WYOMISSING, Pa. — When David Rumph Jr. was exploring possibilities for his future, he couldn’t decide between a career in law enforcement or a career in the military. A graduate of North Brookfield Junior-Senior High School in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, he was looking for a smaller campus with a strong criminal justice program. He researched colleges up and down the East Coast, and applied to several different schools. However, a fall semester visit to Penn State Berks and the realization that the campus offered a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program won him over.
“You know how Berks looks in the fall,” he said, “I visited, and they talked about how small the classes were, and how you get good one-on-one time with the professors, and that was what made me feel like Berks was a good fit. Then I got my acceptance letter and I said, ‘Well, I’m going to Penn State for sure.'”
The first Penn Stater in his family, as well as the first to seek a career in law enforcement, Rumph said the fact that he didn’t have to decide between the two career paths was a huge part of his decision to enroll at Berks in the fall of 2017.
Rumph began his freshman year as one of four students in his ROTC group at Penn State Berks. He admitted that it was hard, with “two a.m. wakeups, driving to and from Lehigh University (where the program is centered), lots of napping … I questioned why I was doing it a few times, but at the end of the day it was so rewarding. Anyone thinking of doing it, definitely do it.”
Rumph said that the training taught him what he’s capable of, and made him a more confident, capable person. “I learned about the true me,” he explained. “Four years ago, I told myself, ‘I’m going to try this, and see what it takes,’ but I apparently had what it took.”
Rumph was awarded the Army ROTC Three-year Scholarship during his time at Berks, which paid for his tuition and fees as well as providing a stipend. Rumph also received the Provost’s Award, and made Dean’s List for several semesters.
And while the ROTC program was a huge part of his success and growth while he was a student at Berks, Rumph also points out that there were a lot of really strong connections between his training and his degree program. Much of what he learned in the classroom about criminal justice and law enforcement aided in his training, and his training in leadership and ethics supported his work in the classroom.
“It all came together to really build a well-connected structure of ethical leadership,” he said.
In the rare moments when he wasn’t training or studying, living on campus for all but one semester of his college career was one of the best decisions he made, Rumph said. Participating in intramural sports and residence life programs, and meeting great people in training and in classes all came together to build a strong and supportive network.
“I met a lot of people I can rely on,” he explained, “not just in training. I’ve met a lot of people these past four years, and we had great professors in criminal justice with lots of experience. When I move on to my criminal-justice career post-military service, I will have those contacts, and those people I can reach out to.”
Looking back at his time at Berks, Rumph said he’s really happy to see that the ROTC program has grown so much in those four years. He said that it has gone from the four students in his freshman year to around 20, and he would encourage any student considering joining the program to commit to it.
“I saw a lot of people join and drop out, and I think it’ll be tough for anyone who joins, but it’ll be so worth it," said Rumph. "You’ll have peers, you’ll have mentors, and you’ll have instructors who really care about you.”
Two weeks after crossing the stage to accept his diploma, he’ll participate in a Commissioning Ceremony with the rest of his Steel Battalion peers and cadre and accept the rank of second lieutenant. He will start his training in June as a field artillery officer, with plans to eventually join the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. When he completes his service, Rumph said he plans to seek a career in federal law enforcement.