‘Inside UVA’: Former Student Council President Reflects on 4 Years on Grounds

April 27, 2022 By Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu Jane Kelly, jak4g@virginia.edu

Audio: “Inside UVA” with former Student Council President Abel Liu(16:27)

Liu said one triumph for Student Council was helping initiate the credit/no-credit option at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.


Abel Liu is in his fourth undergraduate year at the University of Virginia. An Echols Scholar as well as a Truman Scholar, Liu was the first transgender student to serve as Student Council president at UVA.

But that first is not something he sought out.

“I never tried to be the first anything,” he told President Jim Ryan on Ryan’s podcast, “Inside UVA,” which focuses on how a large public university is run.

“I think it’s less triumphant and a little bit more exhausting than people might imagine,” Liu said. “Having to set new norms and standards around, say, introducing yourself with pronouns when I step into rooms that aren’t used to having transgender people in them.

“I think I’m also actually the first Chinese American student body president at UVA,” Liu said.

There were times during his term as student class president last year that Liu said transgender and queer students and Chinese American students needed a voice.

“Trans and queer students actually stop me quite often and let me know that I’ve made them feel more welcome at UVA,” Liu said. “It hasn’t affected my agenda. It’s affected the way I interact with people.”

“Yeah. That makes total sense,” Ryan responded. “You’re opening a door that hadn’t been open before, and other people can see that it’s open now.”

Related Story

Daily Report
The latest UVA news, delivered to your inbox.
The Daily Report is UVA Today's newsletter, delivered every weekday morning. Curated to keep you up-to-date on the latest UVA news, from breaking stories, leading research, upcoming community events and more.

Ryan asked Liu about the day-to-day work of a Student Council president. “I think being Student Council president, it’s easily 40 or 50 hours a week” of work, Liu said. “Over my four years at UVA, I think I have done about 10,000 hours in service to Student Council.”

On a “normal day,” Liu said he would expect to have an internal meeting with council, meetings with some student groups and a meeting with an administrator or two. “There’s a lot of writing and reviewing proposals, memos and lots of slide decks, lots of presentations,” he said. “But I think the thing I didn’t expect is there are also emergencies.”

Liu reflected on some of the improvements made by Student Council during his four years at UVA.

“If you ask the student body, ‘What is the one thing Student Council has delivered to you over the past few years that made the biggest impact in your life?,’ I promise the answer would be the credit/no-credit policy during COVID.” The policy allowed students to take their suddenly online courses on a pass-fail basis, rather than for the usual letter grades.

He said that shift was deeply gratifying.

To hear more about Liu’s thoughts about the positive impact Student Council can have at UVA, tune into this week’s episode of “Inside UVA.”

You can listen to his conversation with Ryan and previous episodes on most podcast apps, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts.

Media Contact

Jane Kelly

University News Senior Associate Office of University Communications