Leaders of Cadet Program Want to See Expansion

By: Elizabeth Lamb Email
By: Elizabeth Lamb Email

STAUNTON, Va ---- The cadets at Mary Baldwin are part of an all-women cadet corps and it is the only corps of its kind in the U.S.

General Michael Bissell has overseen Virginia's Women Institute for Leadership (VWIL) for more than a decade, training the next generation of leaders.

“I took this on with relish, and I think that women can be good leaders,” said Bissell.

The program started at Mary Baldwin College and it is the only all-women cadet corps in the country.

Bissell has graduated nearly 600 cadets since VWIL started and Bissell is ready to expand the program to graduate more leaders from the college.

“We should be distinctive and we should be growing by leaps and bounds. We are, but it's very minuscule.”

Right now the Women's Institute has about 150 cadets, but they are looking to nearly double that number in the coming years.

Cadet Mariela Alas said she knows herself better thanks to the corps.

“The program forces you to accept other people without really knowing them,” said Alas. “So, you get to learn your sisters, and about yourself. You can say, 'Ok, this is my sophomore year. This is my leadership style.'”

Bissell worked with the Virginia Military Institute to first admit women and he said it is cadets, like Alas, that can change the military.

“I want to see what I can do to help develop young women into that perfect role that we're missing right now with the all-male dominance with what we're doing in leadership,” said Bissell.

That leadership is what Bissell is looking to expand at Mary Baldwin.

“This is exciting that we're really starting to move off the dot and make this corps what it should be.”

The cadet corps kicked off its year this past Sunday and they usually graduate about 50 cadets each year.

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