When Emily Wolfson first visited Loyola University Maryland as a prospective student, the South New Jersey native fell in love with the campus and the University’s values. It wasn’t until she was participating in programs run by the Center for Community, Service, and Justice (CCSJ) at Loyola that she learned about the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and decided she wanted to learn more.
Her decision to join ROTC has shaped her life personally and professionally, and set her on a path that blends her love for service with her hunger for justice. “Being in Loyola’s ROTC program gave me countless opportunities. I’ve always wanted to pay it forward and prioritize serving others.”
The Greyhound Battalion
The natural alignment between ROTC and Loyola’s Jesuit values has drawn many students to the program over its 70-year history. The Greyhound Battalion is a point of pride for Loyola, which celebrates the commitment of its ROTC students and graduates who go on to serve the United States as second lieutenants on active duty, in the Reserves, or in the National Guard at posts throughout the world. Cadets in the Greyhound Battalion program come not just from Loyola, but from three other local institutions: Notre Dame of Maryland University, Towson University, and Goucher College.
It’s the Magis that led Loyola to create its ROTC program in 1952, launching the day after opening the University’s Alumni Memorial Chapel as a tribute to members of the Loyola community who died in World Wars I and II. In the seven decades that have followed, Loyola’s ROTC program has commissioned 1,363 lieutenants into the Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard.
“ROTC is a calling to service to defend the freedoms of a grateful nation. It provides an opportunity for young and aspiring leaders to be a part of something greater than themselves,” says Lt. Col. Tim Mitroka, department chair and professor of military science at Loyola. “It provides unmatched leadership management skills, education, and life experience to prepare for military service—and success in life.”
More than One Path to Service
Students who enroll in ROTC may choose different paths—and some are particularly unique. Patricia Saidi, ’26, is a native French speaker whose path to serving in the military wasn’t straightforward. She was raised in Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in Central Africa before coming to the United States, where she attended high school in Maryland.
“I came to the United States in 2019 and didn’t know any English,” Saidi remembers. “I also didn’t know how the education system worked here at all.”
With insight from Saidi’s two brothers, who both served in the military, she quickly learned about the leadership development and benefits that accompanied military service for college students. With help from a high school guidance counselor, she enrolled at Loyola to pursue the University’s Pre-Health Programs—she is majoring in biology and on the Pre-Dental Track—and ROTC program.
“My brothers told me about all the benefits of serving in the military while still being in school and studying. I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Saidi said.
After joining the ROTC program, she also enlisted in the National Guard and has since received her U.S. citizenship through her service. When she isn’t in the biology lab, dancing, or reading, she’s busy creating lasting memories with her fellow cadets. One of her most memorable experiences so far was participating in field training exercises (FTX) a three-day field exercise during which cadets learn how to work in a team and develop leadership skills.
“I was a team member my first time. It was an interesting experience. Next time, I hope to be a squad leader so I can get to see how FTX works [from the perspective of] a leader,” she says.
Looking to the future, Saidi hopes to leverage her military benefits to pursue dental school and, one day, become a dental officer in the military. “After doing some research into the dental field in the military, I recognized a lot of value and opportunity for myself and my future career,” Saidi says.
A Focus on Justice
Wolfson and Saidi grew up on opposite sides of the world, speaking different languages, but each has found a distinct pathway to service. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Loyola in 2017, Wolfson was commissioned as an engineer officer and served in Afghanistan while also earning her Master of Business Administration from Liberty University. During her time in Afghanistan, she was moved to become a leader and a changemaker for her fellow officers on active duty.
“While serving overseas, I was able to see firsthand the role a legal officer in the military plays and how these officers can serve others by promoting justice and enhancing the quality of life for other people,” she says. “That’s what I wanted to do.”
In 2021, Wolfson entered an Army program that allows her to continue active-duty service while studying law at Rutgers Law School. She’s on track to graduate with her J.D. from Rutgers in May 2024 and plans to return to the Army as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer.
She remembers her time at Loyola fondly. The J.D. candidate recalls being filled with pride while raising the U.S. flag in the Quad in the morning and participating in a saber arch during her friend’s wedding on campus.
Beyond the Army and law school, she enjoys art, restoring vehicles, and serving as a youth mentor in Atlantic City, NJ. Wolfson credits Loyola with helping her find her path toward ROTC—and is grateful for the University’s commitment to service. “Loyola is a service-based institution, and that was a big draw for me,” she says. “I was raised in a family that holds similar values to what the University represents, and I wanted to go somewhere that would uphold those standards.”
The Spirit of St. Ignatius
The ROTC program would never exist at Loyola without St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. His career started as a soldier before he found his path to a deeper relationship with God, and established the Jesuit order.
“St. Ignatius was a soldier, and he was a fierce, fierce believer in God and in serving others,” says Rev. Timothy Brown, S.J., assistant to the president for mission integration and associate professor of law and social responsibility. “He wanted to do something bigger, magnanimous, more. We call it Magis.”
Thanks to the 71-year-old program at Loyola, the ROTC faculty, instructors, and cadets—and commissioned graduates—live that Magis in their work around the world.
By Marcus Dean, Assistant Director, University Communications, Loyola University Maryland