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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Q&A: Rollins reflects on being A&M’s first female Student Body President

Brooke+Rollins%2C+pictured+above+on+the+day+she+was+elected%2C+was+the+first+woman+to+serve+as+Student+Body+President.
Photo by File

Brooke Rollins, pictured above on the day she was elected, was the first woman to serve as Student Body President.

In honor of National Women’s Month, The Battalion news reporter Katherine Garcia sat down with Brooke Rollins, CEO and president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, who served as the first female Student Body President from 1994-95.
THE BATTALION: What did it mean to you to be the first female Student Body President?
ROLLINS: It was one of the great honors of my life, and now that I am 22 years removed, it seems like yesterday. But now that it’s been … 24 years almost exactly to the day when I was elected, but really, even then I knew that it would be something that would stay with me forever. Now looking back on it, almost a quarter of a century, I mean there’s really not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it or draw some lesson I learned from it or remember that it was just one of the most wonderful things I think I could have ever done. So, it’s with a lot of fondness to look back on that.
THE BATTALION: Were there any memorable challenges as Student Body President? If so, how did you overcome those challenges?
ROLLINS: I think any time that you are put in a position of leadership and you want to affect positive change, whatever that is, that’s always a challenge and not necessarily a negative challenge. It’s just that it’s the easy thing to do, is to go with the status quo, always. Especially in my career, that has certainly been true too, that it would be so much easier sometimes if I could walk away or not worry about A, B or C. And at A&M, there was nothing significant. I mean, it was an awesome year. We didn’t have to deal with the Bonfire tragedy. I didn’t have to deal with any of some of the big questions that other student governments or other student leaders have had to deal with. But we were really, for the first time, trying to do some neat and different things. We were trying to put some scholarship programs in place for kids that really exhibited a lot of leadership skills, and up until that point it really had been a lot of academic and athletic focused. We were trying to create more opportunities for students to get involved. We were trying to better integrate the campus, not necessarily racially or ethnically, but integrate all the different student organizations and so they could work more closely together. We just really had a lot of neat and big ideas and worked really hard.
THE BATTALION: How did your position at A&M reflect your career aspirations?
ROLLINS: I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew what A&M taught me was what a gift it was to be a part of something bigger than yourself, and I always had a real passion to help people. I had thought about the ministry. I thought about teaching. I just didn’t know, but I knew that I really wanted to work hard and try to make the world a better place, as cliche as that sounds. And so, I thought, ‘I’ll go to law school,’ and there’s not a bunch out there that have helped people more than public policy, and that is based on the law, passing laws. And that’s why I thought law school [was] a good next step for me. So I went to [the University of] Texas’s law school, which was an awesome experience, and I practiced law for a few years but decided really my heart was in public policy. So really what the direction that A&M really sent me in was, I didn’t think, ‘I’m going to be a head of a think tank,’ or ‘I’m going to go to the White House someday,’ but I walked away saying, ‘I really want to do something that matters and that will live to lead people to a better life, whatever that is.’ So it really did. It really sort of, I wouldn’t say it changed the direction of my life, because I think that’s where I was going anyway. But, it really helped the trajectory of what I wanted to do and helped me kind of figure that out.
THE BATTALION: In reference to National Women’s Month, are there any inspirational women in your life?
ROLLINS: First and most important is my sweet mom who was a single mother, raised my sisters and me by herself. … I think there was some interest because I was the first female Student Body President, and so [The Battalion] wrote about me a lot, and in almost all of those, at least the bio sketches, I would talk about my mom. [She] was the hardest worker who always taught my sisters and me that anything is possible as long as you worked hard and dream big. And so, even today, National Women’s Month, 24 years later, talking to y’all again, I would say she has definitely been the most impactful and the example that I try to follow everyday. And bigger, more well known, well I didn’t personally know her, was Margaret Thatcher, who was the first female prime minister in the United Kingdom, and I just love her story. I loved her vision. I love her ideas. She really affected change and then at a time when the world was in a different place, facing potential nuclear war, over communism. She never looked back and never let anyone tell her she couldn’t do something because she couldn’t achieve something because of push back. So she’s a real inspiration to me.
THE BATTALION: You will be replacing Reed Cordish in the White House Office of American Innovation. What are your goals for the position?
ROLLINS: I would say that first of all, I’m incredibly honored. This is just a continuation of my life’s work to help people, all people, but most importantly those who are at the bottom of the economic ladder and I so strongly believe that what we’ve done in Texas, and what I’ve done leading the Texas Public Policy Foundation for the last 15 years and moving our state in a really pro-growth, pro-free enterprise direction, is the marker by which the White House wishes to move, and so taking the lessons from my days in Aggieland, taking the lessons from my days leading one of the nation’s top think tanks and really working to make Texas better and now being able to take that to the West Wing is one of another great honors of my life. I’m really excited about it, and we’ll see how it goes.

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