Unexpected Lessons at Training Camp
Calum McClelland ’16
Calum’s first three years at Brown flew by in a string of successes. He played varsity lacrosse and rugby, excelled in his philosophy classes, took on leadership role at the Brown Game Developers Club, and worked on developing a board game with his brother.
Then senior year came, and Calum faced a series of personal hardships, including the death of his grandfather. He began considering his future in a new light. With graduation looming, he began asking himself what a good life might look like. With this new focus, coupled with his ongoing interest in entrepreneurship, VFA felt like the right step forward.
Still, Calum was hesitant about Training Camp. By the end of his senior year, he was tired of studying—more than anything, he wanted to jump in and begin adding value at a company. It was hard for him to imagine learning anything of substance at Training Camp that he couldn’t just learn on the job.
A new kind of learning
From the first day, Training Camp was not what Calum expected. Many of the challenges and conversations proved valuable, and it felt more practical than he expected. Most important, though, was the time he spent with other Fellows.
Calum always knew he had a lot of gifts—intelligence, athleticism, the capacity for hard work. Occasionally, he found himself looking down on people who struggled in areas where he easily excelled. But Training Camp flipped a switch in his brain. Calum liked VFA’s mission, but other Fellows already embodied it. He met Fellows who volunteered in their communities, launched companies during undergrad that met a real community need, and approached every day with a commitment to integrity. Calum’s gifts, he realized, were opportunities to help others.
My expectations weren’t very high going in, but Training Camp had a profound effect on me. I joined VFA because I was interested in entrepreneurship, but getting to know the other Fellows and hearing about their commitment to impacting the country for the better gave me a sense of purpose.
At Training Camp, Calum developed relationships with people who were unlike him, with experiences that didn’t mirror his own. It made him want to shift his mindset: be less quick to judge, and more open to approaching others as whole people, with complicated histories of their own. In Baltimore, where he works as the Director of Business Development at Leverege, the VFA community continues to inspire him—to work harder, find ways to add value, and to leave any community he joins better than he found it. “The other Fellows aren’t just capable and smart,” he said, “they’re also cool, interesting, self-aware, genuinely good people.” And they’ve given him a sense of direction.