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November 15, 2016

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American college-age students enter ROTC programs to begin the process of becoming Army officers. One of the primary outcomes of ROTC training is the development of officers with leadership skills; it is arguably one of the most effective university programs that develops these skills. The reasons for the effectiveness of the ROTC curriculum are discussed in light of two models of leader development: the Army Leader Development (ALD) program and the Higher Education Research Institute’s (HERI’s) A Social Change Model of Leadership Development: Guidebook Version III.

Two ROTC programs—the Pony Express Battalion in northwest Missouri and the Blue Raider Battalion at Middle Tennessee State University—were observed over an eight-year period to determine leader development characteristics and to assess leader development effectiveness. It was observed that these programs operate according to the guidelines in the ALD. Additionally, the observed characteristics of commitment, values, cultural orientation, experiential learning, intellectual self-development, mentoring and leader assessment all align with the guidance provided in the ALD, Army Doctrine Reference Publication 6-22, Army Leadership and Army Regulation 350-1, Army Training and Leader Development. ROTC curriculum also meets HERI’s best practice characteristics for leader development by providing opportunities for emerging leaders to complete leader initiatives successfully through collaboration, consciousness of self, commitment, congruence, common purpose, controversy with civility and citizenship.

In sum, by combining the characteristics of the ALD program and HERI’s best practices for college student leader development, it is arguable that Army ROTC leader development curriculum is meeting the needs of both Army officer training and higher education leader development goals.

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