Corps of cadets’ Rice Center fosters spirit of service in student leaders

The Rice Center for Leader Development gives students in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets an academic and experiential component for leader development in preparation for real-life leadership roles both at the university and in their chosen profession.

Cadets march in formation. The Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets’ Rice Center for Leader Development provides cadets an opportunity to learn leadership through practice.

Named for Maj. Gen. W. Thomas Rice, a 1934 graduate, the Rice Center is the foundation of the corps’ leadership training philosophy. Its programs, including a minor in leadership studies, a lecture series, and a student-run conference, are based on the values represented by Virginia Tech’s War Memorial Pylons.

Minor in leadership studies

Pursued by 93 percent of cadets, the minor in leadership studies provides an experience in leadership through practice. It combines formal study with the practical leadership experience ingrained in military training. This fusion of educational styles trains students to lead successfully, whether as commissioned officers in the armed forces or as leaders in the public and private sectors.

Offered through the Pamplin College of Business, the Rice Center’s minor requires participants to hold two semester-long leadership positions that supervise fellow members of the corps. Positions range from a fire team leader, supervising two to five cadets, to the regimental commander, responsible for the welfare, performance, and training of more than 800 cadets.

The center in Rasche Hall offers accredited courses through Pamplin’s management department, including Cadet Leader School as part of MGT 2944, Military Leadership Practicum, where cadets train for the various corps leadership positions, and MGT 4944, Leading in Your Profession, where they learn specific skills to help transition to careers inside and outside the armed services. Students learn ethics theory and cross-generational communication, gain accurate expectations of the military and workforce, and develop a life plan.


Cadets listen in a classroom. The corps provides many opportunities for cadets to manage and govern their organization. Students hold leadership positions in which they are responsible for the training and well-being of their peers and work alongside faculty members and commanding officers.

Cadets in the Civilian Track program, who are not enrolled in ROTC, have an accredited course where they receive specific training on subjects such as job interviews, financial planning, teamwork, and maintaining an e-portfolio.

To meet the leadership requirement, cadets are selected to lead small units as underclassmen and often advance to lead a company or battalion as juniors and seniors. The courses change as cadets progress through their academic careers, and senior cadets culminate their training with their personal leadership philosophy, focusing on traits such as strategic thinking, conflict management, and knowing when to stand on principle.

Leadership conference

In addition to command positions, cadets experience hands-on leadership training with the Rice Center’s annual leadership conference, when cadets and midshipmen from about 20 service academies and military schools are invited to campus for professional military development. The conference is planned and coordinated by cadets, who handle public relations, operations, logistics, and Web registration. Discussions focus on fundamental ethical issues cadets will face.


The corps’ leadership philosophy centers around the principles represented by the eight pylons found on Virginia Tech’s War Memorial. The corps’ leadership philosophy centers around the principles represented by the eight pylons found on Virginia Tech’s War Memorial: Brotherhood, Leadership, Loyalty, Sacrifice, Honor, Service, Duty, and the university’s motto Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).

Leaders in Action series

The Rice Center hosts the Leaders in Action speaker series, a program of lectures and presentations by public, military, and business leaders. Recent speakers include Virginia Tech baseball coach Pete Hughes; Homer Hickam, a 1964 corps alumnus; Army Lt. Gen. Van Antwerp;  and Congressman Rob Wittman, a 1981 graduate of the corps. Another highlight of the series each semester is the Gunfighter Panel, which features corps alumni who have returned recently from a combat deployment. 

The Cutchins Distinguished Lecture invites national leaders and renowned speakers such as Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Doris Kearns Goodwin and George Will and this spring’s speaker Bill Bradley, a former NBA basketball player, three-term senator, and Rhodes scholar.

With the help of the ROTC training programs and Virginia Tech’s military tradition, the Rice Center empowers cadets to graduate with first-hand leadership experience.

“The wonderful guest speakers and lessons on leader development that I received as a cadet made a significant impact on my growth as a leader,” said Army 2nd Lt. John Steger of Springfield, Va. “There is no doubt that the leadership tools I attained through the Rice Center will prove invaluable throughout my career in the U.S. Army.” Steger received bachelor’s degrees in history and political science in 2010 and is working toward a master’s degree in political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

  • For more information on this topic, e-mail Rachel DeLauder, or call (540) 231-6429.

Video: Adnan Barqawi

    cadet Adnan Barqaw

Cadet Adnan Barqawi talks about his experiences in the Virginia Tech corps.

Academics: A cadet’s first priority

Cadets receive support from the corps and the Rice Center in the form of special classes in time-management and test-taking strategies, on-site tutors, evening call to quarters with quiet study hours in the barracks, grade monitoring, academic counseling sessions, awards for academic excellence, and other initiatives designed to help cadets achieve their goals.

Lessons for the next generation of leaders

There are many way for students to gain leadership skills at Virginia Tech. These are some of the programs that offer dynamic leadership education outside of the corps.

Words from the front lines

Students in the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets can connect with a work environment that is challenging and intense — the combat zone in Iraq. 

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