Civic Engagement

The VMI experience emphasizes the value of service by encouraging cadets to serve their communities. Classroom experiences combined with regular participation in community projects develop a strong sense of charity and service to others.

VMI's mission is to produce cadets that "possess a high sense of public service." In pursuit of this mission, VMI cadets, faculty and staff engage in a multitude of civic engagement opportunities through academic, military, and club projects. 

Our aim is that during their time at VMI, cadets will develop a diverse array of experiences and abilities in their academic, extracurricular, and institutional life that will fully prepare them as civic participants in local and global communities.

This mission unfolds in three distinct ways – through the VMI educational model, through community work of clubs, teams and ROTC divisions, and through academic work.

  • VMI’s educational model is unique. The Corps of Cadets are responsible for enforcing and defending the Honor Code, with all cadet activities being lead and determined by regimental and battalion staff.

  • Working with members of the local community is another integral part of the VMI experience. Cadets can participate in service clubs on Post that works with non-profit organizations in the Rockbridge area and beyond. The ROTC branches and various NCAA teams also initiate projects with the local community.

  • Academic departments also maintain working relationships with various community partners to offer fieldwork, research and internship opportunities for cadets throughout the school calendar.

Chaplain's Office

  • Character Counts Program – Cadets visit classrooms and make presentations on building the pillars of character to middle school students.  
  • Community (local and national) service-learning opportunities to serve those living in poverty situations. National summer internship opportunities are available to VMI cadets who have taken the “Poverty and Human Capability” course at VMI.

The Nabors Service League

The Nabors Service League (NSL) is a student-run community service organization that strives to promote and encourage a spirit of service and to connect service with learning.  NSL strives to bring together service-oriented individuals to discuss the needs of the Lexington and Rockbridge communities and how Washington and Lee University and Virginia Military Institute can help to meet those needs.

Cadets interested in working with the Nabors Service League can register online at Nabors Service League Registration.

Keydets Without Borders

Keydets Without Borders combines the efforts of interested students in all majors in a collaborative effort to enhance the living conditions of developing areas worldwide. Through this effort, students will increase their global perspective, work as a team to design and implement sustainable engineering and humanitarian solutions to poverty, and gain hands-on experience applying their skills and talents towards the common good.

Timber Framers

An organization consisting of engineering and other interested students dedicated to establishing training programs for professional and beginning timber framers, disseminating information about timber framing and timber frame building design, displaying the art of timber framing to the public, and the building of timber-framed structures throughout the community.

RARO (Rockbridge Area Recreation Organization) 

RARO is run by Rocky Trudgeon who was also VMI's wrestling team coach for 28 years and retired in 2013. The organization offers area youth opportunities to play sports. 
To find out more about the organization or volunteer, visit their website.


The Rockbridge Area YMCA offers after-school care from 3 - 5 p.m. where cadets can volunteer to help with homework, play music or sports with the children. It also offers a summer camp for area children. Read more about VMI Athletics' involvement in YMCA Sports Week.

For more information on volunteering at the YMCA, contact Lori Miller via email or call 540-464-9622

Fellowship of Christian Athletes of Rockbridge County

The organization provides faith-based coaching and youth sports leagues. The Rockbridge County chapter meets weekly at Maury River Middle School, Rockbridge County High School and Lylburn Downing Middle School, Parry McCluer High School and Parry McCluer Middle School.

To volunteer, contact Greg Jewett by email or call 419-721-1260


The Shepherd Poverty Program is a joint effort by multiple schools to educate their students and to help them actually do something, about poverty in the United States. At VMI you can learn about poverty by taking ERH 240W Poverty and Human Capability (sometimes cross-listed as HNL 383W), and, once you have taken this course, you can apply for a paid summer internship working in one of many fields (e.g., law, healthcare, and education) in various parts of the country helping people in poverty. To learn more contact, Dr. Duncan Richter by email

ERHS Fieldwork 411: offered by VMI's Department of English, Rhetoric and Humanistic Studies, this class gives cadets an opportunity to apply what they have learned in the classroom, and to gain experience in either a service-learning project or an internship with a professional or non-profit organization.  In consultation with a faculty sponsor and the outside agency, Fieldwork requires the cadets to create projects that are of both educational value to them and practical use to the organization, business, or agency. This requirement also allows cadets to practice good citizenship and professional responsibility, as well as to learn by doing. Fieldwork is open to all cadets but is required for English majors. 

