Leadership training, scholarship assistance and camaraderie are all reasons why students join ROTC.
"It's good to make KU smaller," said David Hawkins, a Leavenworth junior and Air Force ROTC member. "I've met a lot of great people and it's just going to get better the next two years."
After graduating with a degree in business administration, Hawkins hopes to go into pilot training or intelligence work.
This past summer, he spent a month at a leadership camp on the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Tex.
"It just puts everything in perspective," he said. "It made me excited to serve."
Kansas University has three types of ROTC Air Force, Army and Navy. Marine ROTC is included in the Navy. The programs, which have a total of about 250 members, are housed in the Military Science Building south of Anschutz Library.
Maj. Jeff Brown, an assistant professor of military science, said leadership training and scholarship benefits were the two major reasons for joining ROTC.
He said some students were planning to make a career of the military, while others were looking to turn the officer experience into a civilian job.
"There are just as many plans for the future as there are cadets," Brown said.
Capt. Jim Cooper, professor of naval science, said participating in ROTC was like having a second major.
"Your ROTC classes don't count toward your degree," he said. "The degree for ROTC is essentially when you're commissioned an officer, and then you get a job right away."
Cooper, a 1974 KU alumnus, said ROTC was a major source of officers for the armed services, and that ROTC graduates are sometimes more qualified for future advancement than a graduate of a military academy.
"When they go to the academy they may be cut off from the exposure to what the thinking is in the civilian community," he said. "ROTC students are going to school with their civilian counterparts and can take a broader mind into the military."
In addition to regular classes, ROTC students take military science classes, do physical training and have a weekly leadership lab.
"It definitely does take time from other stuff that you could be doing, but it all depends on how you prioritize your time," said Andrew Lonas, an Air Force ROTC member who graduated in July with a degree in philosophy.
"But I know a lot of KU students work full-time or do clubs, so I'm not trying to be, 'Oh, pity us.'"
Lonas, whose father also is in the Air Force, was able to travel with ROTC to training camps in the summer and worked at a base in Guam. This fall, he starts navigator training in San Antonio.
He said his overall positive experience with ROTC at KU was marred by the attitudes of some people on campus.
"It's nothing really overt," he said. "But at the same time, I've had some experiences with students and teachers where you're looked down on. They think you have the negative aspects of what a military person is."
But he wouldn't want to trade it for anything.
"It's something that I enjoy," he said. "Air Force people treat each other like family."
All the time and dedication of ROTC students pays off, said Air Force Col. Kevin McNellis. In his three years at KU, McNellis said he enjoyed watching apprehensive underclassmen become take-charge leaders.
"Our officer training is all about taking responsibility for others," he said. "If you just want things for yourself, you won't become an officer."