As a cadet, Molly Bergren ’08 was a dean’s list biology major who was inducted into Beta Beta Beta, the national biology honors society, during her 1st Class year. She completed seven years of active-duty and reserve service in the U.S. Air Force, attaining the grade of captain.
Inspired by the biology faculty, she pursued a career in biology. She previously was the natural resources manager at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico and also worked in the Air Quality Program there as a contractor. She currently works as a natural resources biologist at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. In 2013, she earned a Master of Science degree in environmental policy and management with a concentration in fish and wildlife management from American Military University.
In Fiscal Year 2015, she made her first gift to VMI; specifically to the Colonel Robert P. Carroll Educational Fund, which supports cadets and their faculty mentors in the biology department. We asked her to discuss her experience at VMI and her reasons for giving in support of its academic program.
Q: Why did you attend VMI?
A: I chose VMI because I knew it would be a challenge. As a competitive person, I wanted a college that would make me work hard on a daily basis, keep me accountable or teach me to be an even better version of who I am.
Q: What are your thoughts on your overall academic experience?
A: It was hard! But, it was a lot of fun, too. I not only learned a lot about biology but also how to learn – what works for me and what doesn’t – and how to use those strengths and overcome any weaknesses.
Q: Describe your experience as a biology major. Did you pursue your own research?
A: I didn’t pursue research at VMI, but I enjoyed so much of the program. While I often wished that there was a broader offering of classes, I know I got an excellent general biology background. I also loved being part of a small department in which I felt comfortable with my classmates and professors. I knew I could rely on any of them for support and help.
Q: What about the biology department faculty? How were they helpful, influential or inspirational?
A: It was an ornithology course, taught by Col. Richard Rowe, and an ecology course that pushed me in the direction of a career in natural resources management and wildlife biology. Seeing professors who are excited about a subject is a huge motivator for students and keeps them excited about learning. I appreciated, too, the great job they did in getting us into the field. There is so much more out there beyond the classroom and laboratory, and it was a great experience!
Q: How well did VMI prepare you to be an officer and a scientist?
A: Many people told me that VMI would be the hardest test of my life and that once I had accomplished it, I could do anything. I actually disagree with that sentiment. While VMI is a tough environment, many situations in the military and civilian sectors present more complex and deeper issues. What the VMI experience does provide are the tools and skill sets necessary to handle various situations appropriately and effectively. Both as an officer and, now, a natural resources biologist, I am able to work efficiently, think critically and lead others.
Q: What motivated you to begin giving to VMI; specifically, the Carroll Fund?
A: Whenever I go back to VMI, I try to stop by the department. I have been excited about its expansion. An increased variety and availability of courses was the one thing I would have changed while I was a cadet, and now, its course offerings cover a greater variety of subjects. I am very happy to see it growing and changing in a very positive direction!
I decided to donate in order to have an impact on the program’s growth and to directly benefit cadets in it.
“The education cadets receive is the most important part of attending VMI. Without great programs providing a great education, the rest of the VMI experience won’t be as successful. Donating to a fund that helps improve and grow the department is the best way to ensure it continues to provide a great academic experience to its cadets.”Molly Bergren
Q: If brother rats asked you why they should support VMI financially, what would you tell them?
A: After graduation, many of my friends said it was difficult to consider just returning to VMI, let alone supporting it financially. It’s easy to get caught up in the little things that were negative or frustrating. I would encourage them to move past those things and instead think about their accomplishments since graduation and what led them to where they are today. For me, the answer pointed back to the many lessons I learned while at VMI. Being able to donate today makes me proud of my post-VMI accomplishments and thankful for the experiences I had during those four years.
Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects
The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.
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