       Featured projects

The VMI Center for Undergraduate Research (VCUR) mission is promoting and facilitating faculty-mentored undergraduate research and fostering the development of a culture of undergraduate research at VMI.  Today’s leaders are increasingly expected to be focused on both globally and civic scales, and to embrace diversity and collaboration.  Consequently, VCUR encourages interdisciplinary undergraduate research endeavors that broaden the perspectives of students and mentors and enable them to make connections they may not otherwise make and, consistent with the “citizen-soldier” aspect of VMI’s mission, endorses service-oriented student projects that benefit society.

For more information, contact the Director of VMI Center for Undergraduate Research, Col. Scott Frein via email

10 sports have participated in team or group community service projects

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Football
  • Lacrosse
  • Soccer (M)
  • Soccer (W)
  • Swimming & Diving (M)
  • Swimming & Diving (W)
  • Water Polo
  • Wrestling
  • Additional groups taking part in service projects:

13 specific events have been executed benefitting multiple community organizations

  • Habitat for Humanity: Two separate outings to help build a local home

  • Headlock on Hunger and Hoops Against Hunger: Canned food drive benefitting the Rockbridge Area Relief Association
    • The Headlock on Hunger and Hoops Against Hunger non-perishable food donation campaigns yielded more than 200lbs of food donated to our local food pantry

  • Hour of Power Relay for Sarcoma Research: Supporting research into the causes and treatment of sarcoma and other rare pediatric cancers

  • Read Across America: Reading to local fourth grade and preschool students

  • Rockbridge SPCA Dog Walking and Cat Socializing: Giving necessary time and attention to our local SPCA animals available for adoption

  • Rockbridge SPCA Cleanup Day: Cleaning the grounds of the local SPCA who relies on the assistance of volunteers to help maintain their property

  • Salvation Army Red Kettle Bell Campaign Bell Ringing: Benefitting the Lexington and Covington Salvation Army community support efforts
    • SAAC manned the Salvation Army Red Kettle for one day at the local Kroger in Lexington.  Groups of two and three worked one-hour shifts to help the longest-running and most successful campaign of its kind raise funds for our local community.

  • South Augusta Youth Baseball Cleanup Day: Painting, washing, organizing and preparing youth baseball fields and facilities for the upcoming season

  • Winter Storm Cleanup: Shoveling snow from driveways, courtyards, sidewalks and more to help Lexington residents and the VMI Community
    • The men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams blanketed the community after a big winter storm hit Lexington, shoveling barracks courtyard at VMI and joining the local fire and rescue department shoveling driveways and sidewalks of the elderly and select local businesses.

  • Youth Lacrosse Clinic and Youth Soccer Clinic: skills clinic free to all participants
    • More than 200 young athletes have been given the opportunity to learn skills and interact with their favorite athletes through VMI’s free preseason youth clinics.

When our cadets graduate, they join the ranks of VMI alumni around the world. Our Alumni Association works with over 80 alumni chapters across the United States and abroad. Occasionally, our chapters are involved with community service and philanthropic projects, and we hope that this platform will inform cadets about the opportunities to partner with our alumni volunteers to demonstrate the good that VMI people represent in their communities.

For more information, contact Tyler J. Lighton ’15 by email

Featured Alumni

Dick Rankin ’68
Rankin runs Wounded Warrior Ohana (in Hawaii), which provides help to veterans of any age
Read more about his organization in the 2018 Alumni Review, Issue 3.

Don Crawford ’70
Crawford works with Give Solar in Harrisonburg, Virginia. They raise money for and install solar panels for nonprofits to lower overhead costs. 

Rachel Kroner '17
After graduation, Kroner volunteered with the Capuchin Franciscan Volunteer Corps helping refugees navigate the U.S. health system in Cleveland, Ohio.
Read more about her story: Rachel Kroner '17

Ron Carter ’78 
Carter is part of Life House Holdings LLC and Veteran Village LLC that builds housing for veterans & provides counseling, skills training, etc.

Mac Bowman ’73 
Bowman, M.D., started a program to go into the community to give free heart screenings to all ages
Read more about Mac A. Bowman '73