Upcoming Events

Scheduled Events Offered by the Center for the 2021-22 Academic Year:

COVID PROTOCOL FOR IN-PERSON EVENTS: Currently, VMI policy is that those fully vaccinated are not required to wear masks on post. All others are required to wear face coverings and practice safe distancing.

For the health and safety of all in attendance, we also request that if you are feeling sick or have any symptoms of COVID or influenza, you follow the CDC recommendation of remaining at home.

Please direct inquiries about our events to Lt. Col. Kim Connolly, Assistant Director for Conferences and Programs at connollykv@vmi.edu or (540)464-7361

2021-22 Virtual Offerings: 

  • VMI Leader Journey podcast

  • Virtual Leadership Engagement Programming (VLEP) our social media will feature posts on focus sub-themes to promote awareness, engagement, and dialogue on our Center's annual theme of “Citizen-Leaders” and the annual Leadership and Ethics Conference

To partake, connect with the CLE: Facebook  Twitter   Instagram  YouTube  LinkedIn

  • Citizen Leader Focus Topics:
    • Citizenship
    • Common Purpose
    • Social Responsibility
    • Character & Service Above Self
    • Excellence
    • Unity

In-Person 2021-22 Conference Schedule:

  • Nov. 1-2, 2021: 12th Annual Leadership & Ethics Conference: Re-examining Citizenship and Social Responsibility
  • Feb. 25-26, 2022: Commonwealth Cyber Fusion
  • March 29-31, 2022: 32nd Annual Environment Virginia Symposium

Courageous Leadership Speakers

During the spring term, featured "courageous leaders" come to post to engage with cadets, staff, and faculty providing their personal insights.  These speaker events are also open to the general public.

Their role as influencers helps support our mission of enhancing the leadership development journey of the VMI community and raising the profile of the Institute to a broader, national audience.  

First Casualty Book Cover Artwork Image

Moderated panel discussion with Toby Harnden author and Guests of "First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11"

Friday, February 18, 2022, at Noon

Join VMI's Center for Leadership & Ethics team as they host a moderated panel discussion to dig into accounts from that mission, lessons learned, and overall leadership discernment. Center Director, Col. Dave Gray, Ph.D., will be our moderator. Guests include author TobyHarnden, retired senior CIA officer David Tyson, and special guests Scott Spellmeyer '90, and Justin Sapp '94.

Headshot of Toby HarndonToby Harnden is an author, journalist, and winner of the Orwell Prize. His most recent book is First Casualty: The Untold Story of the CIA Mission to Avenge 9/11. A former foreign correspondent for The Sunday Times of London and The Daily Telegraph who has reported from 33 countries, he specializes in terrorism and war. Born in England, Harnden was imprisoned in Zimbabwe, faced prosecution in Britain for protecting confidential sources, and was vindicated by a $23 million public inquiry in Ireland. A dual British and American citizen, he spent a decade as a Royal Navy officer before becoming a journalist. He holds a First-Class degree in Modern History from Corpus Christi College, Oxford. He is the author of Bandit Country: The IRA & South Armagh (1999) and Dead Men Risen: An Epic Story of War and Heroism in Afghanistan (2009). Previously based in London, Belfast, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Washington D.C., he now lives in Virginia.

David Tyson Profile PhotoDavid Tyson retired from the CIA’s Clandestine Service in 2020 after a 25-year career.  The majority of his service was overseas; most of his postings and deployments were to Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and South Asia, where he was a Chief of Station twice.  He led/took part in paramilitary and counterterrorist operations in war zones, often working closely with U.S. Special Forces and foreign intelligence services.   David began his intelligence career as a linguist and interpreter, achieving fluency in Russian, Uzbek, Turkmen, Turkish, and Farsi/Dari.   He is a recipient of CIA’s Distinguished Intelligence Cross, the Agency’s equivalent to the Medal of Honor, and the Agency's Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. Prior to working for the Agency, David served in the U.S. Army, both enlisted and as an officer.  He has a BA in International Relations and Russian Language from West Chester State University and two master’s degrees from Indiana University, one in Central Asian Studies and the other in Russian Studies.  He taught Uzbek and Turkmen languages while at IU and authored several articles and books on language and culture.

