Stories of Impact

Taylor ’24: “Blessed to Be Here”

Kate Taylor ’24


Growing up in Newton, Massachusetts, a small town near Boston, Cadet Kate Taylor ’24 never thought of herself as the kind of student who’d attend a military school. When the time came to apply to colleges, she sent applications far and wide, aiming mostly at what she calls the “big football schools.”

But when she wound up concluding her senior year of high school during the first paralyzing wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor had plenty of time to ponder her options. “We were doing virtual [instruction], so I had time to really sit with my thoughts and realize I had the normal college experience picture painted in my head,” she explained. “And that wasn’t what I needed.”

After talking with her father, who’d long presented the military as a viable career path for his children, Taylor realized that the typical large university wasn’t necessarily her best fit. COVID-19 made travel risky, so Taylor watched plenty of YouTube videos about VMI in lieu of a visit to post, and she also talked to several alumni.

To this day, one conversation with an alumna stands out in her mind. “She said, ‘There’s nothing like VMI,’” Taylor recounted. “You’re going to miss out on maybe some parties and some silly things that don’t surmount to anything near what you’ll get out of VMI.”

Shortly thereafter, Taylor and her father were out for a run when Taylor turned to him and said, “I’m going to VMI. I’m going to swim for VMI. … Something within me is telling me that it’s the place for me.”

It’s a decision she has never regretted. “I’m achieving my goals and a trajectory here that I wouldn’t anywhere else,” she commented. “I came here because I knew I needed the structure. And I feel blessed to be here.”

Now, as she wraps up her 2nd Class year, Taylor is a civil engineering major with a minor in modern languages and cultures (Chinese), a member of the Keydet swim and dive team, and an S4 sergeant in charge of supply and logistics. Earlier this year, she served as chair of the Ring Figure ball, and she works in Preston Library.

“I’m achieving my goals and a trajectory here that I wouldn’t anywhere else."

Cadet Kate Taylor ’24

Without even having visited Virginia before Matriculation Day, Taylor took a leap of faith approach to her rat year. “By the time I got here, I was really ready to go and just to jump headfirst into it,” she said. “I was ready to start a new chapter.”

That chapter has included not only earning academic stars but also spending eight weeks in Taiwan—a perfect locale for practicing Mandarin Chinese, a language Taylor has been studying since she was 13. The VMI chapter of her life has also included multiple lessons on how to adapt and react when things are out of one’s control.

“VMI is very good at making sure that you’re not in control,” she commented. “And you can take that, and you can decide how you’re going to interpret that. And the only thing that you can control is your attitude, right? And so, it’s made me an exceedingly more patient person because I’m thrown all these million things.”

Taylor is also aware she’s driving toward a goal in all her endeavors—and that pushes her forward when the 24-hour day just isn’t enough. “It’s so rewarding in the end because when you studied all night for the exam, and it goes well, or you were working all night … or you were in the pool for hours, just the culmination of it all is an incredibly rewarding thing,” she noted. “And that’s what kind of drives me to keep going when I want to go sleep in my hay.”

Over the course of almost three years at VMI, Taylor has thought plenty about the plethora of leadership paths that the Institute offers—each unique and valuable, but some having no visible signs. “[There are] a million avenues in which you can be a leader or …  learn leadership attributes,” Taylor stated. “But at the same time, I think it’s often misconstrued that you have to have a chevron on your sleeve or that you have to have [academic] stars on your shoulder boards. … I know a lot of leaders [who] don’t have anything on their sleeves.”

Taylor has also reflected on how outsiders perceive VMI versus how she and other cadets experience the Institute. “The thing about VMI is the people, and I think to base our system off of the yelling or the adversarial side is to do an injustice,” she stated. “Because it’s so much more than that. That’s just the beginning. … People like to talk a lot about attrition rate, and the yelling and the workouts, and all of those things. But that’s just the surface level. If you’re judging our system based on those things, you haven’t fully looked at it, and you don’t fully understand it. … The conversation and the narrative need to shift because there’s so much good happening here.”

After VMI, Taylor hopes to commission into the Army Corps of Engineers or attend graduate school to study artificial intelligence. And while her future path may be uncertain, one thing is clear: She’s not the same person she was four years ago when she envisioned herself at a typical college.

“I believe VMI has equipped me with tools no other university can,” she stated. “I believe that it’s brought me closer to my faith, introduced me to incredible people, and has molded me into an incredibly different person than I was when I came into VMI, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

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