Colton Varholak ’23 has always tried to find ways to use his talents to help others.

“For most of my life, I did this by participating in community service projects. In the past few years, though, I’ve taken a different path,” said the Orange, Connecticut, resident.

Joining Stonehill’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) as a sophomore, the criminology and environmental studies double major has spent his college years enhancing his capacity to lead in preparation to serve his country after graduation. He expects that the skills he has honed through the program will prove invaluable to him as he builds a career focused on helping others.

“After I serve in the military, I’d like to go into law enforcement,” Varholak said. “Everything I’ve learned from ROTC, including the ability to lead, communicate well and manage my time wisely, will certainly translate over.”

Stonehill’s ROTC program is one of 10 belonging to the Charles River Battalion, which is run by Boston University. Participants are exposed to the nature of U.S. Army operations before they complete a post-college service commitment lasting at least four years.

In addition to taking military science classes taught by professionals with experience in the field, students also regularly participate in physical training exercises led by upperclassmen.

“ROTC puts cadets in positions of responsibility and authority over their peers as they move up the ranks. We focus on teaching students how to use their knowledge and skills to instruct others and improve the program overall,” said Lt. Col. Ben Ferguson, program director and professor of military science.

Taylor Colbert ’23, political science & international studies major participates in calculus class.

The Ties That Bind

Cadets also take part in field training exercises several times each academic year. For instance, Hannah Guidi ’23, a criminology major from Albany, New York, recently completed combat water survival training.

“At one point, we had to walk off a high diving board and land in a pool while blindfolded, in full uniform, and carrying a rifle,” she said. “It was only a five-second drop, but I have a fear of heights. I remember standing on that diving board and thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this.’”

Guidi finished the exercise with a renewed sense of faith in her comrades. She knew if anything went wrong, she could lean on the community she has formed through ROTC.

“In a situation like this, you just have to trust that your instructors and your fellow cadets are looking out for you, that they’ll make sure that you’re okay,” she said.

Helping students build bonds with one another is an important aspect of ROTC.

“The community at Stonehill is very close-knit,” Ferguson said. “The cadets work with each other daily. We enjoy seeing them form connections that will sustain them throughout their time in the military and beyond.”

Above, Hannah Guidi ’23, criminology major, shares a moment with classmates. Below, Guidi and other ROTC cadets go through drills in the fieldhouse at Stonehill's sports complex.

A Sense of Purpose

After graduation, cadets often move on to careers in military intelligence, logistics, operations, research and personnel management, among other fields. Ferguson notes that ROTC instructors go to great lengths to prepare the program’s junior leaders for life after Stonehill, as cadets are often given a “tremendous amount of authority and responsibility upfront.”

“Someone less than a year out of college might be responsible for up to 50 other soldiers and millions of dollars of equipment,” he said.

Cameron Clynes ’22, a criminology major, has been living in Fort Benning, Georgia, since receiving his diploma. The Southington, Connecticut, native is training to become an infantry officer and says he is grateful to the ROTC instructors who helped guide him to this point.

“They were phenomenal to work with,” he said. “I learned more from them than I could ever imagine. They helped me get to where I am today.”

David Trombly ’21, who double majored in criminology and political science with a concentration in international relations, is currently working toward a juris doctor and a master’s in public administration at Syracuse University. Originally from Plymouth, Massachusetts, he plans to become a JAG officer, or military lawyer.

“I joined ROTC because I wanted leadership experience, and that’s exactly what I got,” he said. “I look forward to leveraging the skills I learned to do something bigger than myself.”

Army Maj. Ryan Goulet ’07 of Manchester, Maine, has served in the military since graduating from Stonehill with a degree in political science. His work has taken him to various places across the United States, including Tennessee, Texas, North Carolina and Washington, D.C. He has also traveled to countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Kuwait and Italy.

“ROTC provided me with a foundation, a sense of purpose, and, most importantly, a network of people who in subsequent years I could rely on,” Goulet said. “ROTC, Stonehill and later Afghanistan showed me that you have to be more than tactically competent to lead soldiers. You also must be a lifelong learner who can adapt to the challenges of a changing world.”

Major Ryan Goulet ’07, above and below, taking part in an airborne operation while stationed in Italy. (Photos courtesy of SSG Luke Wilson and SPC Timothee Buangala.)

Please visit for more information on the U.S. Army ROTC program at Stonehill.

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