Behind the festive, weeklong celebration of Virginia Tech’s 2017 Homecoming are 17 students who comprise the Homecoming Board. They started planning in January 2017, collaborating with student organizations, Corps of Cadets, the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, and the community to make the best Homecoming possible. Working side-by-side with them is Emily Mawyer, assistant director of campus events and advisor to the Homecoming Board.

Mawyer may work behind the scenes, but her dedication, attention to detail, and investment in student leaders are evident in the execution of campus-wide events.

“Emily has been great at motivating each board member to reach their full potential,” said Mariame Pierce, president of Virginia Tech’s Homecoming Board and a senior from Vienna, Virginia, studying applied economic management and financial planning in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “She has challenged us to look at the bigger picture of Homecoming and what it means to the university. Without her help, Homecoming wouldn't be what it is today.”

A proud moment for Mawyer came in 2015 when the Homecoming Board initiated service platforms as the crux of every candidate’s campaign for Homecoming King and Queen.

“Many people didn’t understand why, and there was pushback from some areas, but the students who made the decision confronted the critics with grace and strong reasoning,” said Mawyer. “Now, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that this was the right decision and it made the organization, and Homecoming itself, a stronger, more connected program.”

Mawyer graduated in 2013 from Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business with a degree in hospitality and tourism management. She began working with Student Affairs in the Event Planning Office as a student in 2010 and became a full-time event planning advisor at the start of her final undergraduate semester.

Now assistant director of campus events, Mawyer advises, directs, and supports The Big Event and the Virginia Tech Homecoming Board and its student leadership. In this role, she helps students to understand and use institutional, local, state, and federal policies and laws.

Helping students navigate challenges is what she finds most rewarding about her job.

“When putting on events and programs, unexpected hiccups are always going to happen,” said Mawyer. “Instead of rushing to give students the answer or fix the problem for them, I love talking through issues and hearing how they think the problem can be resolved. My office is and always will be a safe environment for students to talk out solutions and to make mistakes.”

“Whenever she has an idea, she asks us a question instead of stating an opinion,” said Pierce. “For example, she would say ‘Have you thought about changing the title of Homecoming King and Queen to maybe be more gender inclusive?’ It really helps because her guiding questions allow the board to look at the bigger picture and the direction we want Homecoming to go,” said Pierce.

Helen Zhang, a sophomore from Springfield, Virginia, studying business information technology in the Pamplin College of Business, is director of programming for the Homecoming Board. Zhang views Mawyer as a mentor who stretches students to be creative and critical thinkers.

“Since working with her, I’ve learned that a leader is someone you can trust to guide you to reach short- and long-term goals and help you grow as a person,” said Zhang.

In addition to guiding the work of the Virginia Tech Homecoming Board, Mawyer oversees the execution of Hokie Hi events, Labor Day events, Family Weekend events, and late-night programming, such as GobblerNights. She also partners with the Event Planning Office and Student Budget Board to help identify and work with student organizations to understand the necessary components of hosting a major event at Virginia Tech.

Written by Tiffany Woodall.

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