Five questions with Trish Shipley: ROTC coordinator

Navy veteran Trish Shipley serves GCU's cadets, who gifted this tricycle to her program.

Photo by Ralph Freso

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story originally appeared in the April issue of GCU Magazine.

Trish Shipley supervises the Grand Canyon University Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, which has grown from 68 cadets to more than 110 during her five-year tenure. The Navy veteran is a former teacher who is known for her mode of travel on campus – her tricycle.

1. How do you feel about the program exceeding the 100-member mark for the first time last fall?

My job is to make sure these students are taken care of on a GCU level and are successful academically, spiritually, physically and mentally, and to make sure the Army makes them into soldiers. When we hit 135 (cadets), they were making fun of me and saying, “You know we’re not going to stay at that number.” As we moved into the spring semester, we’re still at 88 (Army cadets), and we’re at 26 with the Air Force. So that growth is wonderful because you’re getting the best of the best from GCU. You’re putting that out into the military, and as a veteran, that’s very important to me. These are your future leaders. I think God put me here so that I can put better officers out there in the world than whatever worked back in the ‘90s.

2. You were a teacher but did not like lesson planning, and you could have continued a career in acting and singing. Why this?

I do that part time. It’s a Christmas show at the Dream City Church I’ve done for years. I actually met a student (Zach Hendricks) and his family, and they actually go to my former church now. So my first year here, I see him and say, “Oh my gosh, this is such a blessing.” Here’s this kid that I’ve known since high school. We’ve sang and danced next to each other. And he’s in the ROTC program. He’s going to graduate this year. He’s a great kid, and he’s going to be an outstanding officer with a great family and great family values. He’s actually doing an internship right now at his church. His goal is to be in chaplaincy, so he’ll make a great one.

3. There's a strong female representation at this University, including in your department. How much satisfaction has that given you?

I always say God has a sense of humor because you could be with the Air Force or Army, and I was career Navy. I had a former Army sergeant that would call me “Coast Guard” all the time. My whole thing is making sure these students are taken care of on a whole different level. I’m not here to train them. I’m just making sure that they’re successful. And I have a strong personality. I think that’s another God thing. They put an alpha female with all these males. We do have a female instructor now. So that’s a blessing. But we have some great females in this program who are going to go out there and make changes.

4. You're known as Mama Trish or Mama T. Explain your role with the female cadets.

The beauty of having me here is that the women do have somebody to come to. I tell them they have to stand on their own two feet. They are kids, and when they come here, they don’t have a lot of confidence. I’ve seen change in these people. When one of my students first came here, she had a hard time. I keep applesauce in my desk for her. She was quiet and kind of meek before going to basic and advance camp. Now she’s telling all these big fellas and everyone else what to do, and she stands up for herself and for the other females in the program.

5. The cadets raised funds to replace the adult tricycle you use for the program that went missing. What was your reaction?

You should see the video. I ugly cried. Ruby was the first bike’s name. It was everything to me. I love this job because of the cadets. People don’t do nice things a lot for people anymore outside the Christian community. But for these kids to come up with this fundraiser … I had a knee replacement two years ago, and my right one needs to be replaced. They joked they were going to fit the bike with Army valve stem covers. I tell stories about my Navy career, and I always tease them that my duty stations will always be better than theirs because mine were on the ocean. It meant the world to me that this program cherishes me that much. 

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GCU Magazine

Bible Verse

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. (Galatians 6:14)

To Read More: www.verseoftheday.com/