Registration Now Open for VMI’s Leadership Conference: High-Profile Cases to Highlight Moral Challenges

LEXINGTON, Va., Sept. 7, 2022--Registration is now open for VMI's Annual Leadership and Ethics' Conference titled "Principled Dissent: Navigating Moral Challenges," to be held Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 31 – Nov. 1, in Marshall Hall at Virginia Military Institute.

The event, organized and hosted by VMI's Center for Leadership and Ethics, attracts college students from around the country as well the public. The conference continues to build its reputation for tackling top issues of national importance for its programming, with topics including leading through disruption, civil discourse, strategic leadership, and ethics in the digital age. Each conference features reputable speakers and subject matter experts, small group discussions, and interactive learning activities. “Principled Dissent: Navigating Moral Challenges” will explore a progression of topics highlighting leadership skills and competencies through the lens of “The Courage of Convictions,” the leadership theme for 2022-23.

Undergraduate students have the opportunity to participate in the Leadership Case Poster Competition for cash prizes. Entrants will present a poster on the conference theme that explores one of the following topics: freedom of speech, military ethics, civil rights, social media, movements/social causes, government, business, or culture. Prize money will go to the top three submissions, which are due by Sept. 26, 2022. Winners must be present to defend their poster and claim their prize.

Ira Chaleff will be the keynote speaker and help frame the program for the entire conference. Chaleff is an author and executive coach in the greater Washington, D.C. area. His award-winning book, “The Courageous Follower: Standing Up to and for Our Leaders,” is used widely in leadership studies and development programs, including at VMI. His later book, “Intelligent Disobedience: Doing Right When What You’re Told to Do Is Wrong,” was named the best new leadership book of 2015. Both of Chaleff’s works will inspire the audience to consider ethical values and rights in deciding how and when to intelligently disobey authority without devolving into disruptive behaviors.

Erika Cheung, a medical researcher in the biotechnology industry, will speak about her experiences as a whistle-blower reporting the medical-diagnostic company Theranos to health regulators. Currently, she is the executive director of Ethics in Entrepreneurship, a nonprofit organization with the mission to embed ethical questioning, culture, and systems in start-up ecosystems worldwide.

On the evening of day one, Peter Bonilla, vice president of programs at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE) will discuss the importance of free speech on college campuses. For several years, Bonilla directed FIRE's Individual Rights Defense Program, advocating directly on behalf of wrongly censored students and faculty members nationwide.

On day two, attendees and other guests will hear from retired Gen. Robert Neller, 37th United States Marine Corps commandant, this year’s H.B. Johnson, Jr. '26 Distinguished Lecturer. His talk will take place in Cameron Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 1, at 10:50 a.m. His address is free and open to the public. Registration is required to attend all other sessions.

The closing presenter will be Rachael Denhollander, the 2022 Caroline Dawn Wortham, '12 Leadership Speaker. In 2016, Denhollander became internationally known as the first woman to speak publicly against USA Gymnastics' team doctor Larry Nassar, one of the most prolific sexual abusers in recorded history. Her courage to come forward publicly gave voice to hundreds of women, and her story is an inspirational real-world example of principled dissent.

Speaker books will be on sale in the lobby of Marshall Hall during the conference, with opportunities to have them signed by the authors. Interactive learning sessions and discussion exercises will reinforce the speakers' presentations. Participants will learn through role-playing scenarios, participate in live polls, make reasoned moral-ethical decisions, and network with individuals from academia, business, government, military, nonprofit organizations, and colleges.

Registration for the conference is $105 for adults or $35 for full-time students, with all meals included. VMI alumni may attend for a discounted rate of $95. Cadets, along with VMI faculty and staff, may attend for free, but need to complete the online registration form. For more information, to learn about the poster competition, and to register, visit the conference website.

- VMI - 

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