Educator turned soldier: Georgia Southern ROTC graduate commissions as officer in National Guard after returning for MBA degree
Bulloch County native William Collins (‘17, ‘22) has dreamed of becoming a soldier for as long as he can remember.
“I’ve always had a desire to serve our country and to be a part of the military, but it never really quite worked out conveniently,” Collins said. “There was always something that came up, some kind of a barrier where I didn’t pursue it.”
Instead, Collins pursued an undergraduate degree in mathematics at Georgia Southern University and went on to become a math teacher at Bulloch Academy in Statesboro, Georgia. There, he was a “jack-of-all-trades,” he said, where he coached football, helped in the weight training room and led the science department, among other things.
Going into his fourth year of teaching is when Collins again felt the call to become a soldier.
“Fast forward, I’m teaching, I’m coaching, I have a full time job, but really, I just had this kind of lingering want and desire to serve and actually follow through with action,” Collins said.
At the time Collins was inspired by his son and wife to look within and create a legacy for his family.
“I realized I want my legacy to be that I did the things I said I was passionate about,” he said. “I did not want to be one of those people who always said they wanted to join the military but never did. I told myself ‘enough is enough, I am going to act.’”
He then began building his legacy by enlisting in the Army National Guard in 2020. As he went on to basic training and other duties as part of his enlistment, the more he felt called to pursue a military career.
Soon after, he left his teaching career, returned to Georgia Southern as a graduate student in the web MBA program through the Parker College of Business, and joined the University’s ROTC program.
“I did the web MBA program, and the ROTC portion of my day was in person on campus,” Collins said. “That gave me a little bit of freedom and flexibility.”
As a graduate student in the ROTC program, Collins was able to connect with his peers and serve as a mentor to younger cadets.
“Everything is peer on peer leadership where you hold the reins and are kind of in charge of what your future is going to look like and the development of other people,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed that I get to pour into younger cadets coming into the program, really investing in them and seeing them grow.”
His experiences in the ROTC program and as a graduate assistant at the Shooting Sports Education Center have helped Collins, now a father of two, soon to be three, hone in further on the kind of legacy he wants to leave.
“The legacy I hope I leave is that I had a positive impact on the people around me and helped them to succeed in whatever they were trying to do,” Collins said. “I think the environment of culture of Georgia Southern has kind of helped develop that as a core value for me.”