Hokie Ambassadors lead by walking backward
February 19, 2019
The Virginia Tech campus features any number of curious sights, some of which change with every new research project or gadget that comes on the market. In the midst of these, there’s one enduring curiosity: someone walking backward while talking to a group of visitors.
These students are part of an Office of Undergraduate Admissions volunteer team known as Hokie Ambassadors, also known in years past as the RSVP (Recruiting Student Volunteer Program).
The 2018 incoming class of ambassadors was the largest ever, with 65 students from all colleges and undergraduate classes. More than 300 students applied to fill the ambassador spots. The selection process closely resembles a job interview. Once selected, new ambassadors are mentored by seasoned veterans to fine-tune their presentation and keep their delivery engaging. And they don’t just make everything up; there is a 27-page factsheet curated from past years containing, “must-knows” and “fun facts” to choose from.
The ambassadors volunteer their time but are required to provide at least seven regular tours and work three special events through the semester to maintain their status as an ambassador.
"Hokie Ambassadors live out Ut Prosim by giving campus tours to prospective students and families in order to share knowledge, passion, spirit, and traditions of the university with future generations of Hokies," said Danielle Garrett, 2018 Hokie Ambassador President.
Walking backward is essential and a skill that improves with experience. Ambassadors get plenty of practice. During the course of the academic year, the team total will surpass 800 miles in reverse. The guides almost never take a tumble, and no serious injuries — other than an occasional embarrassment — have been logged in the six years that director Traci McCoy has served as an advisor for the group.
Most of the students who commit their time to the group are active in other endeavors, including Greek organizations, varsity sports, orientation, student government, the Corps of Cadets, Marching Virginians, and student alumni associates. The one consistent quality among them is a commitment to serve.
"I joined Hokie Ambassadors because I wanted to give back to Virginia Tech in a way that would make a lasting impact," said 2018 Ambassador recruit Kailey Blaylock. "Helping future Hokies find their home is most rewarding part of leading Virginia Tech forward while walking backwards."
“I joined Hokie Ambassadors because my love for Virginia Tech is something that is so easy for me to share,” said Emily Parsons, a biological systems engineering major. “Joining this organization gave me the opportunity to share my home away from home with potential new Hokies and hopefully help them fall in love with the Hokie community, just as I did.”
Total miles walked backward yearly: 800
Number of people in a tour group:
Number of tours given in 2018:
more than 1,840
Guests served in 2018:
more than 35,000
"Do you get paid for this?"