GV students help spread the word about ROTC


Courtesy / GVSU

Audrey Whitaker, Staff Reporter

When Julian Sanders transferred to Grand Valley State in Fall 2019, he had already contracted with the Army National Guard that June. Upon further research, Sanders joined GVSU’s Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, offered by the university through a partnership with Western Michigan University (WMU).

Sanders, a transfer student from Jackson College and originally from Flint, Michigan, is studying political science and criminal justice in addition to participating in the ROTC program.

“It’s a big time commitment,” Sanders said. “Every week we have workouts Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We have four to six-hour days on Wednesdays with ROTC classes, learning different battle drills, tactical techniques and leadership skills.”

Billy Clayton is the Scholarship and Enrollment Officer at WMU and served in the Army for 20 years, retiring with the rank of First Sergeant. He said that ROTC programs like the one GVSU and eight other schools in Michigan participate in through WMU are designed to develop students seeking a bachelor’s degree into army officers.

“The whole purpose of an ROTC program at the college level is to make an army officer, and you have to have a bachelor’s degree in order to be an army officer,” Clayton said. “So that’s why the ROTC program pairs up very well with the university.”

Sanders said that Jillian Elmer, another GVSU student in the ROTC program, first brought the issue of credits to his attention and began reaching out to GVSU faculty and staff.

“We have three or four seniors that are Grand Valley students and have suffered from not receiving credit,” Sanders said. “(Elmer) found that out and she was going to different offices but really wasn’t getting anywhere at first.”

Sanders said that he was able to use connections and resources at GVSU to build off of Elmer’s work, eventually bringing the issue to the attention of Lynn Blue, Vice President for Enrollment Development. She was able to work out the problem in just three weeks.

“(Elmer) did most of the groundwork to get everything started and then once she passed it to me, we finished it as a team,” Sanders said. “It was great working with her.”

Sanders said that receiving credits for ROTC was important to him and other members due to the demanding schedule and workload members take on alongside regular college courses.

“On top of regular school work, we do have a lot on our plate,” Sanders said. “We enjoy what we do, but it definitely would be very beneficial to see the credits. A lot of people were suffering from this and we were trying to figure out what can we do to try to help everybody.”

Clayton said that by offering credits for ROTC classes, GVSU helps students financially and serves the military community. Clayton said that by offering credit for ROTC classes, military benefits will cover the cost instead of students paying out of pocket.

“One of the stipulations for using military education benefits is that they will only pay for a class that goes towards graduation,” Clayton said.

According to Clayton, GVSU is the first university in partnership with WMU to offer credits for ROTC courses. Clayton said he hopes GVSU’s actions will inspire other universities to do the same.

“Because of the success with and the generosity of Grand Valley, we are able to use that to talk to other schools about doing the same thing,” Clayton said.

Sanders said that he hopes awareness of the ROTC program at GVSU will increase now that the university offers credits for students in the program.

“There’s not really a big awareness about ROTC on campus,” Sanders said. “I think even this alone will bring awareness to the program and the service in general.”