by Mindy Von Elling
Perhaps one of the closest ways Kansas State University works with military is through the educational programs set in place at Manhattan's local military base, Ft. Riley. Toni Bryant, Ft. Riley extension office coordinator said she can see the impact the university has had on the base, just in the amount of interest and K-State spirit.
"There's a lot of K-State grads on this post," Bryant said. "We have a lot of purple floating around."
The influence of the university on the post manifests itself not only in the amount of K-State fans present, but also in the diversity of the educational programs available on base to soldiers and family members.
"We are educators," Paula Peters, assistant director of the Ft. Riley extension office and associate professor at K-State said. "Much of the service that goes on through the army community services are more service-oriented, but we can provide formal education more from a prevention aspect than treatment. We have also hired four extension agents: one to do family communication work, one to do child development, one to do family resource management, and the fourth to do health and nutrition work. Each one of them also has a program assistant."
These educational programs not only benefit those living on base, but it benefits the university as well.
"I think the presence of K-State being here on post certainly increases enrollment at K-State," Bryant said. "We bring a whole different perspective to military education in that we can offer so many other different programs and we have the state specialist that we can rely upon as a resource."
Bryant said the garrison commander, Col. Kevin Brown, who transferred to Ft. Riley a year ago from Ft. Drum at Cornell University, has been a strong asset and leader in engagement opportunities. The garrison commander is the operations manager for the post, in charge of all the families.
"He came from New York where Cornell has a small extension program, so he already knew extension," Bryant said. "When you have a good rapport with the garrison commander and he understands the importance of the university being on post, then it's a lot easier to continue."
Those in the extension office at Ft. Riley recognize that because military families have extra stress on their shoulders, it is important to engage in activities that will strengthen them and help them live their lives as a typical family, despite their extraordinary situation.
"Families are families wherever they are and issues related to the kinds of things I've talked about are with every family, but when a spouse or one member of the family or more are deployed then the issues become even more severe," Peters said.
With deployment come separation issues, both mentally and financially. It is important to establish a bond between the university and the military base in order to provide that sense of community and to provide professional programs that help spouses and children cope.
"The bond (between K-State and Ft. Riley) is growing stronger," Peters said. "People are beginning to recognize that K-State extension is there for them to access and to understand what kinds of things we can help with."
Money management programs and therapeutic sessions are among the services provided through the extension office.
"Our programming is more preemptive, so what we're trying to do is get with people, get with the different spouses and children and soldiers prior to having issues, like financial issues," Bryant said.
Both Bryant and Peters said they expect to see the programs and the relationship between the university and the base, grow stronger in years to come.