While many Virginia Tech students are preparing to come back to campus, some are also preparing for an inaugural pilot program that will launch them into a career serving the nation.

Virginia Tech is one of four universities selected by the Department of Defense's Acquisition Innovation Research Center to participate in the pilot interdisciplinary scholarship and talent development program called the Defense Civilian Training Corps. The pilot program will provide students with defense-related coursework, internships, and facilitate job placement within the Department of Defense upon graduation.

Being in the pilot program "is exciting because it’s giving me a head start with everything,” said Sangmuk Kang, a senior majoring in business information technology with a focus in cybersecurity as well as public health with a minor in leadership.

Kang is a member of the Citizen-Leader Track in Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and said the ability to help the nation initially drew him to this opportunity.

“We’ll be learning about defense and getting placed in internships through the pilot program and that was so big for me because that’s exactly what I want to do,” Kang said. “I want to help our service members that are out there and work the back end to support them.”

The interdisciplinary pilot program is designed to attract students with an interest in national defense careers related to acquisition, digital technologies, critical technologies, science, engineering, and finance. Like Kang, many members of the inaugural cohort already had an interest in working for the Department of Defense before learning about the pilot program.

The Department of Defense "has access to things that you can't really get on a commercial basis and so many opportunities in the kind of work I want to do,” said Liz Johnson, a junior in geology with a minor in geographic information systems. “I see it as an awesome opportunity to really get the most out of what I put into myself.”

The Defense Civilian Training Corps, while a pathway to support the Department of Defense mission, comes at a time of critical need for the national security workforce. In the area of cybersecurity alone there are close to 700,000 vacant jobs, according to a press release from House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection.

At Virginia Tech, the Defense Civilian Training Corps will be co-led by the Hume Center for National Security and Technology, part of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute, and the Corps of Cadets. Along with opportunities and experience, the pilot program also provides full tuition and fees along with a monthly stipend, which students say will help them focus on their education.

“My mom cried when I told her,” said Jordan Amarchih, a junior in mechanical engineering. “My family was able to pay for the first two years of school, which I’m so thankful for, but we were at the point where I was thinking about taking out loans to pay for the next two years. Just knowing I don’t have to stress about it and I can focus on my classes is a relief.”

Lauren Ruck, a junior in industrial design and a Citizen-Leader Track member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, said the interdisciplinary nature of the pilot program is what first inspired her to apply.

“I’m in industrial design, which has a lot of engineering elements, but it’s not technically a STEM major.” Ruck said. “I have had opportunities in the past that I wanted to do, but they were only open to STEM majors so I couldn’t pursue them. It was so encouraging that this pilot program was open to so many majors and saw the benefit of having students with different backgrounds.”

The first cohort of 30 Virginia Tech students is scheduled to begin this fall. The students selected for the pilot program include

  • Cameron Alemand, political science
  • Jordan Amarchih, mechanical engineering
  • Andre Asarian, public health and political science
  • Glenn Coleman, political science
  • Avery Cowan, national security and foreign affairs
  • Khang Duong, mechanical engineering
  • Sidney Fredericks, computer science
  • Karina Gonzalez, political science
  • Brooke Griswold, political science
  • Pualena Heather, economics
  • Sarah Hingst, biochemistry
  • Liz Johnson, geology
  • Faith Jones, business information technology
  • Sangmuk Kang, business information technology
  • James Martin, business management
  • Maysia Mateos, political science
  • Nicholas McDermott, national security and foreign affairs
  • Nicholas Ott, criminology
  • Brooks Robinson, aerospace engineering
  • Josemari Roque, computer engineering
  • Lauren Ruck, industrial design
  • April Sayers, biosystems engineering
  • Bray Sehnert, political science
  • Harshit Singh, computational modeling and data analytics
  • Abigail Sneska, building construction
  • Jackson Spires, mechanical engineering
  • Jay-Ani Thomas, political science
  • Ilea Wesley, political science
  • Carly Wolfe, computer science
  • Jeffrey Zheng, computer science