25th Anniversary Celebration of Women at VMI

Henry Sheets ’21 (VMI ’25), Millicent Sheets, Dr. Mariah Goodall (VMI ’04), and Mason Rudolfs ’20 (VMI ’24).

Henry Sheets ’21 (VMI ’25), Millicent Sheets, Dr. Mariah Goodall (VMI ’04), and Mason Rudolfs ’20 (VMI ’24).

On September 9, the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) celebrated the “25th Anniversary Celebration of Women at VMI,” which included Gunston Science Teacher Dr. Mariah Goodall, who graduated in 2004, one of 15 women and only the fourth cohort of women to matriculate since the institution became co-ed. Dr. Goodall was a Distinguished Graduate with a bachelor of science degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. 

Q&A with Dr. Goodall

What was your experience like?
Unique, eye-opening, truly one-of-a-kind, life changing. 

How many fellow women did you graduate with/were in the program with you?
We started out with 25 women in our class of over 400 for the class of 2004. 15 of those initial 25 women graduated from VMI, which believe it or not, is a greater percentage of female VMI graduates than most classes at that time. 

What were some of your biggest challenges?
I am a “people pleaser” and graduated from my high school as valedictorian and was friends with and got along with everyone in my graduating class of 250. Once I arrived at VMI, I very quickly realized how much different my social experience would be. Being one of the first females at VMI, there was a natural animosity among some of the cadets toward me and other females simply based on our gender because it went against the school’s long standing tradition of being an all-male school. There were moments when terrible things were said to me and other women at VMI simply based on our gender. It was eye opening to me that there could be people in the world that hate others just for being different and there was nothing I could do to change that. It took a long time for me to adjust to and BE OKAY WITH the fact that not everyone in the world will like you. 

What made you decide to choose VMI?
I initially applied to VMI as a joke to play on my high school chemistry teacher who was a VMI alum and very upset and vocal about the supreme court decision to allow women to attend the previously all-male school. However, once I applied, it soon became clear to me that this was the path I was supposed to take in life as everything lined up perfectly. I received a full institute scholarship to VMI which would cover all of my tuition plus room and board for all four years plus a semester of studying abroad if desired. The cross country and track coach began calling to recruit me. In a sense, by offering me several unique opportunities, VMI gave me an offer that was too hard to turn down, so ultimately, I said yes. 

What are some of the ways VMI has helped to shape who you are now? 
No doubt in my mind, I am where I am today because of VMI and all of my experiences (both good and bad) there. VMI gave me an incredible education and the opportunity to explore a career in science that I had not yet considered with science research and teaching. Given the small class sizes at VMI, I had the opportunity to stand out to my science professors and as a result I was offered an undergraduate summer research position the summer after my freshman year. While I began college with the intention of being pre-med and going down the medical school and doctor career path, after that first summer of science research, I was immediately hooked on research (and good at it) and decided that was a better career path for me.

In addition, my experiences at VMI taught me how to be true to myself and be okay with who I am, what I believe, my choices, decisions, and passions in life regardless of what others think or say. It allowed me to redirect my focus from being concerned about always being perfect and worried about what others think of me and/or say about me to instead focus on something far more important, always giving my best effort, trying hard to succeed (even if I fail at first, but learning from my mistakes), and ultimately, me doing ME to become a better version of myself. 

Group of VMI Alumnae from the first class in 2001 to the most recent class of 2022 present for the weekend celebration of the

Group of VMI Alumnae from the first class in 2001 to the most recent class of 2022 present for the weekend celebration of the 25th anniversary of women at VMI. Dr. Mariah Goodall (VMI ’04).