A delegation of two BJU students and one BJU faculty member visited Clemson University Thursday, Jan. 11 at the invitation of Clemson.
While Clemson’s campus offers visitors multiple walking paths through the scenic 1,400-acre property, these BJU visitors weren’t there to walk any established path. They came to cut a trail of their own.
Called the “trailblazers,” the two students are pioneers in a potential partnership BJU is pursuing with Clemson University’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC for short.
Part of the United States Military, ROTC enlists college students throughout the nation into officer training in addition to their coursework, often incentivized with generous scholarships.
Graduates of ROTC programs are commissioned into the military as officers.
The trailblazers, Daniel Sherwin and Daniel Miller, visited the ROTC program’s first general meeting after Christmas break.
They were able to observe a leadership class and talk with senior cadets.
The unfamiliar environment at Clemson and large amount of new information took time to process, according to Sherwin.
He said the experience was overwhelming at first. However, the senior cadets were very helpful and answered his questions.
Miller, the other trailblazer, said he was interested in ROTC for the practical skills it instills into cadets.
“[ROTC] will force me to push myself to do more, go beyond my comfort zone,” Miller said.
“They seek to instill in the cadets a healthy mind, body, and soul.”
While not yet official, BJU’s partnership with Clemson would allow BJU students, like the trailblazers, to participate in Clemson’s Air Force ROTC program.
A similar crosstown partnership with Furman University will also allow BJU students to participate in that school’s Army ROTC program.
BJU has been pursuing partnerships with both universities since the summer.
Now, after months of negotiations, Dr. David Fisher, BJU’s vice provost and chief administrative officer, said the partnerships are close to being finalized by both universities’ ROTC leadership.
If approved by the program’s local leadership, the potential partnerships will rise through the chain of command to be reviewed by ROTC regional leadership.
Still, BJU has significant milestones to reach in the process, but Fisher said he hopes students enrolling in the 2018 fall semester will be able to also enroll in either ROTC program.
Establishing these partnerships has been a significant initiative pursued by BJU President Steve Pettit, himself a graduate of The Citadel, South Carolina’s premier military college.
“Since becoming president, I’ve been interested in Bob Jones University pursuing the idea of offering an ROTC program at BJU,” Pettit said in a statement to The Collegian.
“The crosstown partnerships with Furman University and Clemson University provide incredible opportunities for our students to excel in some of the nation’s top ROTC programs while also strengthening the ties between BJU, Furman and Clemson.”
The interest in ROTC, however, did not begin with Pettit’s administration.
The University has sought ROTC partnerships for over a decade, according to Fisher., BJU’s ROTC liaison.
Because the national budget sequestration under President Obama’s administration halted increases in the armed forces, expanding any ROTC program to BJU was impossible.
The Air Force ROTC at Clemson also required partner universities to have regional accreditation, which BJU did not have until this past summer.
During the sequestration period, the University began keeping detailed record of the number of students who displayed interest in ROTC programs.
A significant number have been interest in ROTC over the years, according to Fisher.
Acquiring regional accreditation last summer was BJU’s signal to begin pursuing these crosstown partnerships again.
Fisher said the partnerships will benefit both the programs at Furman and Clemson as well as BJU.
ROTC offers students leadership training and career options, and BJU offers ROTC prime candidates for officer training.
“The armed forces want officers who are men and women of character, of academic standing and who have physical prowess—what better students than those at Bob Jones University.” Fisher said.