University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Student Focus

Kaelyn Burbey in fatigues
Photograph by Sally McCay

DEPARTMENTS/
THE GREEN

Student Focus

Kaelyn Burbey’s four years as a UVM undergraduate did not lack for rigor. Honors College, ROTC, environmental engineering major/mathematics minor, and, yes, some trips to the mountains for snowboarding or hiking when she could find the time. 

The Class of 2017 cadet received the ROTC Legion of Valor Bronze Cross Award, given annually for achievement of scholastic excellence in military and academic subjects. Nationally, just thirteen cadets receive the award. 

Spring semester of her senior year, Burbey reflects on lessons learned and skills honed via ROTC. Discipline, public speaking, teamwork, and working under pressure rise to the top. Many of them also come to bear, clearly, in her engineering education.  

“A lot of our ROTC training induces stress, so that it pushes you to be adaptive and think on the fly. That is, obviously, applicable almost anywhere in life—whether it is a test or you’re being pushed to complete a project on a tight deadline, being able to keep a level head and keep working at it.”

Burbey didn’t apply to UVM with any thought she would graduate as a U.S. Army officer. A native Californian, who attended prep school in Connecticut, she applied to Vermont with the encouragement of two advisors at her high school, one a UVM grad, the other a parent of a UVM student. The opportunities and scale of a small research university sold her that UVM was the place. 

Burbey browsed the ROTC table at a summer orientation event and was intrigued. She joined with no initial commitment, found she loved it, and was recruited to sign on formally with a four-year scholarship. 

Professors Donna Rizzo and Arne Bomblies have been among influential faculty. In Bomblies’s class spring semester, she is working with the same software used by the Army Corps of Engineers, likely helpful for her future. After graduation, she begins four years of active duty in the Army with five-months of training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri. 

Next story in The Green.

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