Nearly all cadets and alumni have heard about the VMI network and just how valuable it is. But what is that network? And how do cadets access it?
On Dec. 10, 2022, cadets and alumni gathered in Cocke Hall for the Cadet-Alumni Networking Forum, an annual event meant to help cadets answer those questions and more.
During the forum, cadets had a chance to gather in small groups or talk one-on-one with alumni working in a wide variety of fields, inquire about internships and jobs, and simply learn more about what it’s like to work in a particular industry. This year, more than 30 alumni returned to post to assist cadets, and they represented fields including but not limited to sales and marketing, legal, law enforcement, investments/finance, information technology, and construction.
New this year was an internship panel specifically created for 3rd Class cadets to get them thinking about pursuing internships and similar opportunities.
“We all get these phone calls on May 16 that say, ‘hey, I’m looking for a job,’” said Joel Andrus ’04, VMI Alumni Association Board of Directors member who serves as the Region XIII Hampton Roads director and took the lead in organizing this year’s event. The networking forum, in general, and the internship panel, in particular, are designed to help cadets start thinking and planning long before graduation, he noted.
“It’s such a great opportunity for cadets to interact with executives and business leaders from across the country and numerous industry sectors,” said Andrus. “As they think about the careers that they are looking for after graduation, this is an opportunity early on to really tap into the Alumni Association network and start exploring what is out there and start building that network.”
Networking, he noted, is a skill to be learned. “When you’re a cadet, you have this idea that the network is just this magical thing that’s going to come and save you when you graduate,” Andrus commented. “It’s more complicated than that, so we’re just helping them understand how to use the network and how to network just in general. This is an opportunity to start picking that up.”
The networking forum began approximately 15 years ago under the leadership of Grover Outland ’81, explained Pat Griffin ’80, Alumni Association Board of Directors member and former Region III Northeast director. Today, both he and Andrus serve on the board’s Outreach Committee.
Even through the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 65 cadets were able to secure jobs through the networking forum, Griffin noted. A tool the alumni have developed works enormously in their favor: A database of over 11,000 alumni from the classes of 1978 to 2022—so no matter what field cadets might be interested in, there’s almost certain to be an alum working in that field.
Griffin explained that the database can be sorted in numerous ways, among them by industry, geography, or branch of military service. “It helps us to focus in on a particular alum or alums that we can drive these [cadets] to,” he commented.
Attending the event for the second consecutive year was Cadet Ethan Carpenter ’23, a psychology major and cadet EMT who plans on commissioning in the Army Reserve. Last year’s event, he noted, was smaller in scope.
“This year, there’s a lot going on,” said Carpenter. “There’s a lot of different routes that people can go, a lot of different people they can talk to to find out what opportunities are out there.”
The forum, Carpenter noted, is of great value for cadets because it invites them to take a long-term view—something that can be hard to do when the urgency of passing a particular class or just getting to graduation looms large. “This helps you think beyond May,” he stated.
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.