A top Kelley student and an aspiring armor specialist in the ROTC, Chiara Fitzgerald pushes herself to excellence. She embodies the tenacity and passion the Kelley School of Business values in its students.
Chiara’s strength stems from her life in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. After doing a tour of duty in the Middle East while in the Army, Chiara’s father decided to continue working as an engineer in the oil industry. Not only did Chiara grow up in the Middle East during wartime, but she also confronted the disadvantages of being a woman in that region. “Education for women is something that is optional in Saudi Arabia, not expected like it is here,” she explained. “In order to get the education I wanted, I knew I would have to leave.”
At only 15, Chiara left her home and her family for a boarding school education in the U.S.
When it came time for college, Chiara knew she wanted to pursue a degree in finance. After applying to several top-tier business schools, she decided to come to Kelley because of the strength of its program and so she could be near her sister to help with her transition to America.
College is expensive, especially as an international student, so Chiara joined the ROTC. She said her motivations “may not be as magnanimous as some may hope,” but the ROTC is a great way to pay for school. “Most people don’t realize that you get the same monetary benefits for joining ROTC whether you go into the service part-time or full-time or have a combat or desk job after graduation.”
The combination of Kelley and ROTC has challenged Chiara to consistently try harder and achieve more. “The ROTC’s priority is academics because your academic performance determines your career,” said Chiara. “If you are competing for active duty, your GPA constitutes 80% of your qualifying score. The Kelley advisors have a lot of experience with helping cadets, and that helps bridge the gap between the two worlds.”
Chiara’s career options in the Army after graduation are diverse. “Some people think there is no real reason to get a college education because you are just going off to fight, but because the Army is a self-sufficient business, there are so many different opportunities.”
Adding a Kelley degree to that ROTC experience prepares cadets for many careers, even military intelligence. “The FBI and CIA need finance majors,” said Chiara. “You could end up being a secret agent with a finance degree.”
While originally planning to go into military intelligence, Chiara currently plans on pursuing a career in combat arms, armor division—which to the uninitiated means she wants to work with tanks. “People told me I couldn’t do armor because I’m a girl and I lack upper-body strength. So yeah—I’m going to do armor.”
Chiara uses her own experience to help change the lives of other women in or considering ROTC. In 2017, Chiara helped create Sisters in Arms. “My superior and I noticed that incoming females had a lot of preconceived notions and a lot of fears about ROTC. They had questions that guys couldn’t answer. Even though IU ROTC has a higher female-to-male ratio than most other programs, there are still very few women. Our goal with Sisters in Arms was to make sure that those women felt like they have a place and they belong.”
Chiara has found so much more in the ROTC than she expected. “ROTC showed me my true potential,” she said. “I’ve discovered a new well of motivation that I’ve never had before, and I’ve discovered what it’s like to do things for others and not just for yourself.”