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K-State, Fort Riley partner to help students

By Michelle Hall

 

Thousands of additional soldiers, family members and civilian employees are expected to arrive at Fort Riley within the next three years. Along with more schools, housing and child care, more opportunities for higher education will be vital to the area.

Kansas State University has been and will continue to be on the forefront to help those stationed at or working at Fort Riley further their education, according to K-State officials.

Along with its traditional on-campus, four-year degree programs, K-State provides various options for Fort Riley soldiers and family members to obtain degrees.

In April 2005, Fred Rodriguez, director of academic programs at Fort Riley, and Elizabeth Unger, vice provost of academic services and technology and dean of continuing education at K-State, signed an agreement to enhance services to soldiers and their families. The focus of the agreement is to provide more comprehensive programs and services whether soldiers are at Fort Riley or move elsewhere. Interactive advising is an emphasis, including a service to allow soldiers, their families and civilian employees at Fort Riley to assess their educational needs and set up a path of learning that will be individualized.

If soldiers or family members know they have a small window of time in which to get their degree, they can work with the K-State admissions office to arrange an accelerated program. This could include a combination of distance education courses, evening college courses and on-campus courses.

Evening courses and online courses are a beneficial option to military members, especially if they are transferred to another military installation. Many of K-State's colleges offer online degree programs, which can include bachelor's, master's and even doctoral degrees. In addition to online degree programs, various colleges provide aid to military spouses. For example, if a military spouse in veterinary school is transferred to the Manhattan area, K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine works to integrate the spouse, even if class numbers are limited.

Although degrees offered completely through K-State are numerous, another option for military personnel includes working in the 2+2 programs to obtain two years of education through Barton County Community College, which has a presence at Fort Riley, and two years through K-State. Betty Stevens, associate vice provost for technology and associate dean of continuing education at K-State, said this agreement makes bachelor's degrees more readily accessible for soldiers and their families.

The 2+2 programs also allows soldiers to pursue their education in smaller chunks, first receiving an associate degree and then a bachelor's. By taking education in chunks, it allows soldiers to finish one part and then move on to the next level, Stevens said.

"The students can declare their goal to be a bachelor's degree and move seamlessly from the Barton County Community College courses into K-State courses without changing their declared educational goal," she said. "The partnership helps the students see and plan their future more clearly. Barton County Community College can also help us prepare the students for distance learning so if the students are deployed or leave Fort Riley for other reasons, they will be ready to shift to the distance learning, either for their Barton County Community College courses or their K-State courses."

Students can receive an interdisciplinary social science bachelor's degree with the 2+2 program, taking a series of evening courses on the Manhattan campus. Interdisciplinary options within the university undergraduate studies major provide an opportunity for students to organize their interests within a broad area of study rather than within the narrower focus required by a major in a single discipline. Students who want to create their own fields of emphasis and students who are eager to pursue multidisciplinary solutions to complex problems often choose an interdisciplinary major. The degree is offered by K-State's College of Arts and Sciences.

K-State's adult student services can help people at Fort Riley with child care and scholarships. The office also may soon offer marriage and family therapy groups to help those with deployed spouses.

"Our goal is clear to the Fort Riley community," Stevens said. "We want to serve the students at the point they're at in their lives, so they can continue their education wherever they go."

 

Winter 2005