Citizen-Leader Track Cadets Train for the Future

Stuart Meese lectures in a classroom of cadets.
Stuart Meese, executive director for Student Advancement and Career Services in Virginia Tech’s Pamplin College of Business, was among the guest lecturers this past semester for Citizen-Leader Track cadets.

By Jason Oberoi ’09, assistant director of the Citizen-Leader Track/VPI Battalion

While many cadets in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets spend Tuesday afternoons simulating battle drills, learning navigation, and marching, the Citizen-Leader Track cadets in VPI battalion receive training to help them succeed in the workplace.

The cadets still learn about leadership, communication, and integrity, but they also receive training on ideas they can talk about during interviews with employers, such as Lean Six Sigma, Theory of Constraints, and project management. We want our cadets, many of whom end up going into business, to be exposed to these ideas prior to graduating so they are better job candidates and then better employees.

Theory of Constraints solves problems by finding and reducing obstacles that stand in the way of mission accomplishment. In teaching the theory, Commandant of Cadets Maj. Gen. Randal Fullhart uses the example of how he stood up an Air Force wing in Egypt just before the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He attributed the unit’s success to the can-do attitude, to the professionalism of its men and women, and to the use of Theory of Constraints to inform work priorities each day.

Lean Six Sigma is a business efficiency methodology that reduces common inefficiencies through data analytics. This year, VPI seniors learned its fundamentals and the common sources of inefficiencies in business. Then they applied that knowledge to in-processing for New Cadet Week. Their recommendations to make it more efficient included asking new cadets to arrive with their hair already cut and having a survey that the cadets take be administered during the school year. 

The project management classes also are new this year. Cadets are introduced to the fundamentals of project management, what project managers can do, and where cadets can go for more education. The cadets then choose a project to complete in groups, and each group had to complete a charter, deliver an update, and prepare a final presentation complete with charter, Gannt Chart, and lessons learned about leading a small team.

Each of these topics helps our cadets be more employable and, once employed, be better employees. The assignments tied to each topic are either a written paper or a presentation meant to help cadets improve their ability to communicate through writing or talk to a large group of people. These are the qualities sought in job candidates, graduate school applicants, or Officer Candidates School hopefuls.

 “Aside from learning the basic engineering problem-solving approach in my classes at Virginia Tech, the other most valuable skills and tools I have learned since graduation are project management and applying Lean Six Sigma concepts to a wide variety of challenges,” said Scott Pearl ’84, deputy chief of the Manufacturing and Industrial Technologies Division within the Air Force Research Lab’s Materials and Manufacturing Directorate. He’s also a member of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Alumni Inc. board.

“These tools have not just enhanced my job performance over the years, but I have also applied them to everyday life situations to better manage my time and my effectiveness to complete tasks well and on time,” Pearl said. “For the VPI Battalion cadets to learn these and to be able to experiment with them in an academic setting should be yet another factor that sets them apart from their peers. I trust they will find these tools to be as valuable to them as I have.”

If you have an internship or job opportunity for cadets, please email Jason Oberoi at jtoberoi@vt.edu