Two University of Mississippi women are proving that there’s more to “sorority girls” than some people think. Emily Olsen and Katie Smith are both members of sororities and the Army ROTC.
Virginia native and Navy daughter, Emily Olsen, is a UM freshman who received an Army ROTC scholarship. She is also active in Alpha Phi Women’s Fraternity.
Maryland native Katie Smith is a UM junior who is involved in a several campus organizations. The sister of Alpha Delta Pi and a ROTC member is also part of the Ole Miss Choir, club volleyball, Gamma Chi, and vice president of an ROTC club.
Olsen attended Ole Miss because she “came to the realization that if I didn’t go extremely out-of-state and take that risk, I would never grow as a person or be independent.”
Smith said she left her northern home to do something different than her classmates that was also exciting.
Olsen joined a sorority after seeing her father’s bond with his fraternity brothers.
“My dad was in a frat,” she said. “All of his pledge brothers live in the same neighborhood, even now. They are still all best friends and call each other by their nicknames.”
Smith joined a sorority, even though it was a new concept.
“A part of me always wanted to,” she said, “even though it wasn’t a big thing where I’m from, and my mom hates the idea of Greek life. I wanted to be in a group of strong women and have older role models. I am the oldest of all of my sisters, and I liked the idea of having a big sister.”
Olsen said she has wanted to join the military since the age of 5, but kept the dream to herself. After receiving an ROTC scholarship to Ole Miss and visiting the campus, she realized Ole Miss was her fate, and moved further south to begin her journey.
Smith said she always wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, but wasn’t sure how. “ROTC ended up fitting in with exactly what I wanted,” she said.
Both girls chose Army instead of other military branches for the same reasons.
“I looked at all the branches before joining,” Smith said, “and the Army gave me the most career and school options for who I was, and what I wanted to do.”
Both said the experiences have changed them for the better.
“Sorority life and ROTC have both shown me leadership in different ways,” Smith said. “Both have pushed me to go outside of my comfort zone and learn or try something I never thought I was capable of.”
Olsen is now competing for active duty. “I’m the type of person who believes that whatever happens is supposed to happen,” she said. “If I don’t get active duty and have to be in the Guard, everything will work out how it’s supposed to.”
On the other hand, upperclassman Smith knows what she’ll do after graduation. She plans to become a commissioned officer, attend the Basic Officer Leaders Course, or BOLC, a two-phased training course designed to produce commissioned officers in the U.S. Army.
She plans to later attend law school and hopes to become an active duty Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer. The JAG Corps is the legal branch or specialty concerned with military justice and law.
Olsen balances her life by thinking about her end goal. “I always try to remind myself to begin with the end in mind,” she said. “I remind myself why I’m doing this, and definitely being productive and knowing if I do this now, I can sleep later.”
Smith said the diversity of interactions has enhanced her life.
“The people I interact with in all parts of my life are so different,” she said, “but so amazing in their own way. I use the two different support systems to motivate me so I can stay part of what I like to do. Also, both have GPA standards and attendance requirements, so that pushes me, as well.”
Olsen said she had to move in early and go through new cadet orientation for ROTC.
“(From that) up until rush, I realized I’ve changed a little bit, and I’m not ‘that’ sorority girl, in a good way,” she said. “I had a new perspective on things.”
Smith said she feels like she’s breaking the “sorority girl” stereotype in some ways.
“I feel like the typical sorority girl, (but) in other ways, I feel like people look at me like I’m crazy for what I do,” she said. “But we join a sorority to be accepted for who we are, so I know nothing I’m part of could take that away from me.
“I want other sorority women to know that ROTC is an option for them and that they can do it. We have plenty of women that do both.”