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Borinstein ’19: Lead Like Yourself

Brigitta Borinstein '19

Brigitta Borinstein ’19 has been pushing herself out of her comfort zone for a long time—and now she’s on a mission to help other young women do the same.

Borinstein, who was Brigitta Hendren as a cadet, launched a podcast, “Best You Can B,” two-and-a-half years ago, with the goal of sharing leadership lessons with young women who aspire to lead from a place of humility and confidence. Episodes focus on various aspects of leadership, personal growth, and wellness, with the overarching theme of trusting your own voice and finding your unique leadership style. “The goal of the podcast is to cultivate confidence through leadership and wellness,” she stated.

After high school, Borinstein followed her older brother, U.S. Army Capt. Hardy Hendren ’15, to VMI. During her cadetship, she was a member of the track and field team during her 4th and 3rd Class years and participated in the Institute Honors program, graduating with distinction with a major in international studies. At the same time, she took advantage of VMI’s many leadership opportunities, serving as a corporal her 3rd Class year, a cadet sergeant major her 2nd Class year, and commander of Company F her 1st Class year.

Personal growth was always a goal, but as she advanced up the Institute’s leadership ladder, Borinstein increasingly experienced pressure to act in a way that was inconsistent with her personality. “I asked different questions than my male counterparts would ask,” she explained. “I was butting heads against all my insecurities,” she noted.

One day, she reached out to her brother for advice on how to navigate leading from a place of authenticity in VMI’s challenging environment. “I am not a particularly masculine person,” she told him. “I’m not rough around the edges. I would describe myself more as bubbly and nurturing.”

At that moment, Hendren offered a statement that would change how his sister viewed her difficulties: “Brigitta, the women I admire in leadership are the ones who lead like themselves.”

His words struck home. “It wasn’t earth-shattering or anything like that, but it totally changed my perspective,” she noted. For example, realizing that being quiet wasn’t a drawback gave Borinstein the courage to utilize her leadership style rather than compare herself to her more vocal peers.

Brigitta Borinstein ’19 with her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Drew Borinstein ’17, and their son, Russell.—Photos courtesy Borinstein.

“I gained the courage to push past my insecurities,” said Borinstein. “I got comfortable being myself, even if it looked a little different when I was interacting with my company.”

During her cadetship, Borinstein listened to leadership podcasts and was especially drawn to one by Craig Groeschel, a pastor, author, and life coach. It wasn’t surprising, then, that Borinstein decided to use that medium to reach young women facing the same struggles she’d experienced.

Ultimately, Borinstein would like to create an online community for her listeners. “I’m thinking about creating a community landing place where young women who [want] to challenge themselves in their leadership and [want] to do it from a place of confidence and security in themselves can make friends online and by plugging into the podcast community,” she stated.

By doing so, Borinstein believes she’s giving back, just as VMI once gave to her. In the years since graduation, she’s spent time reflecting on her cadet experience and just how much she grew in those four years.

“I think VMI really allows you to be challenged as much as you’re willing to challenge yourself,” she commented. “If I’d gone to another school, I’m pretty confident there’s no way I would have been able to push outside my comfort zone as much as I could at VMI. … And I think being in an environment that’s so focused on leadership, it sort of forces the level of introspection that lets you really focus on personal development. That’s also unique, and I don’t think you get that at another school.”

Leadership opportunities abound at VMI, of course—but so do listening ears, ranging from fellow cadets to members of the faculty and staff. Borinstein used that network for support regularly as a cadet, and now, her podcast offers that to others.

“It’s kind of part of my heart behind the podcast. When I was at VMI, I felt like I was very privy to a lot of people that I could go to, and I was big on asking for feedback,” she commented. “I don’t think everybody gets that.”

A podcast, of course, can be just one person’s ramblings—unless there are guests. Borinstein spends much time finding guests whose life experiences and perspectives can resonate with her listeners. Recent guests have included Tanda Cook, a naturopathic physician; Debbie Neal, a leadership coach; and Cynthia Monteleone, a world champion sprinter who continued to compete into her 40s.

“I really try [to] get people I admire for their grit and humility,” she said. “And I think the trait I admire most probably when I’m looking for people is a humble confidence.”

Borinstein’s latest challenge—and greatest blessing—is motherhood. Russell Borinstein was born to Brigitta and her husband, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Drew Borinstein ’17, Sept. 7, 2022.

“Motherhood has already proven to be the most fulfilling challenge I have ever pursued,” she commented. “In an instant, my son’s life and future became infinitely more important than my own, and I have a new appreciation for how precious time is.”

  • Mary Price

    Mary Price Development Writer/Communications Specialist

    The development writer plays a key role in producing advancement communications. This role imagines, creates, and produces a variety of written communication to inspire donors to make gifts benefiting VMI. Utilizing journalistic features and storytelling, the development writer will produce content for areas such as Annual Giving, stewardship, and gift planning.