Taking charge, taking flight
Great leaders are diligent, supportive and driven, and senior biology major Kelsey Saylor ’23 is no exception. As the fourth female battalion commander in a row in the University of Dayton’s ROTC program, she has exemplified the grit it takes to succeed and hopes to inspire others like others have inspired her.
A Dayton native, Saylor was no stranger to the military growing up. Her dad was in ROTC at Slippery Rock University and is a veteran of the U.S. Army. Both of her grandfathers also served in Vietnam, so it's no surprise she viewed the Army as a career path. However, she knew that she wanted to go to college, and she received the perfect opportunity to participate in both at UD.
“It’s the best of both worlds of getting to go to college, getting to join the military and getting to explore the world afterward,” she said.
UD’s ROTC program guided her to be the strong and accomplished leader she is today. She said that cadets gain more leadership experience throughout their years in the program, and she would not be who she is today without the program’s supportive cadre.
“They are pretty much the best cadre that I’ve ever seen and they do a really good job supporting us and making sure that we’re achieving our fullest potential,” Saylor said.
The program is organized to promote success while allowing for openness and understanding, Saylor described.
“I think the way the program functions gave me more self confidence and more faith in my own leadership abilities,” she said. “We just foster an environment that's really welcoming and really open and people are willing to sit down and discuss anything with everyone.”
“We just foster an environment that's really welcoming and really open...”
Saylor served as a battalion commander in fall 2022 and is one of four women to have done so. Two of these women include Rachel VerDow ’22, who is currently serving in Germany as a second lieutenant military intelligence officer and Abby Herman, a second lieutenant armor officer. These women have been huge inspirations to Saylor, and she is thankful for her experiences of working with them.
“They’re great women to lean on and ask questions, and they were great models for me when I had my time as battalion commander,” she said.
Outside of ROTC, Saylor is a River Steward through the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community. She said the group’s recent capstone project at the Dakota Center, a nonprofit Marianist after-school program for children in West Dayton. The stewards improved the center’s garden space and developed a sustainability-based curriculum, helping to inform future generations about the environment.
Saylor was originally interested in entering the medical field, but UD’s environmental programs nurtured her fondness for the outdoors.
“I’m really passionate about the environment and I love being out in it and hiking, and so I want to be part of the restoration of our natural world.”
After graduating May 7, Saylor will now report for active duty in Fort Rucker, Alabama. She will complete two years of flight school to prepare for 12 years of flying helicopters for the Army.
Besides the cadre at UD’s ROTC program, Saylor looks up to her parents for guidance and motivation. Saylor said, “They inspired my younger sister and I to never settle and always look to the future and try our best to make our own way in the world. I never want to let anyone down but most of all I don’t want to let myself down.”
Like those who have come before her, Saylor said she wants to make a lasting imprint on this world and hopes her strong sense of self-motivation will allow her to be all she can be.