VMI Cadet Creates Informational Magazine

Kaylee Brennan ’23, an English major at Virginia Military Institute, did independent field work to create a guide for cadets who plan on attending law school after they graduate.

LEXINGTON, Va. Feb. 20, 2023 — Kaylee Brennan ’23, an English major at Virginia Military Institute saw a need for her fellow cadets and filled it. Early in her cadetship, Brennan had an interest in going to law school after graduation, however she discovered that even though VMI has a legal-related club called the Pre-Law Society for cadets interested in careers in law and law enforcement, there was a lack of resources for coaching cadets on how to prepare and apply for law school. 

“I began to question how cadets could go to law school directly after graduation, what law school was like, and what being a lawyer entails. The path to law school from VMI can seem daunting, intimidating, and confusing,” Brennan said. She sought out answers to her many questions from Maj. Adam W. Cody, assistant professor in the Department of English, Rhetoric, and Humanistic Studies (ERHS), who was also an advisor to the Pre-Law Society. Agreeing with Brennan that there was a need for such a resource, Cody suggested Brennan do independent field work to create a guide for cadets who plan on attending law school after they graduate. Under the supervision of Cody, Brennan created the magazine titled, “VMI & Law: Charging up the Hill of Law School and Legal Professions” to help cadets navigate their way to law school.

Brennan and Cody met twice a week for two hours last semester, discussing expectations, standards, and assignments. “I had to have interviews complete by a certain date, the rough draft and revised draft of my document completed by a certain date as well. I researched law schools at the University of Michigan and at the University of Notre Dame, and discovered helpful information. For example, they both offer in-person and virtual law fair events, workshops to aid in the application process, and financial aid,” reported Brennan. She also provides key information about the Law School Admission Test in her magazine.

Brennan interviewed several members of VMI alumni who are practicing attorneys. Jim Driggs ’05, who attended law school at the University of Richmond, now practices in Mechanicsville, Virginia. Gussie Lord ’01, who was part of the first co-educational class to matriculate in 1997, attended law school at the University of Michigan, and is founder and managing attorney of the Tribal Partnerships Program at Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest environmental law organization. Vince Abruzzese ’09, who attended law school at the University of Virginia, is currently a Judge Advocate General lawyer in the U.S. Air Force. All three provided Brennan with beneficial advice for cadets interested in law school.

VMI has memoranda of understanding (MOUs) in place with several law schools in Virginia, which benefit the cadets as they plan their next steps with post-graduate programs. Cadets interested may contact the office of the Dean of Faculty. 

According to Cody, Brennan’s independent study began with her own recognition that there was a lot she did not know, and a lot she wanted to find out. “Many cadets find themselves in a similar place at one point or another. To Kaylee’s credit, she decided to get answers to those questions not just for herself, but for anyone else who might follow the same path. The sort of leadership that Kaylee displayed with her independent study is something that is at the heart of VMI's educational mission,” he said.

Maj. Stephanie Hodde, assistant professor of English, and ERHS fieldwork coordinator said,

“Students like Kaylee who take initiative with independent fieldwork show us how liberal arts study prepares them to address and act on worldly audiences and contexts. Creating a primary research document for future cadets created opportunities to connect with alumni, local district courts, and law school administrators to better understand current realities, and prepare to enter the legal field.”   

Brennan’s father, Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Brennan, is in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Lakenheath, a Royal Air Force station near the village of Lakenheath, England, where Kaylee lived and attended school starting when she was 14. She considered Lakenheath her home throughout her cadetship, until her father was transferred to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (JBER) in Anchorage, Alaska, last March. Kaylee has visited her new home in Alaska twice, most recently at Christmas. “It’s lovely, but it’s super cold, and there is a moose that sleeps in the backyard,” she laughed. 

Upon graduating in May, Brennan will commission into the U.S. Army for eight years.  

Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing

VMI: Forging 21st Century Leaders