Members of the VMI family attending home football games this season have had the opportunity to see a unique sight: Cadet Mark Shelton ’24, regimental commander, leading the Corps of Cadets onto Alumni Memorial Field wearing not his parade dyke but his football uniform.
Shelton, a running back, is one of a handful of regimental commanders to also play football. And while Shelton never imagined as a rat that he’d one day be regimental commander, he didn’t discount the possibility, either. With a challenge-oriented mindset, Shelton has taken advantage of every chance VMI has offered to say “yes” to more than one opportunity.
That ability to combine interests and goals was central to Shelton’s decision to matriculate at the Institute. Coming from a military family, with both his father and grandfather having served in the U.S. Army, Shelton knew he wanted to follow that path, but at many of the schools he considered, there was no opportunity to play Division I football and commission into the military at graduation.
“I didn’t want to just go to a regular school and do regular things,” Shelton commented. “I wanted to do more and be a little unordinary.”
At VMI, he continued, “They explained it to me that everything is worked into your schedule, and so there’s really no conflicts when it comes to being an athlete … and pursuing a commission through the ROTCs here.”
Over the past three years, Shelton has immersed himself in a multitude of activities across post. He’s a computer science major with a cybersecurity minor, Promaji Club vice president, and a member of both the Cyber Club and the Cadet Superintendent Advisory Board. After graduation, he plans to commission into the U.S. Army and serve hopefully as a cyber officer or a signal officer.
Balancing the demands of being a cadet-athlete with the top leadership position in the Corps hasn’t been easy, but Shelton embraced the challenge from the outset. “I definitely consider myself a high achiever and somebody who believes that I’m capable of doing whatever it is I set my mind to,” he stated.
“Here at VMI, everybody’s looking out for you. Everybody’s looking out for your best interests, and everybody wants you to succeed."Mark Shelton ’24
When he was named regimental commander in March, Shelton first felt the joy of his name being the last one called and the warm encouragement of his brother rats as he made his way to the stage in Memorial Hall. Then, the weight of responsibility kicked in.
“As the regimental commander, you’re responsible to the Corps, and making sure that the Corps is functioning well and has everything they need,” he stated. “You’re the voice of the Corps when it comes to your interactions with the commandant and the superintendent. It’s a pretty big weight and a lot of pressure to carry.”
Like all high-level leaders, Shelton found himself needing to do two things quickly: Make a schedule and delegate some tasks to others. “I need to prioritize [being] regimental commander, academics, and football,” he stated. “And so that’s what I tried to do. I tried to make out a calendar, a schedule planner, and prioritize all my competing and conflicting responsibilities.”
Shelton has also been well supported by his staff. “I have a really great team, really good staff that have been supporting me, and they’re really great at their jobs,” he commented. “They’re really great at supporting me.”
And that help has come from all corners of the VMI community, not just fellow cadets holding rank. “Here at VMI, everybody’s looking out for you,” said Shelton. “Everybody’s looking out for your best interests, and everybody wants you to succeed. … And so, I’m definitely a benefactor of receiving all that help and guidance.”
On Sept. 2, just before the home football game against Davidson, Shelton got to live a dream, leading the Corps into Foster Stadium as regimental commander for the first time and, therefore, uniting two central aspects of his VMI experience. “It was a really great experience—my first march-on,” he said. “I was very happy with how it went. I think the audience that up there in Foster Stadium was very excited to see and very in awe of it all because it was something that that hadn’t happened before—a regimental commander suited up in their football gear, leading the Corps, leading the regimental staff onto the field. Especially for the alumni, it was something that was aweing and impressive to watch.”
Shelton is well aware that he’s a walking representation of the three-legged stool, the embodiment of a VMI cadet giving maximum effort in the areas of academics, athletics, and military duties. “I wanted to show the VMI community and the VMI family that it’s possible to excel at the highest level when it comes to the three-legged stool,” Shelton noted.
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.