Passions defined: Roanoke student embraces college life

Cramming the night before a major test? Not a good idea.

Making time to get involved in college life? Necessary.

These are some insights that Emily Crew has gleaned in the past three years. But the Roanoke College senior's life at the scenic Salem campus is more than socializing and studying. At Roanoke, Crew found her passions.

Crew grew up a country girl in Montpelier,Va., playing in creeks, building make-believe forts and even donning a bee suit while helping her father who farmed honeybees on the family's land as a hobby.

Coming to Roanoke College opened her eyes to life in a small city and helped her uncover some interests that she never knew existed.

Crew, 21, is a business major at Roanoke, but her schedule is brimming with extracurricular activities on campus.

She is an active member of the Phi Mu women's fraternity, and she helps to direct video shoots, arrange photos, work with social media and more as an Internet communications student assistant in Roanoke's public relations office.

"I didn't try to just hide in my room," Crew said, describing her first days as a freshman at Roanoke. "You have to push yourself."

Self-motivation obviously worked for Crew, who has a 3.0 GPA. Initially, she considered majoring in history or international relations. But her academic focus shifted when she took her first accounting class. Crew was hooked.

"It was the first time a class has really clicked and made sense," she said.

Crew considers herself a numbers person, and she is a standout in the classroom, because she pushes herself to learn and understand, said Sharon Gibbs, an associate professor in Roanoke's business administration and economics department.

Crew is "one of those students who isn't afraid to ask questions," said Gibbs, explaining that Crew often comes to her with inquiries about assignments. "She puts the time into it."

In the summer of 2011, Crew signed up for an intense eight-week business project as part of Roanoke's Innovation Challenge, an internship program that requires a team of students to research a topic and develop a business plan or new strategy. Crew and four other students, who worked many days from 9 a.m. to midnight, created a five-year business plan for Lisa Helmick, who makes and sells homemade chicken and desert pies from her Botetourt County home.

Helmick, who has run her business, The Pie Lady, for five years, wanted to increase her sales and grow her enterprise. After weeks of in-depth analysis, Crew's team offered Helmick unique expansion ideas, including laying the ground work to eventually sell her pies in Kroger stores. The students even chose a contractor for a potential storefront location in Daleville if Helmick decides to move forward with it.

As for Crew's work with the project, "she's very business-like yet very personable," Helmick said. She said she appreciated that Crew recognized her challenges as a mother running a business out of her home.

"She has such a talent to quickly assess the situation, kind of look at all of the aspects that go into that business," Helmick said.

Crew has other campus interests aside from business classes. She enjoys service activities through Phi Mu, such as Relay for Life. She's also an intense intramural sports competitor, particularly on the flag football team.

Some of Crew's Phi Mu relationships have opened doors for her, including a recommendation from a fraternity friend that she apply to work in the college's public relations department.

Crew took on the Internet communications job as a sophomore, and each year since then, she has returned to the office. She said she enjoys watching her work come together, whether it involves recruiting students for college marketing photos or posting news updates on Roanoke's Facebook page. Crew's job has helped her to manage her time, which was difficult during her early college years.

As for life after Roanoke, Crew said she's torn between two career directions. She'd like to work in accounting and become a Certified Public Accountant. But she said she'd also enjoy a public relations job. Crew wants to live in a large city after graduation.

Her time at Roanoke, both inside and outside of class, has set the path for abounding possibilities in her future.

"She's not just a book smart kid who sits and studies and has no personality," Gibbs said. "She has kind of just embraced Roanoke College."


Released: September 2, 2011