TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY - For a 139-year-old organization, there are likely few firsts remaining. Monday, one was announced by Texas A&M's Corps of Cadets.
For the first time in its history, a woman will serve as the Corps commander.
Alyssa Michalke of Schulenburg will be the student leader of the Corps for a year starting with the end of the spring semester. She is currently serving as the Corps' sergeant major, also a first for a woman for the organization. The sergeant major is the highest rank a non-senior can hold.
Michalke is a junior with a dual major in ocean and civil engineering.
"I am deeply honored to have been selected to serve as the next Corps Commander and will do my very best to uphold the tradition of leading my fellow cadets, while also continuing to learn and grow," Michalke said in a statement. "The Corps of Cadets has provided me a tremendous opportunity to grow as a person and to develop good leadership skills. More importantly, I've been able to mentor others, and I will continue to do so in my new position as Corps Commander."
More than 2,400 students are currently in the A&M Corps, making it the largest organization of its kind in the country beyond the military service academies. More than 300 current cadets are women.
The Corps was not open to women until 1974.
This will be the second major milestone for Corps commanders in three years. In 2012, it was announced that Marquis Alexander would lead the group for the 2012-2013 school year, the first African American cadet to earn that title.
“The Corps was great back when I was in, and it’s even better now. I say that for a variety of reasons, including, but certainly not limited to the fact that it now includes women as well as being diverse and inclusive in all respects,” said A&M System Chancellor John Sharp, who was in the Corps as a member of the Aggie Class of 1972. “I heartily congratulate Cadet Michalke on her selection as Corps Commander and all of her other accomplishments, and I indeed wish her well.”
The following is the press release from Texas A&M:
For the first time in Texas A&M’s 139-year history, a woman will lead the university’s legendary Corps of Cadets.
Alyssa Marie Michalke of Schulenburg, Texas, will take command of the 2,400-plus member unit, the largest of its type in the nation except for the service academies, at the conclusion of the spring semester and serve throughout the 2015-16 school year.
The trail-blazing young woman is currently a junior with a dual major in ocean and civil engineering and presently serves as Corps Sergeant Major, the highest rank for any cadet who is not a senior. She is also the first woman to hold that position.
After her scheduled graduation next year, Michalke said she aspires to work in the offshore oil production and sub-sea systems industry.
She is the daughter of Rodney and Nicole Michalke. Her mother is a 1993 Texas A&M graduate.
"I am deeply honored to have been selected to serve as the next Corps Commander and will do my very best to uphold the tradition of leading my fellow cadets, while also continuing to learn and grow. The Corps of Cadets has provided me a tremendous opportunity to grow as a person and to develop good leadership skills. More importantly, I've been able to mentor others, and I will continue to do so in my new position as Corps Commander,” Michalke said.
Her appointment to the Corps’ top student position represents another milestone for Texas A&M and its nationally known organization.
Participation in it was made strictly voluntary in 1965 after decades of being required for all regular undergraduate students. Women for the first time were allowed to join the Corps in 1974, and their ranks total more than 300 for the current school year and the number of female cadets continues to rise.
If the recent growth trend continues, Michalke will provide leadership for the largest Texas A&M Corps in 45 years. It has increased its ranks by more than 450 students since 2010, resulting in the reactivation of seven company-size units in recent years.
In keeping with Corps tradition, Michalke was informed of her selection by the current Corps Commander David Trigg of San Antonio, who is scheduled to graduate in December 2015.
“I have had the privilege of working with Alyssa Michalke over the course of the 2014-2015 year. She has demonstrated exceptional leadership ability along with a dedicated and selfless work ethic. I am proud to transition my role as Corps Commander to such a worthy and brilliant cadet. I am confident she and her peers will lead the Corps into even greater achievements,” Trigg stated.
Michalke will formally assume command of the Corps on May 9 when it holds its traditional “Final Review,” a time-honored ceremony in which seniors lead their units in a military review—a version of a parade--for the last time, and then they are the honored as reviewing officers at an immediately following second review, with the new officers—seniors—in command of the units for the first time.
Michalke was selected following interviews with a board consisting of the senior key leadership of the Cadets Corps, and members of the Commandant’s staff and ROTCs, including the Commandant of the Corps, Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez, Jr. (U.S. Army-Ret), with the final approval made by Interim University President Mark Hussey.
“Alyssa Michalke is an exceptional young woman who has clearly demonstrated her leadership abilities throughout her three years in the Corps, most notably as the Corps Sergeant Major this year, the highest ranking junior position in the Corps. She was the perfect choice for Corps Commander for next year,” said Gen. Ramirez, a member of Texas A&M’s Class of 1979 and himself a former cadet.
“It is certainly a notable distinction for Alyssa to be the first female ever selected as Corps Commander in the 139-year history of the Corps of Cadets, but Alyssa was selected because she was the best cadet for the position, not because she is female,” the Commandant stated.
“The Corps of Cadets has had many females in key leadership positions throughout the years, but Alyssa is the first to be selected as Corps Commander – the highest ranking position in the Corps - and she earned it. We are all very proud of her and look forward to watching her continue to grow and develop as a leader as the Commander of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets next year.”
Hussey and Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp joined in congratulating Michalke and praised the leadership of the Corps—both the cadets and the Commandant’s staff—for continuing to make the Corps a premier leadership organization that offers opportunities to all Aggies—men and women and those from all racial and ethnic backgrounds—who desire to make that extra commitment to hone their leadership and related skills for later life, be it in the armed forces or in a civilian environment.
“I join in congratulating Cadet Michalke on her selection as Corps Commander,” Hussey said. “I’m certain our next President will look to her for advice and counsel in the same manner I relied on Commander Trigg. I am confident that she will serve admirably as Cadet Colonel of the Corps during the coming school year.”
“The Corps was great back when I was in, and it’s even better now. I say that for a variety of reasons, including, but certainly not limited to the fact that it now includes women as well as being diverse and inclusive in all respects,” noted Sharp, a 1972 Texas A&M graduate and a member of the Corps staff. “I heartily congratulate Cadet Michalke on her selection as Corps Commander and all of her other accomplishments, and I indeed wish her well.”
In addition to currently holding the highest position in the Corps other than those reserved for seniors, Michalke has excelled at every level during her first three years at Texas A&M—in Corps activities, her university studies and in community service. She is a member of the Corps’ O. R. Simpson Honor Society and the Ross Volunteers, the elite honor guard unit, and she played on the Corps’ basketball and softball teams. Academically, she has been named a Distinguished Student. Also, she is also a member of Omega Epsilon – the National Honor Society for Chemical Engineering, the Texas A&M Marine Technology Society (MTS), and the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME).
Outside her Corps and academic endeavors, she has been an active member of Texas A&M Sports for Kids, an organization that strives to create opportunities for children to become involved in youth sports.