Cadets Attend BEYA STEM Conference

Members of the VMI delegation gather at the BEYA STEM Conference in Baltimore.

Members of the VMI delegation gather at the BEYA STEM Conference in Baltimore.—Photo courtesy of Mark Shelton II ’24.

LEXINGTON, Va. March 7, 2024 — A group of 22 cadets from Virginia Military Institute traveled to Baltimore recently to attend the BEYA STEM Conference. The annual conference provides a forum for the nation’s minority STEM-educated students to learn, interact, and build professional networks with corporate, government, military, and industry leaders. BEYA stands for Black Engineer of the Year Award, but also stands for Becoming Everything You Are, incorporating a more inclusive audience.

According to Mark Shelton II ’24, regimental commander to the Corps, for most of the cadets who attended the conference, it was their initial visit to BEYA.

“After the amazing experience nine of us had at last year's conference, we set and exceeded our goal to double the number of cadets who attended this year. This is the fourth time I have attended the conference, and enjoyed reconnecting with people I met in previous years, learning new things, and watching my peers take in the BEYA experience for the first time,” said Shelton.

Miles Johnson ’24 was one of the cadets experiencing BEYA for the first time and found it to be a fruitful experience.

“This conference allowed me to network with Black influential military leaders who have achieved the rank of colonel or higher. Since I will be commissioning into the U.S. Marine Corps soon, it was encouraging to connect with them,” Johnson stated.

The conference hosted a job fair which included representatives from many Fortune 500 companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Google, SpaceX, Northrop Grumman, Deloitte, Walmart, MITRE, as well as NASA. A few cadets were offered internships.

Col. Wakeel Idewu, professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, served as post coordinator for the conference. “I see the BEYA conference as a great benefit to cadets and the Institute as a retention tool, career accelerator, academic motivator, potential employment site, plus a masterclass on leadership, and career readiness training. It is a place for healthy design competition, and probably most importantly, a confidence builder. After being in the midst of high-ranking military officers, executives, managers, and employees from some of the top companies and agencies in the world, who also happen to be men and women of color, cadets return to post with confidence. There is tremendous value in meeting and learning from someone you emulate,” shared Idewu.

Other cadets who attended the event include Julio DaSilva ’24, Joey Heffron ’24, Rachel Hudgins ’24, Brian Jackson ’24, Joshua Kent ’24, Alex Mon ’24, Justin Peterson ’24, Zachary Sturm ’24, Jonathan Tumwikirize ’24, Kephner Etienne ’25, Maximus Ankrah ’26, Devin Auzenne ’26, Kouri Crump ’26, Tyrel Dobson ’26, Aleece Mickens ’26, Joshua Oludoyi ’26, Kymia Bridgett ’27, Anijah James ’27, Jennifer Koumondji ’27, and Chikodi Onyekachi ’27.

Marianne Hause
Communications & Marketing


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