ROTC brings out leadership and self-confidence in Colorado State students

Shawn Brown

A group of CSU ROTC students split up into platoons and get briefed on their mission for the day Sept. 25 on CSU’s Foothills Campus. (Photo credit: Sarah Fish)

Evan Gardner, a history senior at Colorado State University, owes his leadership skills to a program that is often heard of but not always understood: ROTC.

ROTC, also known as the Reserve Officers Training Corps, has had a history at CSU for over 150 years. Today, their mission is to bring out leadership potential in students who will serve as leaders in the United States Army.


As a freshman, Gardner said, he discovered his love for ROTC instantly.

“Honestly, I just tried it (ROTC) out freshman year,” Gardner said. “Liked it; stuck with it. I liked the people I was around. It was a good opportunity to practice leadership development. Things like that really helped me progress as far as being confident in myself and (helped me get) a guaranteed job after college.”

Gardner was not the only one who felt ROTC helped students reach their potential.

“I am definitely glad that ROTC is a program here, because it provides all of us as cadets with excellent opportunities to learn leadership to develop ourselves as leaders, in both the civilian world in the future and the United States Army,” said Mark Cande, a junior animal science major.

A week in Gardner’s life includes 6 to 7 a.m. training at least three times a week, a three-hour ROTC class and a three-hour ROTC lab on Thursdays. His weeks sometimes include ROTC events that go on for two to four days. The training can include anything from practicing and learning tactical skills, such as sprinting or jogging, to speaking to large groups.

According to Gardner, the time commitment is the biggest challenge of being involved in ROTC. He added that his challenges in ROTC do not compare to the rewards of a guaranteed job and discovering confidence in himself.

“The most valuable lesson that ROTC has helped me learn would be how to make decisions and be decisive under pressure … and therefore be resilient,” Cande said.

According to Gardner, about 140 people are in the ROTC program currently, and about 125 are interested in joining each semester.

On Thursdays, these students can be seen wearing their fatigues, but not everyone on campus knows why.

“I don’t know a whole lot about ROTC, but I think it might offer another outlet or another place for people to go to broaden their horizons,” said Dawn Ewing, a junior business and marketing major.


Collegian Reporter Shawn Brown can be reached at or on Twitter @Shawnb303.