Inviting rays of light peek over the horizon, slowing waking up the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The streets of Lincoln are still mostly dead, and the few students who are awake have their pick of sidewalk space. The time is 7 a.m., and Maddi Klasi has already been in the Cook Pavilion for a little less than an hour.
It’s simple routine for the junior, who’s commitment to Nebraska’s ROTC program finds her in the middle of a distance run at a time when most students are still nestled in the warmth of their beds.
After her morning ROTC commitments, Klasi has a small window to grab some food and take a nap before her 10:30 a.m. classes. Relaxing days are hard to come by, but she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I’ve always been the type of person who would rather have 10 things to do instead of one thing to do,” Klasi said.
“Ten things to do” is almost always an understatement for Klasi, who, in addition to having held two internships in Nebraska’s senate, is also a member of Phi Mu and the treasurer of the philanthropic organization Silver Wings.
For many undergrads, Klasi’s involvement may seem overwhelming. But for Klasi, it’s simply normal. And as somebody who constantly seeks out challenges and opportunities to grow, ROTC fits her perfectly.
Joining during the second semester of her sophomore year, Klasi went through an accelerated program to catch up to her ROTC peers, a whirlwind of classes and training. A seemingly overwhelming commitment for somebody already so involved.
But the payoff has been enormous.
As a political science and history double-major, ROTC has helped embolden her passion for politics, so it comes as no surprise that she ended up working in Nebraska senator Deb Fischer’s office.
From running the phones to shadowing, Klasi’s work in Nebraska’s senate exposed her to all facets of political life. The experience has left her yearning to run for office one day, while deepening her commitment to veterans and the community.
In addition to ROTC, she’s gained another family on campus with Phi Mu. Both groups provide her with a network of friends and support, but one is much more relaxed and the other is centered around structure.
Despite the strict nature of ROTC, the organization has been receptive to change on controversial subjects that have arisen in recent years. Klasi said ROTC values ability and commitment above all else, gender included.
“Right away, our cadres address any issues,” Klasi said. “They make sure everybody knows that we’re all equal. We’re all going to be officers, and I think any prejudice is taken out right away. We all push each other and support each other so I don’t really think gender or anything has gotten in the way.”
For Klasi, who hopes to commission into the Air Force in May 2018, this inclusiveness is huge.
“It’s been a really big step, especially in the last year or so with the military addressing issues about women in combat and other things like that,” Klasi said. “It’s really amazing and supportive to see a lot of the men to be willing to help and want women to succeed in the military.”
The ROTC challenges its members to throw down preconceived notions and biases, and this challenge is one of the many opportunities for growth Klasi has found in the organization.
As someone who has searched for leadership opportunities her whole life, training to be an officer in the military became her calling as a result of a search for something more from UNL. But since every member of her group also possessed leadership qualities, she also had to learn to follow. The challenge forged a mutual respect among the program’s members, and only served to solidify her commitment to the military.
“The one thing that really makes ROTC different from anything else is that they never baby you or hold your hand,” Klasi said. “They ask you to do something and you do it. They just expect so much of you because they know you can do it and I think that’s what has really pushed me.”