VWIL Cadets Share Experiences with Worldwide Audience

November 16, 2010

It is the only all-female corps of cadets in the world, thriving at one of three remaining women’s colleges in Virginia. And it recently drew the eyes of the Pentagon.

The Pentagon Channel, which provides news to 2.6 million members of the U.S. Armed Forces worldwide, visited Mary Baldwin University last week to highlight unique aspects of the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) and the drive many of its cadets find to commission into the U.S. Armed Forces.

Marching in Formation

The corps hopes increased media coverage will increase awareness and recruiting efforts, especially for women seeking to commission after graduation. The corps commissions approximately 40 percent of each graduating class, accounting for more female officers than all other cadet corps in Virginia combined.

“When the Pentagon TV news channel called me to see if they could visit to do a feature story on VWIL, two thoughts went through my mind,” said General Mike Bissell, commandant of cadets. “First, was that they had heard about us and the fact that we were one only all-female corps in the world. Second, that their TV coverage was [broadcast] worldwide to all military bases and families … and that it would be a wonderful opportunity to help get national recognition for our corps.”

While interviewing cadets seeking military commissions, Army Sgt. E.L. Craig of the Pentagon Channel was intrigued by the varied personalities and aspirations of the corps.

“It changed my perspective of things,” he said, adding that he wanted answer the question, “What makes these women come here?”

Craig interviewed five women and three were represented in the report which aired on satellite, cable, and the Internet on November 10.

“VWIL is building not only future female leaders, but future military female leaders,” said 17-year-old Emily Sikorski, who is on track to commission in the Navy. “That innovative — and still relatively new — idea of a woman’s potential reveals VWIL’s foundation. This foundation marks a change in the social barriers for women and our country, instantly gaining respect, interest, and a better representation of VWIL.”

Run by women, for women, VWIL builds on the strengths already present in their cadets as first-year students. When seniors graduate after four years in the program, they emerge more comfortable with their identity and are ready to take on life’s challenges.

Craig noted how VWIL cadets get the best of both worlds — they train with men in ROTC classes at Virginia Military Institute yet embrace their individuality and unique strengths women posses. The reporter also noticed the opportunities VWIL presents for women of color.

Craig also interviewed the corps’ executive officer LaRae Johnson ’11, who has already completed Air Force training and anxiously awaits her commissioning in May.

“The press was able to gain a variety of perspectives on the program to see the significance as well as the impact on lives of its female cadets,” Johnson recalled. “This will definitely enable those females who may be seeking this particular path to be aware of our program and the opportunities that are available to them.”