For many high school students, selecting a college is a matter of proximity or distance from home, the availability of a desired major, and perhaps the presence of a sibling or older friend on campus. For Cadet Bryson Minear ’24, it was something else entirely that drove his decision to enroll at VMI, something he calls “that goosebumps awe-inspiring moment.”
Minear, an international studies major who’s commissioning into the U.S. Army, grew up in a small town in Delaware with no connections to the Institute. Knowing he wanted to serve in the military, he typed, “What’s the hardest school for Army ROTC?” into Google one day—and then discovered VMI when the Institute appeared at the top of his search results.
Soon after, Minear visited VMI. “As soon as I stepped foot on [post], I knew this is where I wanted to be,” he stated. “I had that goosebumps awe-inspiring moment where I was like, OK, I think I could be here for the next four years. … It’s been the best decision I ever made.”
Minear has lots of reasons to feel that way, and leadership opportunities are near the top of the list. He’s currently serving as S3 captain in charge of all operations—a position of vast scope that involves everything from planning Corps-wide events to grading parades and march downs—and last year, he was chair of his class’ Ring Figure Committee, overseeing a four-day, roughly $80,000 event.
“The opportunities here to lead—they’re going to challenge you, and that’s the purpose of them,” said Minear. “Superintendent’s staff, the commandant’s staff, the Corps itself is going to challenge you to be the best version of yourself. … And you’re going to be sitting there at 2 a.m., and you’re going be laying in your bed, and you’re going to think, did I do everything I absolutely could today to be the best leader, the best mentor, the best follower I can be? Because when you’re a leader, you still have to be a follower.”
Looking back to his rat year, Minear can also see the value of how VMI teaches leadership. “Coming to VMI, it completely breaks you down,” he commented. “And I think that’s part of the beauty of it all is all your preconceived notions of what you want to be in life … just get beat up with a hammer, and you can figure out what leadership truly is—how you can influence people.”
"The alumni, your professors, the staff here—everyone’s always willing to help, everyone’s always willing to go that extra mile for you even if they barely know you.”Bryson Minear ’24
Minear is also grateful for VMI’s tightly knit community, as evidenced both in barracks and in the classroom. Academically, he’s appreciated the chance to connect with professors one-on-one.
“I’ve definitely been someone who thrives off structure and thrives in smaller communities,” he stated. “And I think VMI fits that perfectly. I think the fact that I can go up to my academic advisor and my professors and know that they’re going to sit down and focus solely on me is huge for me.”
There’s also the bond with his fellow cadets, one initially forged during his rat year, which just happened to be during the first full academic year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many cadets, Minear felt the frustration of pandemic-related restrictions, but they didn’t dampen his VMI experience.
“I haven’t had a moment yet where I’ve said I don’t think I belong here,” he stated. “Even when I was [under restrictions], I still had my roommate right by my side, and he’s still one of my closest friends today.”
As alumni well know, the bonds forged at VMI are the bonds of a lifetime—and even today, Minear knows that the alumni network will be there for him down the road.
“Some of my closest friends aren’t commissioning, and they’re going to become CEOs of Fortune 500 companies one day,” he noted. “So, when I come out of the Army, I know those connections are there. … You don’t have that at any other college.”
Moreover, those bonds don’t just begin and end with one’s brother rats. “The connections, the relationships, the brotherhood that you get here is like no other at any other school, any other college, or any other institution,” Minear stated. “I feel like the relationships you make not only with your brother rats, but also the alumni, your professors, the staff here—everyone’s always willing to help, everyone’s always willing to go that extra mile for you even if they barely know you.”
Even on the most difficult days, it’s not hard for Minear to remember the feeling he had when he first drove through the limits gates and took the cadet-led tour offered by the VMI Museum: “Wow. This place changes lives for the better.”
Victoria Ferris Social Media and Communications Strategist
The social media and communications strategist is responsible for creating compelling, audience-appropriate, multi-channel content for social media, and for monitoring the VMI Alumni Agencies' social media accounts. The strategist supports all communications efforts, including email marketing deployment and training, website updating, and video editing.
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.