Nursing majors at EKU are notoriously busy with their studies. Kari Soulsby has been balancing the demands and challenges of a nursing major with those of the ROTC. When she’s not studying, Kari likes to go the Fitness and Wellness center or go running through The Campus Beautiful and through Richmond. Kari has shared with us some thoughts on her student experience at Eastern, including the lessons she has learned about leadership through the ROTC. If you’d like to feel optimistic about the future, read on!
Why did you decide to participate in the ROTC?
I never considered the military as an option until my senior year of high school. On a campus visit (to EKU), I was waiting around for a meeting when someone in the admissions office brought up that their daughter was going into a nursing program and had decided to join the Army. He encouraged me to talk to the recruiting officer, Lieutenant Colonel Back, because the Army was in need of nurses. He threw in that I could get a free t-shirt or backpack, and I had time to waste anyways. After my meeting with LTC. Back, I was hooked. He told me about the Army and how ROTC could offer me a great scholarship, get me into prestigious graduate programs, and help me meet people in college. He introduced me to a few of his cadets and I immediately felt welcomed. I felt like Army nursing was what I was supposed to do, like it was my “calling” in life, or my niche.
How has the ROTC impacted your perspective on what it means to be a leader?
ROTC has introduced to me the true definition of leadership and spent time molding me into the best leader possible. Upon graduation, I will be a second lieutenant, and as an officer, I will be leading soldiers. ROTC has given me the tools to be a great leader by placing me in difficult scenarios, both on and off the battlefield, and encouraging me to develop successful techniques to resolve conflict and accomplish the mission. Before I was in ROTC, I viewed a leader as someone who had the innate ability to encourage and lead others. Since being a cadet in ROTC, I have learned that everyone has the potential to be a great leader; some may just require someone who is willing to help dig down into them and discover their unique leadership qualities.
What challenges have you faced being in the ROTC? What have you learned from those challenges?
Having a nursing major, especially at EKU, is challenging. Our school prides itself on having a nationally renowned nursing program with close to, if not exactly, 100% pass rates on our board exams, the NCLEX. On top of being a part of such a great major, I also am a part of an equally excellent Army ROTC program. Both programs view their work with their students as crucial and of top importance. This leads to a lot of time conflicts, extra work, and added pressure. My days start with a 6am ROTC workout and end around midnight when I finish studying nursing, with classes in the middle. Being in these two programs is like taking on a double major. Through my four years in both programs, I have learned that life is going to throw you challenges that, at the time, seem impossible. Without such challenges, you would never know your true potential. The harder the challenges thrown at me, the more I began to thrive. There were many times when I felt that there was no way I would make it through the semester while maintaining my GPA and sanity. After working through these overwhelming times, I discovered so much about myself. I learned countless things, but the most important, I believe, is that challenges show you what you are truly capable of and what great people you have around you as your support. Like the saying goes, “Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded”.
Do the leadership skills that you have gained through the ROTC reveal themselves elsewhere in your student experience?
As a student, I often use the skills I have learned through ROTC. I feel more confident in my abilities and myself. I notice myself stepping up to leadership roles that I would have been too shy to even dream of four years ago. I don’t mind being the leader in group work anymore. In nursing this semester, we are learning how to be nurse floor managers. The students take turns being the “charge nurses” (nurse managers) for our days working in the hospital. I felt well prepared to be the charge nurse on the first day and set a good example for the other students who may be shy or questioning their leadership potential. I want to motivate others around me to discover their leadership style, much like ROTC has done for me.
What advice do you have for young women who would like to take on leadership roles?
I strongly encourage young women to step up to leadership roles. Take on a role or challenge that scares you because it’s the only way to grow. As college students, and young adults, we have the ability to discover our own unique leadership abilities before we are completely thrown out into the “real world”. Women are often viewed as the inferior sex when it comes to leadership. I think young women of this generation should be out to prove that stereotype wrong and show men, and sometimes other women, that we can be just as good of a leader as a man, if not better. Do not be afraid to take on a challenging role. The worst that can happen is you make mistakes and learn from them for future challenges.
What do you think that the leaders from your generation have to offer?
As our generation of college graduates goes out into the world, we bring with us the knowledge of those who came before us. In both ROTC and nursing, we study great theorists and leaders. We analyze these people’s thoughts, actions, and results to find models and theories to use in our daily lives and practice. The young college graduates of today will soon be the business CEO’s, Army five star generals, and other top-notch leaders of tomorrow. These young adults have so much to offer, from an extensive knowledge base to a different societal upbringing than those who currently hold these offices and positions. These young people have the ability to challenge the norm and create a better future. As a future leader in the Army, I am excited to see the change I can inspire. I think our generation’s leaders are a motivated and highly educated group who has the world at their fingertips.