New Year's Update from Maj. Gen. Wins

January 4, 2021

Dear Cadets, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, and Parents:

Happy New Year! I trust this winter furlough was a time of rejuvenation and relaxation. As we closed an eventful 2020 and begin 2021, it is a good time for reflection on where we are as an Institute and where we are going.

I have been serving as interim superintendent for just over a month now. I continue to conduct my own review of the operations of the Institute. I will be conducting listening sessions with faculty, staff, and cadets throughout January before issuing my final assessment in time for the Board of Visitors meeting on Jan. 29. My top priority remains providing our cadets with a VMI experience that is as normal as possible in this COVID environment.

Our return to the Institute is based on the tremendous cooperation from our dedicated faculty and staff, and the many sacrifices of the Corps.  Unlike other similar institutions, during last semester, we offered 44% of classes in-person with another 34% in a hybrid format.  Our contact tracing shows none of the positive COVID-19 cases traced back to a classroom exposure.  With what we learned last semester through our pandemic protocols and the adjustments we made, this semester we are able to offer 64% of classes in-person.  We will maintain our safety and health standards as the academic year progresses but increasing our in-class education is a great step forward.

As we return to VMI, measures to operate successfully in a COVID-19 environment are ready.  As cadets begin returning to post on 12 January 2021, mandatory testing by the medical staff is the first step.  Those who test negative can begin their normal activities.  Positive cases will be managed separately prior to any contact with other cadets or staff.  Additionally, measures are in place to minimize exposure to COVID-19 and respond as necessary.  I believe our ability to offer the majority of our classes in-person or with in-person contact with a faculty member ensures the best learning environment for our cadets.

Last semester, VMI saw a degree of scrutiny over our inclusion and diversity practices. Such scrutiny, while portrayed negatively, will be a positive catalyst for change. Similarly, recent news articles offered a view that the VMI experience is no longer relevant.  However, the facts are clear, VMI remains a highly desirable 21st Century education and is widely recognized for its success :

  • Our early applications are running more than 8% ahead of last year which was a record year.
  • The VMI Class of 2020 commissioned military officers at a rate of over 55%.
  • VMI’s ROTC programs are ranked sixth in the nation for producing minority military officers.
  • Each year countless citizen-soldiers graduate into the public and private sectors to begin their journeys as leaders of tomorrow.
  • The Institute continues to be recognized among the top five public liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Money magazine ranks VMI 16th among public colleges and universities nationwide (26th overall) and third among Virginia schools. VMI’s national ranking represents a jump of more than 20 positions over last year’s ranking.
  • VMI is recognized as the top school for the promotion of public service by Washington Monthly while our academic programs continue to rise in the rankings nationally.
  • VMI’s commitment to academic excellence is evidenced by our very own Col. Tinni Sen, professor of economics, being named one of Virginia’s outstanding faculty by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia.

As you know, the Commonwealth of Virginia ordered a review of the Institute’s culture, policies, and procedures with regard to diversity and inclusion. This focus allows us to look at ourselves critically and where we find problems, fix them. Regardless of the results of the review, we need to recast our legacy so that every cadet feels a part of that legacy by making the VMI experience, traditions, and culture more positive and meaningful for all cadets.

VMI is no stranger to change.  Change over the past 25 years resulted in a more inclusive VMI; professional and committed to producing more military officers and citizen-soldiers.

We will, however, remain committed to VMI’s mission to produce educated, honorable men and women, prepared for the varied work of civil life, imbued with a love of learning, confident in the functions and attitudes of leadership, possessing a high sense of public service, advocates of the American democracy and free enterprise system, and ready as citizen-soldiers to defend their country in time of national peril.

The ideals and values of the Institute – honor, respect, civility, duty, service above self, and academic excellence – will also remain unchanged.  We must hold ourselves accountable to represent the best of VMI as an inclusive environment where we treat each member of the Corps and the VMI family with dignity and respect.  Our unique system of education, the ratline, and regimental and class systems are the bedrock of the VMI experience. Our single-sanction Honor Code will continue to be a national model.

Thank you in advance for your patience and support through this process. I look forward to building upon our strengths to provide a better VMI experience as we move forward. Enjoy the remainder of the winter furlough and I look forward to seeing cadets, faculty, and staff on post very soon. If you have any suggestions, ideas, or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me at VMI-Superintendent@vmi.edu.

 

Respectfully,

Maj. Gen. Cedric T. Wins '85
U.S. Army Retired
Interim Superintendent

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