Not long after officially opening its doors, the Corps Leadership and Military Science Building provided the setting for the Fall Association of Military Colleges and Schools of the United States’ (AMCSUS) Senior Military College Conference on Sept 25-27. 

The annual conference brought together senior staff and student leaders from the six senior military colleges in the U.S. along with other collegiate corps of cadets' programs. Representatives from Texas A&M University, the Citadel, Virginia Military Institute, Norwich University, and the University of North Georgia were joined by staff and cadets from Tarleton University, Louisiana State University, the Virginia Women’s Institute for Leadership at Mary Baldwin College, and Texas A&M University at Galveston. 

At a time when military recruiting is in a downward trend, the gathering provided an opportunity for military college programs to discuss best practices in their organizations, Department of Defense and ROTC program updates, and help them jointly address trends in mental health, cybersecurity, sexual assault prevention, recruiting and retention, affordability, student wellness, and other critical topics faced by colleges and military branches today.  

Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart, commandant of cadets, presided over the conference. “The annual SMC [senior military conference] conference is an incredibly valuable time for the six senior military colleges, established under Title X, to share best practices. We collectively work with the military services to ensure our military-leader tracks will meet the growing demand for officers and that our citizen-leader track programs are the best they can be to meet national security needs,” said Fullhart. 

Inside the multipurpose room in the Corps Leadership and Military Science Building, cadets discussed topics relevant to the current collegiate and military environments. Photo by Katie Mallory for Virginia Tech.

Cadet leaders from each college also attended discussion sessions addressing peer accountability, recruiting and retention, and character development, giving them an opportunity to mold their programs from a student viewpoint.  

Virginia Tech Cadet Alex Arriza, a national security and foreign affairs major in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences and the highest-ranking member of the corps’ junior class, attended the event. 

“The SMC conference was a unique experience. I had the opportunity to get to know the cadet leadership from other schools and build bonds between our institutions. The cadets were very professional, and I really enjoyed talking with them and learning about how their organization is run,” Arriza said. 

“The curriculum covered multiple topics that we all deal with in some way at our schools. It was interesting to hear how the other senior military colleges share similar situations with us at Virginia Tech. We were able dig into those topics and share ways to better ourselves moving forward,” Arriza said.

During staff sessions, Chris Wise, assistant vice president for health and wellness, spoke about Virginia Tech’s Residential Well-being initiative and Matt Holt shared how Virgina Tech Advantage is providing resources and removing financial barriers for students. Virginia Tech Advantage, a universitywide priority set by President Tim Sands and the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, addresses unmet and basic student needs, while focusing on transformational learning opportunities, career preparation, and increasing university scholarships.

Laura Freeman, deputy director of the Virginia Tech National Security Institute, also spoke during the conference, highlighting the collaborative efforts between institute and the Corps of Cadets.

Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jamie McGrath, director of the Maj. Gen. W. Thomas Rice Center for Leader Development, coordinated this year’s gathering. "Hosting the SMC conference at Virginia Tech allowed us to highlight the amazing cooperation the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets has with partners across campus. It is this cooperation, along with that of our ROTC partners, that demonstrates why Virginia Tech provides the best opportunity for our cadets to succeed in the military or civilian work force,” said McGrath.