US_ROTCWhen I see students walking around in army fatigues on campus – even those who I am good friends with – I get a little, well, fatigued. What are they doing? Truthfully, they intimidate me.

Gannon University’s ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corps) program isn’t scary, though. In the words of Melanie Zack, senior nursing major and contracted cadet: “It’s like a family system.”

Students in the program are either contracted or non-contracted cadets. Non-contracted cadets have not signed a contract indicating their commitment to the military. Contracted cadets have signed up to enlist in the U.S. Army.

Zack recommends taking classes and joining the program as a non-contracted cadet in order to gain an understanding about what being in the military means.

“If you’re not sure, you don’t have to jump in,” she said.

To get involved in the program, Zack first filled out a general application. Then, she was called to Gannon for an interview with officers. During the interview, she was asked questions about things, like her interests in high school. Many scholarships are offered through the program, and interviewing plays a role in who gets a two-, three- or four-year scholarship.

“It’s a long day, but worth it in the end,” Zack said.

Even if a student does not receive a four-year scholarship, he or she can come into the program and apply for scholarships later in his or her career. This option is also good for those who are debating about joining the military.

For those interested in joining the military, the ROTC program allows students to obtain degrees while immersing themselves in a military lifestyle.

“If you’re interested in the military, this is a way to get commissioned as an officer and go to college at the same time,” Zack said.

Being in the ROTC program keeps Zack on her toes and provides her with many opportunities.

“It’s busy, but it’s an incredible bond you make with your class,” she said. “You know you’ll continue to talk to them throughout your life.”

She said she has also developed a lot as a person through her training experiences and leadership opportunities on campus and on army bases around the world.

“ROTC has made me a lot stronger of a person,” Zack said. “I’ve learned time management and how to handle stress in college.” In terms of her nursing major, she is guaranteed a job immediately following graduation.

When Zack graduates, she will be a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. She will have achieved that rank through a strong ROTC program at Gannon University which allowed her to have a college experience, become a nurse and be a member of the U.S. military.