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As I was reading:

Can non-Federation members join Starfleet?

I wondered, "What about Ro Laren?" (after all, Bajor was not under Federation "tutelage" at that time). So I checked the Memory Alpha page on her, but that just says she "Joined Starfleet Academy" in 2358. On what basis? Was it a recommendation from a command officer? If so, who? And if not, was it because she gained Federation citizenship after having received asylum?

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    Very well, thank you. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 1 '17 at 4:03
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit: ??? – einpoklum Jan 1 '17 at 9:01
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit You're not Paul D. Waite! – Mithical Jan 1 '17 at 12:32
  • @einpoklum See this – Mithical Jan 1 '17 at 12:32
  • @Mithrandir: It doesn't work. I would (hopefully) get the joke if it did. See my comment there. You can't "join Starfleet well". – einpoklum Jan 1 '17 at 12:38
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Tal Celes was another Bajoran in Starfleet, who explained that the Federation was "eager" to have Bajorans in Starfleet even though Bajor was not yet a Federation member.

Tal Celes served on Voyager. She was assigned to the ship before Voyager disappeared into the Delta Quadrant — at the time, Bajor was still not part of the Federation. From a conversation between Celes and Captain Janeway in the episode "Good Shepherd":

JANEWAY: We all make mistakes, even me.

CELES: Every day? Every time you report for duty? On Voyager it doesn't matter because nothing I do is that critical. Seven doesn't trust me with anything important. The crew is protected from my mistakes by the people around me, but out here I could get us killed.

JANEWAY: You went through Starfleet training courses.

CELES: I had to cram for every exam.

JANEWAY: At the Academy, I was infamous for my all-nighters.

CELES: Every night? Because that's what it took. That's the only way I made it through. Not to mention the sympathy votes. The conflict on Bajor worked in my favour. The Federation was so eager to have Bajorans in Starfleet that my instructors gave me the benefit of the doubt. So did you, when you accepted my application.

JANEWAY: You showed evidence of unconventional thinking. I liked that. Not everybody would have thought to retrieve that hull plating.

Essentially, Celes was encouraged to sign up for Starfleet for political reasons, even though Bajor was not yet a member world. However, Starfleet is a meritocracy and Janeway herself says that Celes showed evidence of "unconventional thinking", which worked in her favour.

Based on timing, Celes would have joined Starfleet just after Cardassia left Bajor and the Federation began sponsoring Bajor while Ro Laren would have joined while Bajor was still under occupation. However, we know that the Federation had been deeply concerned with the aftermath of its war with Cardassia and with the security of its borders with the Cardassian Union even before Cardassia's withdrawal from Bajor (for example, the events of TNG "Chain of Command"). It would not be out of character for both Starfleet and the Federation to welcome Bajorans who knew how to fight Cardassians and bolster support for an eventual Federation presence.

So one can conclude that:

  • there were strategic and political advantages to having Ro Laren in Starfleet;
  • Laren would have exhibited enough motivation and "unconventional thinking" to complete her training and be worthy of an official assignment.

Finally, from the official StarTrek.com database entry on Ro Laren:

As a sign of her inner strength and drive, Ro was able to overcome her tortuous childhood and won sponsorship as part of the stricter admission requirements of a non-Federation citizen to Starfleet Academy, graduating within the regular four-year curriculum with at least one class in botany that she later felt embarrassed by.

(Source)

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    To be honest, and this has nothing to do with the question or your answer, but I find it interesting, it always seemed strange to me that Janeway would remember "hiring" Celes for this reason, when she'd then apparently ignored her for six years. And when "unconventional thinking" involves having sufficient self-awareness to retrieve a piece of mysteriously stripped-off hull plating for analysis, during a situation in which the main question is "what stripped off the hull plating"? I mean, come on. A lower decks episode would have made so much more sense in seasons one or two. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 1 '17 at 4:05
  • Then again, this is also a show in which they didn't bother to replace the carpet in seven years. Or update their uniforms when they had a chance. Ugh! – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 1 '17 at 4:06
  • @LightnessRacesinOrbit : I've always found all of that to be weird, too. What bothered me the most is how quickly the show became procedural, with little to no conflict between Marquis and Starfleet and the ship looking continually pristine and damage-free despite having limited resources and constant engagements with hostile aliens! – Praxis Jan 1 '17 at 7:56
  • Yeah, some wasted opportunities there for sure. – Lightness Races in Orbit Jan 1 '17 at 16:11

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