The Armed Forces of the United States and specifically the U.S. Army seek to have a racial/ethnic mix of officers (leaders) who match the racial/ethnic mix of the soldiers they lead and the country they defend. Currently Hispanic Americans are under-represented in the officer corps especially at senior levels. Social network theory was used to facilitate understanding a potential officer candidate's network of alters (people they interact with) and their relationships when they are seeking to make decisions related to enrolling in college and Army ROTC. When making the decision to enroll in Army ROTC, there is a complex social network of multiple alters who influence those decisions. This study identified those actors and defined the types of relational embeddedness (social relationships which demonstrate dyadic interaction, personal relationships and/or social capital) each role had in their relationship with the ego resulting in influencing their decisions to enroll in college and Army ROTC. This qualitative research engaged Hispanic American cadets enrolled in Army ROTC at four universities and compared them to a representative group of non-Hispanic American cadets using UCINet and NVIVO software. The findings provide insight about the Hispanic American cadets' social network of influence and the level of relational embeddedness which defined the relationships. The findings indicate the need for those who seek out the best candidates (recruiters) to educate the members of a candidate's social network about the opportunities for future officers and the process to access college education and leader development training through programs like Army ROTC. Some alters have greater relational embeddedness and could provide greater positive influence on identifying the best candidates for officer accessions programs, but few members of the network have actual experience in ROTC, as officers, or in any capacity in the Armed Forces, making it difficult for them to provide informed guidance unless they are educated by people knowledgeable about the military. The greatest application of this research is that it will assist Professors of Military Science and others tasked to find and recruit Hispanic American cadets as future officers who beyond the actual candidate they should be engaging to influence the best quality and an increase in quality of officer candidates. The research is also potentially powerful for other organizations seeking to better understand decision making by young people and their social networks of influence which impact those decisions.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Educational Leadership and Foundations



Date Submitted


Document Type





Army ROTC, diversity, racial, ethnic, relational embeddedness, social network