Department of Aerospace Studies
Lieutenant Colonel Bryan D. Mundhenk, United States Air Force
Major Steven T. Lane, United States Air Force
Captain Philipp M. Wittmaack, United States Air Force
The objective of the Air Force Officer Education Program at Cornell University is to prepare students to serve as commissioned officers in the United States Air Force and the United States Space Force upon graduation. In so doing, the program instructs students not only about the history, mission, and organization of the services, but also about leadership and management. This program is comprised of tailored coursework and practical leadership laboratories.
Requirements for Enrollment
The Air Force Officer Education Program is open to any qualified undergraduate student enrolled in any major field of study. However, an applicant must be a United States citizen by birth or naturalization to become a commissioned officer.
Applicants must demonstrate they are physically prepared for the rigors of Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and their future careers in the military; therefore, students undergo a medical examination by a military doctor or designated civilian provider. The no-cost medical examination is scheduled and reviewed by the Department of Defense Medical Examination Review Board (DoDMERB). Students who are interested in qualifying for flying categories (pilot, combat systems officer, or air battle manager) must meet more stringent physical requirements. In addition, students enrolled in the commissioning program must meet specified body composition and physical fitness requirements each semester.
Though the program is designed to prepare future Air Force and Space Force officers, academic courses in the Department of Aerospace Studies are open to all students at Cornell University without incurring any military obligation.
The Air Force Officer Education Program at Cornell University follows the national Air Force ROTC framework and is designed as a four-year officer commissioning program. The standard four-year program consists of a two-year General Military Course (GMC) program of study followed by a two-year Professional Officer Course (POC) program of study. For four-year Air Force ROTC scholarship students, the first year of the GMC carries no military service commitment and students may withdraw at any time. For non-scholarship students, both years within the GMC carry no military commitment. Entry into the POC, regardless of scholarship status, carries a military commitment.
The four-year program is open to all qualified freshmen; in fact, many students join the program after the first semester of their freshman year. Sophomores may also enter a condensed version of the four-year program with Department of Aerospace Studies approval. Additionally, veterans of the U.S. armed forces, students entering Cornell from military schools, or high school students with documented Junior ROTC or Civil Air Patrol involvement may receive advanced academic standing, subject to approval.
Leadership Laboratory Courses:
All Air Force cadets spend two hours a week throughout the academic year in a leadership laboratory. Occasionally, laboratories are held at times other than the normally scheduled period. All cadets are expected to participate in a formal dinner and to meet minimum physical fitness and weight standards each semester. Leadership lab is open to students qualified to compete for an Air Force commission.
General Military Course
Students in General Military Course (GMC) take a 1-credit Aerospace Studies course each semester. During the freshman year, students examine the Heritage and Values of the United States Air Force. In the sophomore year, students focus on Team and Leadership Fundamentals. In both years, officership and professionalism within the United States Air Force are emphasized.
Students also spend two hours per week in a leadership laboratory. Leadership laboratories provide students with an opportunity to put into practice the skills they learn in Aerospace Studies classes. These laboratories focus on developing officer qualities through activities such as drill and ceremonies, group leadership problems, confidence-building exercises, and guest lecturers. Students who intend to continue into the Professional Officer Course and pursue a commission also participate in summer field training for approximately two weeks between the sophomore and junior years.
Professional Officer Course
The Professional Officer Course (POC) provides a two-year advanced program of instruction. Each student accepted into the POC must sign an agreement to complete the program and accept, if offered, a commission in the United States Air Force or Space Force upon graduation.
Classroom study in the POC is a 3-credit course each semester. In the junior year, Leading People and Effective Communication, emphasis is placed on enhancing leadership skills and communication. During the senior year, National Security Affairs/Preparation for Active Duty, prepares the student for Active Duty and their role as military officers in American society. The two-hour leadership laboratory continues during the POC Program.
Air Force ROTC offers merit-based scholarships to high school seniors and to college students. Opportunities and deadlines vary; therefore, interested students should obtain the latest information from a high school guidance counselor, from the Department of Aerospace Studies at Cornell ((607) 255-4004; firstname.lastname@example.org), or via www.afrotc.com.
Selections are generally based on a student’s major, physical fitness, qualifying physical examination, overall grade point average, standardized test scores, and the recommendation of the Department staff. Scholarship amounts vary but may cover up to 100 percent of tuition and authorized fees, as well as provide a monthly living expense stipend and an annual book stipend. Scholarships do not cover the cost of room and board.
Active students in the POC—whether on scholarship or not—receive a non-taxable subsistence allowance each month during the academic year.
Students are eligible to participate in voluntary summer professional development programs. These programs can include, but are not limited to, research and development internships, United States Air Force Academy Soaring or Freefall Program, special operations training, and language and cultural immersion programs.
Students who complete a baccalaureate degree and finish the Air Force ROTC program may be commissioned as a military officer in the Air Force or Space Force. Officers commissioned in non-flying categories are required to serve on active duty for four years. Pilots are required to serve on active duty for 10 years after completing flying training. Combat Systems Officers and Air Battle Managers each serve a minimum of six years after completing training.
The Air and Space Forces assign new officers to a career field based on mission requirements, educational background, and officers’ preferences. Students in the engineering-scientific category may be assigned to practice in their specialty in research and development, communications, electronics, aeronautics, astronautics, the biological sciences, computer design and maintenance, meteorology, space, or other engineering and scientific fields. Graduates in the non-technical category can anticipate assignments in information management, logistics, law enforcement and investigation, intelligence, personnel, public affairs, transportation, accounting and finance, and other career fields. Specializations for language and cultural studies majors are also available. Any undergraduate major is suitable for those who are qualified and interested in entering the nuclear and missile career field or in flying duty.