Virginia Tech Magazine
Corps of Cadets
Winter 2010
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Conferences build leadership skills
by Lt. Col. Bill Stringer
Virginia Tech cadets, civilian students, and Lt. Col. Bill Stringer (right) at a recent leadership conference at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md.

Of the many unique opportunities available to cadets during their time in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, perhaps the most sought after is the chance to represent the university and its corps at leadership conferences hosted by federal service academies and other senior military colleges. These annual conferences offer selected cadets remarkable exposure to guest speakers, conference mentors, and proven leaders in virtually every sector of American life as well as the chance to interact with some of the best and brightest students and faculty members from colleges and universities around the nation. Invariably, cadets leave each conference with new friends, new perspectives, and memorable insights into the lifestyles of their peers at the host institutions.

Members of the commandant's staff select the cadets who attend these events based on proven leadership performance and grade-point average. Consideration is also given to ROTC affiliation and roles in the corps. Normally, selection is limited to sophomores and juniors, and no cadet can attend more than one conference. Upon returning, each cadet gives a brief presentation to the rest of the corps on the basic conference themes; lessons learned; and, perhaps most popularly, reflections on the trials and tribulations of cadets at the host school.

Every conference focuses on some aspect of leadership, the processes for developing leaders of character, and fundamental ethical issues confronting leaders in the military and in public and private sectors. The events include a mix of guest speaker presentations and small group breakout sessions guided by senior faculty or guest mentors. Most of them end with a plenary session, where each seminar group summarizes its discussions and conclusions on the theme of the conference.

Cadets also have the opportunity to socialize and interact with students from their peer military institutions as well as institutions as diverse as small faith-based colleges, such as the College of the Ozarks, to major state schools, such as the University of Nebraska. At West Point conferences, Virginia Tech cadets live in barracks with their cadet hosts and take a Hudson River cruise; at Annapolis, they enjoy an incomparable seafood buffet at Buddy's Crab House; at the Air Force Academy, they can opt for a one-day ski trip.

The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets also sponsors its own leadership conference for representatives of federal service academies and senior military colleges. Held annually in early February, the conference highlights issues that run the gamut from minority recruiting to leadership training and from retention to alcohol abuse. The conference is the cornerstone of Military Weekend and culminates with the Senior Banquet and Military Ball.

The corps is committed to developing future leaders of character who are dedicated to service to country, commonwealth, and community. That development is a dynamic process wherein exposure to contrary thought and the aggressive exchange of viewpoints are critical leavening ingredients. For Virginia Tech's cadets, conferences that examine leadership and professional ethics are invaluable in understanding the challenges cadets will face after graduation and in meeting the people with whom they will shape solutions.

Lt. Col. Bill Stringer, USMC, is a deputy commandant of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets.

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