas to put it together, so you can imagine how much he loved it.”
Continuing with the nostalgic theme, I asked who was her favorite Disney princess. Not surprisingly, she chose Mulan, another strong woman with a servant's heart. We went on to discuss the state of Oklahoma, and what can be done about it. “Absolutely one of the biggest problems is that common education is not funded as well as it should be," she said. "Our teachers need to be paid more, so that we can attract and retain the best teachers. To me, education is the foundation of all other issues, and we need to make sure we give it adequate funding…I hope that Oklahoma will truly make common education and higher education a priority."
Virgin said she loves Oklahoma. "I think we’re among the most caring people in the country. However, I think we don’t do a good enough job of caring for those who need it the most – needy children, the hungry, poor, elderly, etc. That goes back to funding, as well. I’m sure everyone has good intentions with these groups, but we have to put our money where our mouth is. We currently have 7,000 people on a waiting list for services from the Department of Disability Services. That is simply unacceptable, so I hope that we will truly care for underserved populations in the future, because we are a caring and giving population.”
If these issues resonate with you, Representative Virgin has some advice. “The best way to get involved in politics is to work on a state or local campaign. Get involved with a candidate you believe in, and work hard to get them elected or re-elect them.” If you don’t have the time to volunteer, there are other options.
“Another thing I would encourage you to do is pay attention to the bills that are going through the legislature, and if there’s one that interests you, contact your legislator about it. It would mean so much to a legislator if a college student was vocal about their support or opposition of a particular piece of legislation.” Finally, if you truly want to make Oklahoma a better state she has one recommendation. “Vote," she said. "I can’t stress enough the importance of registering to vote, and being an active voter.”