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Think, Question, and Succeed

Honors Week Lecture Urges Cadets to Take Advantage of Privilege to Think Critically

More: Cadets Inducted into Honor Societies  

LEXINGTON, Va., April 1, 2013 – Questioning and critical thinking are not rights. That’s the thought economics professor Maj. Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl wanted the cadets to ponder last Monday as they observed Honors Week, March 25-29.

In the annual faculty lecture Monday in Gillis Theater, Dimitrova-Grajzl, who was raised in Soviet satellite Bulgaria, encouraged the cadets to view questioning and critical thinking as a privilege and to make good use of it.

“Use it in your classes, ask questions,” she said, “and take advantage of the fact that your professors are willing to have you ask those questions.”

 Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl   
Maj. Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl gives the annual Honors Week faculty lecture. -- VMI Photo by Kevin Remington. 


Dimitrova-Grajzl told the cadets about both the excellent education she received under the communist system and its uselessness. “We couldn’t use that education because we didn’t have freedom of expression, we didn’t have freedom of thought.”

That excellent education served her well, however, when she came to the United States to attend a liberal arts school, where she was encouraged to think for herself and to question.

She told the cadets about the big questions she has been asking ever since she was a doctoral student. Pondering the relevance of cultural and social norms to the study of economic development, which she believes to be significant, Dimitrova-Grajzl has studied the role of history in the transition of the former socialist countries of Southeast and Central Europe to capitalism.

Her research demonstrates that roots in the Ottoman Empire, marked by unfamiliarity with private ownership, distrust for markets, and reliance on the state, mean a more difficult transition, with low scores for rule of law and high ones for corruption. Roots in the Habsburg Empire, which offered exposure to private ownership and markets, and trust in the rule of law, mean a smoother transition, with high scores for rule of law and low ones for corruption.

“Here I’m testing the relationship between history and formal institutions, and I’m finding a significant relationship,” Dimitrova-Grajzl told the cadets of her work, which seeks to discover how best to acquire effective institutions. She also described a study involving Native American reservations and state and federal law.

Her success, it seems, is the result of a good education, embracing the privilege of questioning and thinking critically, and following the opportunities that that privilege offers. She advised to the cadets to do the same.

“Take those critical thinking skills to your jobs,” she said. “And if you do that, you will be successful.”

–Sherri Tombarge


Cadets Inducted into Honor Societies

LEXINGTON, Va., April 1, 2013 – A number of cadets are wearing a new pin on their uniforms as part of VMI’s annual observance of Honors Week. These cadets were inducted into honor societies as part of that observance. 

Cadets being inducted into honor societies include the following:

Beta Beta Beta biology honor society – Leigh Anne Fortney, William Bacci, Jonathan Vignali, Daniel Adler, Micah Hosler, Dalton Kuhar.

Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society – J. Eric Rice, William Breakell, Chih-Yuan Chen, Robert Demson, Jacob Grier, Andrew Ukrop.

Delta Phi Alpha German honor society – Christopher Michael Barefoot, John Eugene Bolen Jr., Samuel Joseph Guidry, Ryan Anthony McDaniel, Mary Rose Meidenbauer, Roland Anders Zech.

Eta Kappa Nu – Nathan Howard, Stuart Hughes, Ian Hogan.

Gamma Sigma Epsilon chemistry honor society – Thomas Bradshaw, Abraham Jordan, Dylan Kelly, Philip Pryor.

Omicron Delta Epsilon – William Alewine, Michael Burnett, Simone Jimenez, Charles Jones, William Breakell, Chih-Yuan Chen, Tsung-Han Chu, Robert Demson, Jacob Grier, Collin Newcomb, Andrew Ukrop, Zachary Wilkinson, William Holzapfel.

Omicron Delta Kappa – Cameron Weatherholtz, Ray Montolin, Joseph Bishop, Paige Nardozzo, Cabell Willis, Jack Leetun, John Bolen, John Partin, Rory Dillon, Cameron Armstrong, Jonathan Mattingly, Jonathan Vignali, Keith Campion, William Helfrich, Michael Singleton, Matthew Waalkes.

Phi Alpha Theta history honor society – Katheryne R. Austin, William R. Brubaker, Peyton G. Dekker II, Robert M. Macias, Sean P. McCauley, Marshall L. Pennak, Joseph A. Predabon, Jeremy M. Sanders, David M. Souliotis, Marcus D. Sutter, Cabell F. Willis.

Phi Eta Sigma – Hayden Alford, Anthony Bianchi, Virginia Bigelow, Jordan Burkholder, Sung Chang, Junru Chen, Nathan Cole, Ryker Convento, Paul Copley, John Dante, Patrick Davis, Andrew Day, Richard  Dromerhauser, Brian Ellis, Curtis Few, Nathanael Fowler, Andrew Fry,  Maxwell Groene, Rex Hill, Austin Holmes, Colin Hughes, Giustino Iuliano, John McKelvey, Phillip Jones, Angelo Kirchon, Joseph LaMagna, James Latta, Isaac Lewis, Nathan Marshall, Connor Morgan, Daniel Moschler, Patrick Murray, Dominic Mutter, Robert Nugent, Patrick Piedad, Ryan Poffenbarger, John Reeves, Daniel Robinson, Trey Rose, Dakota Scott, Christopher Siebert, Nathan Sitzman, Augustus Sortino, Andrew Stanford, Domenick Stumpo, Paige Taylor, Matthew Tonkinson, Zachary Turek, Jacob Tyler, John Wilkins, John Zippel. 

Phi Kappa Phi –Kimberley M. Gragg, Leah C. Schubel, Cameron R. Armstrong, Luke M. Butler, Patrick M. Farina, Jacob M. Grier, Edwin M.  Higginbotham, Ray D. Montolin, Paige K. Nardozzo, John B. Partin Jr., Jonathan P. Reardon, Matthew F. Reardon, Cameron S. Weatherholtz, Cabell F. Willis. 

Phi Sigma Iota international honor society – Killian Grace Buckley, James Edward Conlon III, Corey Aldon Cooke, John Wesley Folta, Jameson Alec Goodell, Minghanbo Liu, Ray Daniel Montolin, Tessa Elaine Schlichting.

Pi Delta Phi French honor society – Peyton Gillet Dekker Jr., Tanner Steven Knight, Christopher James Schweikart.

Pi Tau Sigma honorary mechanical engineering fraternity – Stephen Fitzpatrick, Nicholas Sadowski, Luke Butler, Victor de Leon, Chung-Yu Liu, Paige Nardozzo, Jonathan Reardon, Patrick Farina, Phat Atran, Michael Mayhew.

Psi Chi international psychology honor society – Jordan Bailey, Terresa Simmonds.

Sigma Delta Pi Spanish honor society – John Wilson Warr Barber, Corey Aldon Cooke, Frederick Michael Dawson, Rob Michael Franzino, John Paul Hansen, Phillip Carl Kroke, Michelle Christine McCusker, James Evan Murphy III, Megan Victoria Scheetz, Andrew Connor Szycher.

Sigma Pi Sigma national physics honor society – William S. Lawrence, Minghanbo Liu, Aurelio L. Pineiro, Ching-Hung Tseng.

Honors Week observances also include presentations by 22 cadets of their Institute Honors theses.