Scott Spellmeyer, VMI Class of 1990R. Scott Spellmeyer '90 is a Managing Director at Tracker Capital Management after retiring from the CIA with nearly 30 years of government service.  As a Paramilitary Operations Officer, he served in multiple senior assignments, including Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director for Intelligence Programs at the White House/National Security Council, Chief of CIA’s largest overseas Station, and Chief of Staff to the Deputy Director of Operations.  Prior to joining the CIA, Scott served eight years in the United States Army, including assignments with the 75th Ranger Regiment.  He earned a BA in History from the Virginia Military Institute and an MS in National Security Strategy from the National Defense University’s National War College.  His awards include the Intelligence Star, Bronze Star, and the Purple Heart.

Justin Sapp '94 Profile ImageColonel Justin W. Sapp, '94 currently serves as the Chief of Staff for the U.S. Military Staff Committee.  His previous assignment was in the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)), where he served as Chief of the Sensitive Special Operations Division. In this role, Colonel Sapp was the principal intelligence advisor for Sensitive Special Operations within USD(I) and was responsible for intelligence oversight of Special Operations involving Human Intelligence and Sensitive Activities.  As part of his duties, he frequently updated the Congressional committees on matters related to Sensitive Special Operations.  Prior to serving in USD(I), Colonel Sapp held a variety of command and staff positions with the interagency, the Joint Force, and the Army Special Forces.

An evening with Andy Milburn - author of "When the Tempest Gathers"

Thursday, Mar. 3, 2022, at 7:45 p.m.

When the Tempest Gathers Cover Artwork Image"When the Tempest Gathers: From Mogadishu to the Fight Against ISIS, a Marine Special Operations Commander at War" is a compilation of the intense personal combat experiences of the book's author, Andrew Milburn. Join us for the second event of the Courageous Leadership Speaker Series as we listen to understand more about what it's like to lead those who fight America's wars. 

The book portrays the combat experiences of the first Marine to command a special operations task force, recounted against a backdrop of his journey from raw Second Lieutenant to seasoned Colonel and Task Force Commander; from leading Marines through the streets of Mogadishu, Baghdad, Fallujah, and Mosul to directing multi-national special operations forces in a dauntingly complex fight against a formidable foe.

Milburn's talk will be followed by a book signing. Attendees can bring their own copies of his book for him to sign.


An evening with Tracy Walder - Former CIA operative, FBI agent, and author of "The Unexpected Spy"

Thursday, Apr. 21, 2022, at 7:45 p.m.

The Unexpected Spy Book Cover Art Image

Tracy Walder, a former CIA agent, will speak on April 21 at 7:45 pm in the Gillis Theater at Marshall Hall. The event is free and open to the public as part of the Center for Leadership and Ethic’s Courageous Leadership speaker series. Walder’s book, The Unexpected Spy, details her incredible true story of meeting a CIA recruiter at a job fair and being recruited by the agency while a USC student and Delta Gamma sorority sister. She would spend the next five years as a covert operative for CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, assuming aliases, thwarting terrorist attacks, and hiding in the trunks of cars on her way to debrief terrorists at black sites. 

Tracy worked as a Staff Operations Officer in the Central Intelligence Agency's Counterterrorism Center before, during, and after September 11th, 2001, and as Special Agent at the FBI. During her time at the CIA, Tracy lived in and traveled to countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe as well as served in war zones.  After the CIA, Tracy became a Special Agent at the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, Santa Ana Resident Agent, specializing in Chinese counterintelligence operations, specifically the Tai and Chi Mak case, profiled on CNN and in the New Yorker.  Following her time at the CIA and FBI, Tracy created a course on national security and foreign policy for young women.  Tracy now works as an adjunct professor of Criminal Justice and Domestic Terrorism at Texas Christian University, and Global Terrorism at Ursuline Academy.

Copies of her book will be on sale in the lobby before the event and a book signing will take place after her talk. For more information, contact Kim Connolly at connollykv@vmi.edu.



Recent speakers in this engaging event series have included:

Videos of previous speakers from this series can be found on the CLE's YouTube channel