When Cadet Cache Douma ’24 was growing up, he heard plenty about VMI—mostly from his grandfather, Larry Wetsel ’61. But when the time came for Douma to make his college decision, he initially decided that the Institute wasn’t for him.
In fall 2019, Douma enrolled in a state school in his home state of Montana. Then, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, Douma, along with thousands of other college students across the country, was sent home. His home, though, lacked Wi-Fi—so Douma and his brother wound up relocating to Wetsel’s second home in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to get their schoolwork done. The pandemic-wrought change of perspective made Douma ponder his educational path.
“All these kids that I was doing online classes with—they were cheating on their homework, they were cheating on the tests,” Douma stated. “Everything was online, so no one cared. … And so that kind of set me off. I was like, ‘You know what? This doesn’t seem right. I don’t like the way this is going.’”
Douma credits his family for his ability to recognize an uncomfortable situation—and then walk away from it. “They gave me the right moral compass and definitely helped lead me to go to the right place,” he stated. “And so it was through their help, through their grace, that I was able to make the right decision.”
Soon, Douma was beginning the process of applying to VMI. To be sure, starting over as a rat and having to complete the Rat Line when he’d already completed a year of college was a difficult and unusual choice. “I was in a lot of classes with my cadre, which was really interesting, having to sit in class and give presentations to them,” he commented.
After successfully navigating the Rat Line, Douma kept his perspective and quickly began to appreciate all the Institute had to offer. “Once you get done with the Rat Line, you start to realize, ‘Okay, this is worth it. This is why I’m here,’” he said.
“The difference between VMI and other schools is the commitment [cadets] have here.”Cadet Cache Douma ’24
Now, just months away from a planned December 2023 graduation, Douma is wrapping up a cadetship that’s been filled with activities. An economics and business major who wears academic stars, he’s president of the ECBU Book Club and cadet-in-charge of the VMI chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma, an international business honor society. He’s also vice president of operations for the Officer of the Guard Association and a member of the men’s rugby team.
Academics at VMI, Douma believes, are a cut above the rest. “The economics and business department here is definitely top tier,” Douma noted. “Here, the teachers really push you to be better. … They really care about your well-being, and it’s not about the grades for them. It’s about the knowledge that you actually gain, which is a huge deal for me.”
During his cadetship, Douma says he’s been “blessed” to be the recipient of not one but three academic scholarships. “The people who give those out are so gracious,” he commented. “All these alumni have come together to support the Corps so much. It’s awesome.”
Douma also recalls the joy of being able to share the news of his scholarship selection with Wetsel. “I just remember calling him and him just being so excited for me. … the congratulations were awesome, and it was great to know that I was doing something that was making my grandfather feel proud of me, as well.”
With a perspective of attending another college first, Douma can see what sets VMI cadets apart: Commitment. “The difference between VMI and other schools is the commitment [cadets] have here,” he stated. “You have people [who] are committed to their sport, people [who] are committed to their military obligation, people [who] are committed to their academics.”
Today, Douma is reflecting on his VMI experience and getting ready to start his first post-college job—a position in commercial real estate that he found through the uncle of one of his roommates. “I feel extremely prepared, not only from a VMI and kind of a military bearing standard but especially the academic side; like I said, the economics and business department does such a great job,” he noted.
Sometimes, Douma takes a moment to ponder what his life would have been like if he hadn’t come to VMI. “I definitely wouldn’t have met the same people that I met here,” said Douma. “I wouldn’t have the same connections with people that I met here, [and] I definitely wouldn’t have the job opportunity that I have right now … I’m definitely appreciative of what VMI has given me.”
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.