Haleigh Wagman knew long before her graduation from SOU last year that she was on track for something special, but she chose to keep it to herself until the accomplishment was in sight. That happened in the fall of 2019, when Wagman – a four-year Army ROTC participant – let others at SOU know she would become the first female infantry officer produced by an ROTC program in Oregon.
“I knew since the beginning of my sophomore year that it was what I was going to do,” she said. “I kept it a secret until the beginning of my senior year, when we had to announce what (field) we were choosing.
“I wanted to be given opportunities based on my own merit and reputation that came from my military knowledge, academic abilities and physical fitness.”
Wagman, now a second lieutenant in the Texas Army National Guard in San Marcos, is assigned to the Infantry Basic Officer course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and will officially become the first Oregon ROTC-trained female infantry officer when she completes the course in May.
She will then return to her 141st Infantry Battalion until she begins post-graduate studies in August. She has received offers from the Medical Science doctoral program at the Texas A&M College of Medicine, and from the Integrated Biomedical Sciences doctoral program at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
Wagman graduated from SOU last summer with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. She credits the ROTC program for helping her build discipline, and faculty members in SOU’s STEM Division for challenging her academically.
“Dr. (Patrick) Videau is awesome; he always keeps things real with students and is entertaining to learn from,” Wagman said. “He and Dr. (Brie) Paddock both go out of their way in order to get students the help they need, and are both key players in my love for science and reasons for pursuing graduate school.”
Despite her love for science, it was athletics that initially attracted Wagman to SOU. Raiders volleyball coach Josh Rohlfing is a family friend who was in her parents’ wedding, and she came to Ashland to play volleyball after graduating from North Valley High School in Grants Pass.
“My dad actually was an assistant coach (at SOU) for a couple years while I was in middle school,” Wagman said. “So with that and growing up in the Rogue Valley, I felt pretty familiar with the school coming into it.”
She needed to pay for college, so planned ahead and finished high school early, joined the Oregon Army National Guard and attended Basic Combat Training before starting at SOU. The National Guard awarded a four-year scholarship that paid for full tuition and fees, and by joining the ROTC program she became eligible for its no-cost housing plan, which at the time was in Susanne Homes Hall.
“I think the thing I enjoyed most about SOU was living in the ROTC dorms,” she said. “It allowed for us to have our own culture and space that was quieter for waking up early in the mornings and building friendships through shared experiences.”
She found that the biggest challenge of her undergraduate experience at SOU was compensating for the fact that she came out of high school without any college credits and had a full schedule of required coursework in both military science for ROTC and biology for her major. She also needed to graduate in four years.
“I was at 20 to 22 credits a term, and oddly enough I actually got the best grades those terms,” Wagman said. “I think it’s because I have poor time management when left to my own devices, but when I was that busy it forced me to manage my time well and get things done.
“The ROTC program has helped with my time management and leadership skills,” she said. “Both (the ROTC and Army National Guard) scholarships required that I stayed physically fit, morally qualified and academically qualified. Those things helped push me in school and keep me on track to graduate and receive my commission as a second lieutenant in the Army.”