Stories of Impact

Freeman ’25: On the Path to Success

Brooks Freeman ’25


Cadet Brooks Freeman ’25 always knew about VMI—in his family, it was almost impossible not to, as his grandfather is James Freeman ’66, and his father is U.S. Army Col. Lee Freeman ’96. Freeman has a hazy memory of attending one of his father’s reunions as a child, and he remembers his father and grandfather telling him about the many benefits of a VMI education.

Freeman, though, took a while to find the path that would ultimately lead him to the Institute. He enrolled at a private liberal arts college but wound up dropping out and taking a manual labor job. “I didn’t think school was for me,” he recalled. At that point in life, he was living with his grandfather, and as uncertainty about his future path mounted, Freeman turned to him for advice.

“I was telling him that I was really unsure of what to do,” Freeman related. “He was telling me that I could really buckle down and find my path if I came here. And that was really what made me decide [to come to VMI].”

Now, with his 1st Class year coming up, Freeman is grateful for a second chance at VMI, a school that he says has put him on a much firmer path toward success. “So, I really transitioned from being sort of a straight C and D student to being an A student, just based on the quality of the professors at the school,” said Freeman, an English major who’s also studying Arabic and participating in VMI’s Institute Honors program. After graduation, he hopes to attend law school.

“I got to know my English professors, and I got to know my Arabic professor. And I just could see them as real humans, and I could let them know my doubts, my frustrations, and they would just help me win—give me feedback on my work,” he said.

For Freeman, the solid foundation and flexibility of an English major have proved to be an ideal fit. “I think [the English major has] helped me a lot with critical thinking skills,” he commented. “Especially as someone who wants to go to law school, it’s very valuable to be able to piece through information. … And I don’t know if there’s another major that lets you delve into subject matter that you’re truly interested in, especially with the final. I’ll be doing the honors thesis and the capstone, as well.”

“This place really gave me the parameters necessary to succeed. ... VMI is about finding the best version of yourself.”

Cadet Brooks Freeman ’25

Not only does Freeman excel academically, but he also mentors others. This past academic year, he served as an S2 sergeant, which involves offering academic support to cadets who are struggling or need extra assistance.

For someone who’s experienced academic struggles himself, the S2 staff was a natural fit. “I really applied for this rank because I knew that I had struggled so much in academics before in my life, and I know what it’s like to be down in the dumps and feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel,” he related. “And I knew that I felt that way as a rat. So, if I could help the rats now who may be feeling the same way, I could help them see the light at the end of the tunnel and recognize the value of doing well in classes.”

When he encounters a cadet experiencing academic challenges, Freeman encourages them to reach out for help, as VMI has a robust support network. “When you ask for assistance, and it’s there, and you realize the support network that is behind you, academics can actually be fun and not as challenging as they have to be,” he stated.

Away from the classroom, Freeman has studied abroad in England—where he experienced the self-directed learning of Oxford University’s tutorial system—Taiwan, and Morocco. “There’s so many opportunities that have been shown to me [at VMI],” he noted. “There’s so many things that I didn’t know existed before.”

When he thinks about the person he was just a few years ago, he realizes that coming to VMI was the best choice he could have made. “I realized that I really need self-control in order to excel,” he stated. “And this place really gave me the parameters necessary to succeed. … It really helped me sort of ground myself and do what I needed to do. …I really want to apply myself and to excel to the greatest of my ability,” he stated. “And so that’s what really keeps me coming back to the school and what makes me appreciate it so much. … VMI is about finding the best version of yourself.”

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