VWIL Enrolls First Legacy Students

May 16, 2023

The Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership (VWIL) at Mary Baldwin University has reached another landmark: The nation’s only all-female corps of cadets celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2021 and has now enrolled its first two legacy students. 

“These future cadets have grown up hearing about the value and traditions of Mary Baldwin and its VWIL corps of cadets,” said retired Air Force Brigadier General and VWIL Commandant of Cadets Terry Djuric. They’ve seen the power and career-launching potential of the university and program, and the benefits of the lifelong friendships their mothers made while attending. 

“I heard many stories from my mom and her sister cadets about their time and experiences in VWIL,” said incoming first-year cadet Jacqueline “Jury” Lee ’27, whose mother, Ballu Bangura Lee, graduated in 2004. “They talked it up so much that I never really considered other schools, because MBU always felt like the obvious choice. Then, last year, I took some time to do some in-depth research and — wouldn’t you know it — MBU proved to be a perfect fit.” 

Djuric says Lee and fellow first-year legacy cadet Kaitlynn Mullen ’27 will follow in their mothers’ footsteps by “forging their own leadership experiences with classmates who are new to MBU and VWIL.” She’s grateful to Dr. Kristin Cooper Mullen ’03, who has been returning to Mary Baldwin to mentor VWIL cadets for the past decade, and remembers meeting young Kaitlynn, who often came along. 

The new cadets will join a class that helps the program surpass 1,300 matriculating cadets. Djuric says VWIL’s longevity and reputation — the corps gets about 700 new applications a year — are the result of its ongoing track record of successfully preparing women leaders to thrive in military and civilian leadership positions. 

“Being a VWIL cadet put me on the road for success no matter where I was headed,” Office of the Chief of Naval Operations Deputy of Force Manpower, Accounting, and Assessments Captain Kathleen Mahoney ’00 said in a 2020 interview. “Certainly a lot of the structure provided a great foundation for the military, but the leadership, resilience to adversity, and confidence the corps gave me ensured I was ready for anything.”

From Left: Jacqueline “Jury” Lee ’27, Ballu Bangura Lee ’04, Kristen Mullen ’03, Kaitlynn Mullen ’27

VWIL programming focuses on developing core ethical values like truth, duty, honor, courage, and self discipline. Cadets pursue a normal undergraduate degree and minor in leadership studies while exploring those values through a rigorous program of ROTC military training, citizen leadership development, service-based volunteerism, intense physical workouts, co-curricular experiences, and more. A regimen of team-building exercises — which begins at visit day events and resumes before the first day of classes — ensures they make early bonds with classmates and feel at home. 

When participating in activities with alumni, current students, and other recruits earlier this spring, Lee knew she’d “made the right decision. Everything felt so familiar and safe, like I was right where I was supposed to be,” she said. “I realized that, as much as other campuses may have seemed appealing, they could never feel like home the way MBU does.”

Like Mahoney, many VWIL graduates — about 55 percent in the past 5 years — commission into the military, with many going on to attain high-level ranks like captains or colonels. Others pursue civilian careers in fields like intelligence, foreign service, education, criminal justice, health and human services, business, or jurisprudence. 

Djuric called the admittance of the program’s first legacy students a historic milestone.  

“Twenty-eight years ago, the Supreme Court launched Mary Baldwin and VWIL into the national conversation,” she said. And to this day we “proudly continue to recruit motivated leaders to join the corps of cadets. We look forward to continuing to welcome the daughters of our VWIL graduates over the next 25-year chapter of our proud history.”


“I took some time to do some in-depth research and — wouldn’t you know it — MBU proved to be a perfect fit.”
Jacqueline “Jury” Lee ’27, incoming VWIL cadet