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Q&A with Jillian Susi, Penn State Homecoming Executive Director

by on November 07, 2017 6:00 AM

Jillian Susi is a leader among the more than 40,000 students who attend Penn State University’s main campus, and is helping organize one of the school’s richest traditions.

She is the executive director of Penn State Homecoming 2017. A week of activities kicked off on Sunday and includes the parade through campus and downtown State College on November 10, and culminates with the football game against Rutgers on Saturday.

As executive director, Susi is responsible for leading the executive committee and 16 captain committees that make Homecoming 2017 and each of its associated events happen smoothly.

T&G: First off, homecoming is such a valuable thing to include yourself in, how and why did you get involved in it?

Susi: Freshman year I was looking to get more involved on campus and happened to come across an advertisement from Homecoming about captain applications. I looked through the website and saw what Homecoming does and I decided to apply. I interviewed and was selected to be a captain. From there, I loved my experience and decided to stay involved and take on a larger role.

T&G: How did you become the executive director of Homecoming?

Susi: As I’ve shared, I loved my time as a Homecoming captain. I wanted to stay involved and take on more responsibility, so the next year I applied for a director position. I was selected to be donor relations director, and I loved it. I love Homecoming, what it stands for, and the traditions we celebrate. After that year as a director, I couldn’t imagine my last year at Penn State without Homecoming in the picture, so I decided to apply for executive director, and I got it! It’s been a blast.

T&G: What does this event mean to you?

Susi: Homecoming is a yearlong celebration that culminates with Homecoming week, then we have six days full of events for everybody to enjoy. I think it is very unique in that we bring together students, alumni, and members of the community all to celebrate Penn State pride and tradition. Homecoming week to me serves as a reminder that although we all have different ties and experiences with Penn State, we have one thing in common — pride for this great institution.

T&G: What does it take to organize an event like this?

Susi: It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to plan Homecoming. The executive committee, captains, committee members, and organizations that participate in Homecoming put in countless hours to make Homecoming events the best they can be. It could not be done without all the leadership, time, and effort our volunteers put into this organization.

T&G: What has been the most rewarding part of this job?

Susi: There have been many rewarding aspects, but I think the most rewarding part has been seeing the directors of the executive committee grow into their roles and become better leaders. They are the people I work the closest with, and I have seen each and every one of them become more confident in their abilities and as leaders as a whole.

T&G: That being said, how do you lead a team that includes your peers and good friends?

Susi: It can be challenging at times, but there are many benefits to having a relationship like that. I think there is a greater degree of trust, a more open style of communication, and a greater understanding of the team’s personal life. The best advice I can give for leading a team that is also your peers and good friends is to set boundaries from the beginning so that when it is time to work, work can be done, and when it is time for fun, fun can be had.

T&G: What are you most excited about for Homecoming 2017?

Susi: I’m most excited for the executive committee, captains, and committee members to see all of their hard work pay off. They have all worked so hard throughout the year and they’ve put in so much time and effort into planning their respective events. When it’s finally happening, I’m so excited for them to feel the pride of a job well done and for them to see all the fun people are having at these events.

T&G: What certain events should the community keep an eye out for during the week of Homecoming?

Susi: All of them! We have an event every day from November 5 through November 11. Each day is something different and fun, and all the events are community-friendly. One of my favorites is the Wednesday of Homecoming week (November 8), our Best of Penn State Carnival; there are inflatables, games, food, and a petting zoo.

To learn more about Penn State Homecoming and take part in events, follow @psuhomecoming on Twitter, or keep up to date at

Emily Chertow is a Town&Gown intern, and an emcee for Penn State Homecoming 2017.


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