Where are they now? We caught up with some former Office of Economic Development (OED) Graduate Assistants (GAs) to ask how their time at Virginia Tech and OED has put them on the career path they are on today.

Adam Mawyer Headshot

Adam Mawyer, OED GA from the Summer of 2013 until Spring 2016.

Mawyer became involved with OED after meeting the previous undergrad assistant. He began as a GA between his junior and senior years at Virginia Tech and due to his time at OED he decided to pursue a Master of Urban and Regional Planning, he knew he wanted to continue working with OED. During his time at OED he analyzed data to synthesize reports for clients, assisted with economic impact studies of Virginia Tech football and the Crooked Road, and helped create a strategic plan for Virginia’s Growth Alliance. His most memorable moments as a GA came when he was sent out on a Saturday to survey fans at a Virginia Tech football game to find out how much they spent while in Blacksburg and a guy gave him a brown sugar maple donut with bacon on top and when staff sent him to Wise County to gather data for the Crooked Road analysis and he got to listen to Bluegrass! Mawyer says he has always had a community mindset and the skills OED has given him, allow him to assist communities in a variety of ways. After graduation, Mawyer went on to work for St. Mary’s County, Maryland, where he says “was a jack of all trades,” focused on developing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the area, agrotourism, unmanned systems projects, and manufacturing allowed him to put his knowledge from OED to work. Recently, Adam left St. Mary’s and joined the Virginia Economic Development Partnership as a research analyst. His piece of advice for anyone wanting to enter into the field of community and economic development is experience and exposure is key. “Get to know people and go to conferences and find mentors,” Mawyer says. “I would not have received my past two jobs if it hadn’t been for the skills I learned while at OED.”

Headshot of Ebonie Atkins

Ebonie Atkins, OED GA from the Fall of 2013 until the Spring of 2015.

Atkins became involved with OED as she began the Master of Urban Planning program at Virginia Tech. Focused on neighborhood revitalization and economic development Atkins knew OED would provide her with a multitude of skills necessary to kick start her career. While at OED Atkins worked on projects centered on analyzing data for clients and drafting project proposals to continue to engage the public. Some of her major projects included analyzing the local food support programs in Roanoke, measuring the economic impact of a winery in Purcellville, VA, and skills mapping of the manufacturing sectors. Her most memorable moments as a GA were centered on the general office culture in the GA office. She stated “we were a big family which made coming to work every day wonderful.” After graduation Atkins worked with the USDA Rural Development office in Richmond as a policy analyst analyzing data and investments in the Virginia economy. Now Atkins works for Virginia Economic Development Partnership as an Associate Business Manager, in which she works with regional and local partners to support business attraction and expansion efforts. Atkins says the skills she learned at OED has positioned her to excel in all of her jobs. Her one piece of advice to those who want to enter the field of economic development is “find mentors that are doing work you are interested and can expose you to that.”

Our GAs continually say their time at OED has put them on a path to career success. To find out who our current GAs are and more information about our office visit our Faculty and Staff page.


Written by Jennifer Morgan