President Rita Cheng and Army ROTC Cadet Alexandria Schultz got a glimpse into each other’s lives as women in leadership roles when they took their first ride on a Black Hawk helicopter this past weekend.

Schultz learned about the role of a university president leading a large, multifaceted institution, and Cheng gained insights into Schultz’s life as a cadet, and her future in the Army National Guard.

Schultz graduates and becomes a commissioned officer in May.“I work with a lot of female freshman and they have no idea of what to expect coming into the military. I think having strong women at the university and in ROTC will help them develop into leaders,” Schultz said.

Lt. Col. Todd Hourihan wants to see additional female students joining the ROTC ranks at NAU. “We hit a high point with 30 females last year, and right now we are at 20, but I want to grow that population.” There are 94 male cadets in the program and Hourihan wants the cadet ratio to more closely resemble the NAU population, where there are more women enrolled than men.

“Our colonel tells us that and he looks at the rank and doesn’t see the gender,” said Elizabeth Washko, an ROTC leader. In a meeting with Washko and fellow cadets Mary Thomas, Cassidy Hartman and Kathryn O’Hanlon, a theme was the military’s ability to provide a greater level of service when the ranks are more diverse.

“Women are held to the same standards as men and are treated with equal respect,” Hartman said. “I want to go into aviation and I would love to be able to support men and women on the battlefield,” Hartman said, referring to the Army’s progression toward allowing women to apply to any military specialty.

The female cadets said they are receiving excellent training in preparation for a changing future. They said the growing female leadership among their strong and capable ROTC peers as well as the university administration, is enhancing their education at NAU.