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Western hires a new director for the Office of Government Relations

Nora Selander, a Western alumna, takes over in time for the 2023 legislative session

Nora Selander, the director of the Office of Government Relations, at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., in summer 2022. She advocates for policy related to Western’s priorities. // Photo courtesy of Nora Selander

Nora Selander is the new director of the Office of Government Relations at Western Washington University.

This office works with elected officials in the state and federal government to promote and pursue policy objectives related to Western and its students and faculty.

Selander, a Western alumna, has been working within higher education and government since graduating college in 2017. During her senior year, she worked with the Associated Students of Western as its student lobbyist and advocated for students' rights in policy making. 

Prior to becoming the director of government relations at Western, Selander held the same position at Evergreen State College.

The office closely tracks legislative policy that has the potential to impact the university, said Becca Kenna-Schenk, the chief of staff at Western and previous director of government relations.

“We track most closely policy proposals related to topics such as student financial aid, academic affairs and state funding proposals with impact to WWU or public higher education,” Kenna-Schenk said.

Policies are promoted through written correspondence with legislators and testifying in public hearings, Kenna-Schenk said. 

Selander and other Western representatives work in Olympia, Wash., to promote policies important to Western during the legislative session.

The director of government relations, along with college leadership, meets with legislators to update them about the state of Western and how they can support Western’s requests for the next two years, Selander said. 

The 2023 Washington Legislative Session started on Jan. 9 and will last until April 23.

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Timeline of important events in Washington’s 2023 legislative session. // Infographic by Jenna Millikan

Selander’s top priorities this legislative session are policies related to cost-of-living adjustments for Western faculty, offering more graduate degrees and increased financial aid and grants. 

Selander is focused on budget-related policy to support the needs of Western as it welcomes the largest incoming class in the university's history.

“It's really incredible, especially because enrollment across higher education, both nationally and in our state, has taken a hit in the last couple of years,” Selander said. “It's impressive what Western is doing right now.”

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Old Main at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., on Feb. 6, 2023. The Office of Government Relations is located in Old Main 480C. // Photo by Jenna Millikan

The Office of Government Relations works alongside faculty representatives, the Office of Civic Engagement and other four-year colleges in Washington to promote policy that would benefit their student body.

Autumn Kasprowicz, the OCE civic involvement coordinator, said the OCE works to represent students and keep them informed by promoting bills on social media and at Western events. 

Students can get involved with the OCE by signing up to testify for bills and participating in lobby days

Making it accessible for students to contact legislatures is important because civic engagement, despite slow increases, is still low, Kasprowicz said.

“I think that it's important because civic engagement and civic education is one of the most important things that you can do as a young person,” Kasprowicz said. “We are the newest generation of voters, the next generation of legislators and officials.”

Jenna Millikan

Jenna Millikan (she/her) is a city news reporter for The Front this quarter. She is a third-year student majoring in journalism with a minor in political science. When not reporting, she enjoys cheesy movies, reading and drinking too much coffee. 

You can reach her 

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