The Institute Report,April 2013, Page 5
New First-Year Course Teaches Wellness
Physical education faculty
membe r s a r e t each i ng t he
importance of maintaining a
healthy lifestyle in a new first-year
course, Wellness Concepts, which
is required for all incoming cadets.
The course emphasizes the
importance of exercise, nutrition,
and lifestyle and how that pertains
to life at VMI and beyond.
“That’s what VMI is all about:
developing the mind and the
body,” said Col. James Coale,
head of physical education.
“Getting this experience early on
in their cadetships helps the rats
understand a lot of what they’re
The course gives new cadets a
new perspective on the physical and mental rigors of the Rat Line.
“There’s so much going on at VMI,” said Coale. “The stress can eat
you up, and how you interpret and respond to it as a rat is important.”
Throughout the semester, cadets in the class work on a behavior-
change project, in which they target an area of life to improve and keep
a log to track their progress.
“A lot of cadets benefited from that project,” said Lt. Col. Mike
Krackow, associate professor of physical education in his first year at
VMI. “I had students work on exercise, nutrition, time management, and
sleeping habits. Many saw positive changes throughout the semester.”
In order to encourage participation and engagement, class sizes are
kept small, with a maximum of 20 students per section. To accommodate
the entire rat class, 13 sections were offered in the fall and 11 are being
taught this spring by several members of the department’s faculty.
“I make the course as interactive as possible,” said Krackow. “We’re
taking the knowledge and skills and tying them into the mindset of VMI,
relating them to everything that they have going on.”
Since cadets are required to
maintain a high level of fitness while
at the Institute, the course focuses
on why this fitness is important and
how cadets can integrate fitness
into their lives after VMI.
“Not only are members of the
Corps physically fit, but they
understand the role that fitness
and nutrition play in their quality
of life,” said Coale, “and they carry
that legacy on with them after they
To this end, instructors are
using familiar examples to educate
“One exercise that I have my
students do is to choose their
favorite fast food meals, and
calculate the calories, fat, and nutritional value,” said Krackow. “A lot
of them are surprised at how unhealthy those meals can be.”
Overall, cadets seem to value the course’s content.
“We were pleasantly surprised at the amount of positive feedback we
got from cadets when we did the assessment of the fall semester,” said
Coale. “We’re going to continue to assess it for years to come and make
changes based on the needs of cadets.”
The fall survey, for example, indicated a desire for greater emphasis
on exercise program development, and that change is already in place
“I always tell students that the best exercise program is one that you
can stick to,” said Krackow. The course is teaching the basics of exercise
and helping cadets to develop exercise programs based on their personal
“The wellness course will continue to change based on the responses
of cadets, so we’re developing a course that is tailor-made to the needs
of cadets,” said Krackow.
Lt. Col. Mike Krackow teaches the new
Wellness Concepts course.
– VMI Photo by John Robertson IV.
Saying ‘Thanks’ at the Heart of VMI
’83, VMI F
Earlier this month, 175 new bricks were placed in the sidewalk in
front of barracks. These bricks were part of a program begun in 2002
that recognizes alumni, faculty, staff, and friends who have given at least
$2,500 in support of VMI since July 1998. Their names are engraved on
the bricks, which, with the most recent additions, number nearly 6,000.
“Our donors put a high value on this program for many reasons,”
said Patrick Webb, VMI Foundation vice president for annual and
reunion giving. “For example, it is a way that a class can demonstrate
the strength of its Brother Rat spirit. It also gives our donors a chance to
give themselves something of a presence at what is the heart of VMI: the
barracks. Some of our donors see it as a way to provide a good example
and, therefore, spur others to support the Institute and its cadets.”
Each class has its own section, and there is a special section for donors
who are friends, faculty, and staff. Donors also are able to purchase a
brick – or, for another $2,500 in donations, additional bricks, up to a
total of five – in honor of friends, relatives, or deceased Brother Rats.
For the VMI alumni agencies, the Brick Program remains a way to
express thanks to the people who have made often sacrificial efforts to
“While we are pleased whenever an alumnus tells us that, say, seeing
the names of his Brother Rats on the sidewalk prompted him to give,”
said Brian Scott Crockett, CEO of the VMI Foundation, “for us, it remains
a special way to say ‘Thank you’ at a special place in the hearts of the
More information on the Brick Program can be found at www.
vmifoundation.org. Just click “Ways to Give” and then “Brick Program.”