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A headshot of Emily in her graduation gown and stole on the steps of the bell tower.

Senior Emily Elkas has had an extraordinary Carolina experience as a student, varsity athlete and Army ROTC cadet. But when she looks back at her time at UNC, one thing stands out among the rest. 

“Something I will always remember are the people,” said Elkas. “The second I stepped on campus, it felt like home.”  

Originally from Great Falls, Virginia, Elkas was drawn to the community and sense of purpose of UNC’s Army ROTC program, which she joined when she was a sophomore. A former competitive rower, Elkas said the ROTC program’s structured training schedule was familiar territory. 

For Elkas and her fellow cadets, that schedule typically starts at 6 a.m. with workouts.  

“They are always a great way to start the day with friends,” she said.  

Then, it’s time for class for the history and political science double major. 

“I have always been a history buff and love learning about the world around me, which drew me to global history,” said Elkas, who also has a minor in data science. “As I got further into my studies, I realized the importance of having hard skills. Studying data science felt like a new way to challenge myself intellectually.”  

Of all her classes, her favorite was “Middle East and the West,” taught by Cemil Aydin, professor of history. The course explored changing interactions between the regions, including trade, scientific exchange and imperialism, and was at the intersection of Elkas’ academic passions. 

After graduation next week, Elkas is looking forward to backpacking in Europe before starting as an Army officer in the Transportation Corps, a combat service support branch of the Army.  

She thanks her mentor, Lt. Col. Dan Hurd, chair of military science, for his guidance and compassion and gives a shout-out Army ROTC’s S5 (public affairs) shop, the team that plans events and manages the program’s social media. 

Though she may be leaving Chapel Hill, one thing will never change for Elkas. 

“I will always be proud of being a Tar Heel.” 

By Jess Abel ’19

Tar Heels of the Week are nominated by professors in their department.

By the Numbers

Army ROTC at Carolina dates to 1993, although the program wasn’t an official extension center until 1995. When it was upgraded to host status in 1997, the University established the modern military science department, which houses Army ROTC today. The Tar Heel Battalion has won three prestigious Douglas MacArthur Awards for most outstanding Army ROTC program in the nation (small program category).

Explore all the facts and figures in By the Numbers.

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