Virginia Military Institute
The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a state-supported military college in Lexington, Virginia, the oldest such institution in the United States. Unlike any other senior military college in the United States, and in keeping with its founding principles, VMI enrolls only military cadets and awards baccalaureate degrees exclusively. VMI offers cadets strict military discipline combined with a spartan, physically and academically demanding environment. The Institute grants degrees in 14 disciplines in engineering, the sciences, and the liberal arts.
While VMI has been called the West Point of the South, it differs from the federal service academies in several respects. For example, the living conditions at VMI are far more austere than at the service academies. Also, while all cadets must participate in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), they are afforded the flexibility of pursuing civilian endeavors or accepting a commission in any of the active or reserve components of any of the U.S. military branches upon graduation. The VMI campus covers 134 acres (54 ha), 12 of which are designated as the Virginia Military Institute Historic District, a designated National Historic Landmark District. The campus is referred to as the "Post," a tradition that reflects the school's military focus and the uniformed service of its alumni. A training area of several hundred additional acres is located near the post. All cadets are housed on campus in a large five-story building, called the "barracks." The Old Barracks, which has been separately designated a National Historic Landmark, stands on the site of the old arsenal. This is the structure that received most of the damage when Union forces shelled and burned the Institute in June 1864. The new wing of the barracks ("New Barracks") was completed in 1949. The two wings surround two quadrangles connected by a sally port. All rooms open onto porch-like stoops facing one of the quadrangles. A third barracks wing was completed, with cadets moving in officially spring semester 2009. Four of the five arched entries into the barracks are named for George Washington, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, George C. Marshall '01 and Jonathan Daniels '61. Next to the Barracks are offices and meeting areas for VMI clubs and organizations, the cadet visitors center and lounge, a snack bar, and a Follett Corporation-operated bookstore.