- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - While she may still have one semester left before she says goodbye to Texas A&M; University, outgoing commander of the Corps of Cadets Alyssa Michalke is thankful for her past four years in the longstanding student organization.

“It’s definitely bittersweet, I’ve poured a lot of my heart and soul into this organization over the past four years and it’s going to be tough to walk away from it all,” she said.

The Eagle (https://bit.ly/1Wh2yZi ) newspaper reports Michalke said she is particularly glad to have one final semester to make the goodbye a little easier.

“I think that last semester will give me a little bit of closure instead of having to walk away from it so suddenly,” Michalke said. “I’ll be able to see the cadets walking around on campus, interact with them and see how the class of ‘17 is doing in their time of leadership as seniors.”

She is fully aware, however, of the changes she will face as an ordinary student on campus.

“It’s all I’ve known while I’ve been in college,” Michalke said. “I’ve gone to every single college class in uniform and it’s going to be weird walking around next fall in shorts and a T-shirt watching all the other cadets go to class in uniform.”

Leading the largest Corps since 1970 and helping to facilitate the record-high grade point averages throughout the organization, Michalke largely places the credit on her leadership team and subordinates for the successes.

“I can get up on stage and pontificate and motivate cadets all I want, but at the end of the day it comes down to those sophomores, juniors and seniors at the unit level that are responsible for cadets and hold them accountable,” Michalke said. “This year hasn’t been about me and what I have done, but what my peers and subordinates have been able to accomplish. The Corps would not run nearly as well as it does without those members who work so hard in the shadows, doing their job on a daily basis.”

While Michalke is humble about the influence she had over the past year, Corps Commandant Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez did not shy away from noting her effect.

“She and her leadership team did an exceptional job this year. This was a very good year for our Corps in many ways, and I attribute a lot of that to Alyssa, her leadership and the leadership of her senior leaders in the Corps,” Ramirez said.

He added that in her historic legacy as the first woman to hold the position of Corps commander, Michalke “made 40 years of women in the Corps extremely proud this year.”

Michalke said she finds it unfair the women who came before her are not given more credit for paving the path ahead of her.

Having brought a first to the organization, Michalke said she hopes 100 years from now there are no firsts left to achieve.

“I hope that people will be able to see past the color of your skin, your gender, your religion and see you for the leader that you are,” Michalke said. “I hope that what I’ve done this year as Corps commander has set a precedent that no matter what the stereotype may be, you can be successful as long as you work hard, you have a vision and a mission, you stick to it, hold those around you accountable and strive for excellence.”

As for her immediate successor, Michalke said she has “no doubt” incoming commander Cecille Sorio and her team will succeed.

Among her advice for the incoming leaders, Michalke said she has encouraged them to learn from her experiences and strive to strike a healthy “work-life balance.”

“The one piece of advice that I have that I continue to reiterate to them is to slow down next semester, take it in and even when you’re up to midnight working on a paper, remember that you signed up for it and that there are people in the organization who would love to be in your shoes and have the opportunity to lead one of the best organizations on campus,” Michalke said. “Smile a little bit, have fun and don’t be afraid to cut loose every now and then.”

As for what she will miss the most, Michalke had a simple answer - the camaraderie.

From down the halls of the dorm to see who wanted to grab dinner to the sometimes grueling runs, Michalke said she is thankful for the time she got to spend so close with her fellow cadets.

“You get the opportunity to meet and interact with and develop relationships with some of the best people this university has to offer,” Michalke said. “I’m definitely going to miss it.”

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Information from: The Eagle, https://www.theeagle.com

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