Name: Keneally Phelan

Year: Senior

Hometown: Mons, Belgium

Major/Minor: Communications, French

Activities: ROTC, Alpha Phi, Alpha Iota Gamma, Pi Delta Phi French Honor Society, Kite and Key

34th Street Magazine: Why did you decide to join ROTC?

Keneally Phelan: I joined the ROTC program for a couple of reasons. The military runs in my family. Somebody in my family served in every single war since the Revolutionary War. I competed and was awarded a four–year Army ROTC scholarship from the government out of high school. I have three brothers and they're all in the military as well. My older brother and my youngest brother are graduated and going to West Point. And my younger brother's going to the Air Force Academy.

Street: Is it difficult to balance between school work and ROTC responsibilities?

KP: Trying to balance is a pretty significant challenge, because you are a cadet 24/7. Even though I have blocked time in my schedule for physical training and military science class, I'm also basically on–call 24 hours. Right now, I am the battalion commander, which means I have the highest position out of six universities and five high schools. I have to approve everything that's going on. Everything I'm doing, I'm being watched. I have to uphold army values even when I'm not in uniform. We're full–time cadets and full–time students. They're not really segregated at all.

Street: What does it mean to be the highest cadet?

KP: We are called Military Scientists (MS). If you are a freshman, you are MS I, and it goes to II, III, and IV. All the MS IV's run the program. We have officers and noncommissioned officers who oversee us. But we're [MS IV] the people who are creating the curriculum, fundraising, and keeping track of everyone. So I'm the battalion commander. I'm in charge of making sure the cadets all have different missions and are doing what they need to be doing. Even though everyone has their own thing, if something messes up, it falls back to me because I'm their leader.

Street: What's a typical day like for you?

KP: I wake up at 5:00 a.m., pack my bags, and get ready. Then I have a PT, which is physical training for about an hour to an hour and a half. After PT, we have either military science class or military science lab, which is usually from two to three hours. I come back to Penn around 11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. From there I take a shower, get ready for the day, and then go to my classes. I really have classes that go until 8:00 p.m. So then after 8:00 p.m., I go home and have dinner. I have to go to bed before midnight because I have to wake up so early. 

Street: Why did you choose Penn when you were applying to college, rather than military academies?

KP: I actually applied to West Point and got accepted. But I thought I wanted to be a nurse. The small schools that I was applying to, I thought they weren’t reaching hard enough. I wanted to go to schools that are difficult. I googled “best nursing school in America” and Penn popped up as number one. So I applied and here I am. I'm no longer a nursing student. But I absolutely love Penn.

Street: How do you see yourself as a woman in military service?

KP: Being a female in the army, there’s definitely an added level of complication. The army is steeped in tradition and women aren't part of that tradition. We're trying to break our way into there. My battalion is pretty supportive. I was a point commander, which was a really big honor. But there's been a lot of harassment around campus. My other cadet friends and I, when we’re going back and forth between Drexel and Penn, we've been hit by cars and cursed at. There are people who told us we're gonna get raped. It's only the female cadets. I think traditionally they just don't expect females to be in the Army. My battalion is supportive, but sometimes if you walk into a new environment, you have to prove your worth and show that you're not just skating by on the gender excuse. You have to show that you are equally compatible as the other guys.

Street: What’s your plan after Penn?

KP: A part of the deal with my scholarship is they're paying for four years of undergraduate school, and then I'm going to serve when I graduate. It's kind of like paying off what they gave me. The job that I picked is military intelligence. So hopefully, I will be working with counterintelligence and then eventually I'd like to become a foreign areas officer, live abroad, and work with embassies and the connections between the US and other countries.


Favorite type of food?

KP: Tex–Mex.

Favorite class at Penn?

KP: URBS 202–Urban Education.

If you could have one superpower, would you prefer to fly or to be invisible?

KP: Fly. I don’t like walking behind people.

Two types of people at Penn…

KP: People who like Distrito and people who like Copa.


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