I am incredibly honored to be a fellow in Class IV of VALOR. I am grateful for this opportunity to grow professionally and have a deeper understanding of the industry. Having met my VALOR peers at the first seminar I am incredibly impressed with their diverse backgrounds and I am excited to develop new relationships
My name is Emily Wong and I am from Radford, VA. Growing up I did not give much consideration to agriculture. My uncle lived on a farm in Pulaski and I always loved visiting and exploring the land. Although I had a passion for the outdoors I did not fully understand the importance of agriculture and how much it touches everyone’s lives everyday. Radford is in the middle of a rural area but it is dominated by the college atmosphere that Radford University and Virginia Tech provide. Most of my family worked at the local universities so I had an appreciation for education at a very young age. When it came time to start filling out college applications, Virginia Tech was high on the list. In September of my senior year, an admissions counselor came to Radford High School and reviewed my application and offered me admission on the spot. I was so excited to be a Hokie. When I started my college career I wasn’t really sure what to choose for my major. I was good with numbers and I enjoyed my drafting/VICA classes in high school. I took general courses and like most undecided students I encountered a professor who set me on the my path. The course was Introduction to Family Financial Management and the professor was Dr. Ruth Lytton. Dr. Lytton was incredibly passionate about the material and the relevance of financial planning sparked my interest. I declared my major in resource management with a focus on consumer studies. I enjoyed learning how to teach others how to be more savvy with their resources and how to defend themselves against corrupt business practices.
Virginia Tech changed my life in many ways. I embraced the spirit of Ut Prosim (that I may serve) and learned more about the global society in which we live. I had never traveled much but was inspired to sign up for a study abroad experience in South Africa. Witnessing the extreme poverty and struggles in the country was eye opening. When I returned to the states, I was no longer satisfied with the idea of pursuing a career in business after graduating. I wanted to use my skill set to improve the situation of others less fortunate. Shortly after I heard the phrase, Life is Calling….How Far Will You Go?
This was the Peace Corps tagline when I was graduating from VT. I stopped by the recruiters officers not sure how serious I was about the prospect of living in a developing country for 2 years earning a few hundred dollars a month. The more I though about it the more I knew it was my next step. I applied not knowing where or when I would end up going. I went in for my interview and was accepted with a tentative in country date of September 2004. This only gave me five months which was probably good since I didn’t have a chance to overthink the decision and change my mind. When my letter came in the mail it listed Guatemala as my country of service. My Spanish was high school level at best and I was off to a country where almost no one spoke English. There were 36 of us that arrived for three months of training. I was assigned to be a Small Business Development – Youth volunteer in conjunction with Junior Achievement. Half of the volunteers were being trained for business and the other half were agriculture production. Watching my peers vaccinate animals, develop crop plans, and create sustainable agriculture plans was fascinating. With so much of the population being on a poverty level where hunger is common, I started to truly appreciate the importance of agriculture.
My two years of service flew by and I loved working with the students and teachers. I met my husband near the end of my service and ended up staying for another year and a half. Upon returning to the US, I decided to pursue an MBA. I completed my degree and held various positions in higher education for several years as an admissions counselor and as a higher education readiness specialist. My husband and I continued to travel the world and we enjoyed living in Southwest Virginia.
Four years ago I was lucky enough to be recruited by my alma mater. I started working at VT as a development officer for the College of Science. In March 2018 I accepted a position as a major gift officer in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. It has been incredibly fulfilling working with a team that is passionate about the land-grant mission. Of all the colleges at VT, CALS represents the roots of Virginia Tech more than any other. Through the work done by all of our extension agents throughout Virginia in local offices we have an impact on more lives than can be counted. I feel blessed to work with such amazing people and I am proud to play a small role in fundraising for the important work that is being done.
When I received my interview date for VALOR, I became nostalgic for that familiar feeling. Life is calling…..I’m ready for the next step.