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K-State Today

November 8, 2012

A proud partnership: University and military recognize nearly 150 years of education, culture and honor

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

When the Morrill Act of 1862 established land-grant institutions, it also ensured that universities like Kansas State University would have a long-standing relationship with the military.

Daryl Youngman, associate professor at K-State Libraries, said the land-grant act mandated some sort of military training. Before the university's ROTC program was established in 1916, the nation's War Department organized the Student Army Training Corps, which was initially run by a student with military experience until 1866.

The nearby Fort Riley Army post was established 10 years before Kansas State University in 1853. Youngman said although the two institutions were always cordial, active and focused engagement between the two was initially rare. This minimal interaction went on for much of the 20th century, even throughout both World Wars.

"Soldiers were always taking K-State courses on campus and on post, but there wasn't a big deal made of it," Youngman said. "The first 100 years were spent largely as separate communities barely relating to each other."

A big change came with the return of the 1st Infantry Division, or the Big Red One. In 2005, the university and Fort Riley began addressing formal partnerships, establishing the foundation for many mutually beneficial engagements, like the Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families run by Briana Nelson Goff, professor of Family Studies and Human Services.

In 2009, President Kirk Schulz and Maj. Gen. Vincent Brooks, commanding general of Fort Riley at the time, drafted and signed a formal partnership resolution that detailed the roles of both parties. This resolution was renewed and signed in 2011 by Maj. Gen. William Mayville, current commanding general of Fort Riley.

"We're not just going to each other's parades," Youngman said. "We're engaging in activities that are mutually beneficial. It's like getting married -- if it works well for one spouse but not the other, it's probably not going to work. These partnerships have become part of our core mission, including my pre-deployment cultural training."

Youngman worked with the division's 4th Brigade and the Division Headquarters Battalion before their deployment to Afghanistan on their interactions with other soldiers and civilians in that country. Agricultural researchers from Kansas State University also work with soldiers deploying to Afghanistan or African countries on improved farming methods for citizens.

Youngman said the university also has benefited from these partnerships through increased publication opportunities and an expanded military understanding. Researchers can access useful military resources and student soldiers are able to use academic library resources while deployed.

"Culturally, a lot of engagements have broken down barriers," he said. "Now students and soldiers are used to engaging with each other in both a social and educational context."

The university cares enough about this engagement to make it part of its 2025 plan to make Kansas State University a Top 50 public research university by 2025. Art DeGroat, university director of military affairs and retired Army lieutenant colonel, said part of the 2025 plan is to make the university the most military-inclusive institution in the U.S.

"Many institutions are trying to be 'military friendly,'" he said. "But are they prepared to serve these students' needs? We want military-connected people to experience K-State at the same level as other students."

The three pillars of a land-grant university are education, outreach and research. DeGroat said it is important to approach military culture from each of these angles. For example, the College of Education ensures each of its graduates takes courses to assist military-dependent students in their classrooms.

As the two dominate local institutions, Kansas State University and Fort Riley are both growing rapidly. Fort Riley has approximately 18,500 soldiers, but that number jumps to 54,000 when families are included. Kansas State University's student population recently jumped to 24,300, and Manhattan's population is more than 52,000.

"There are twice as many military-connected individuals in the community as there are students," DeGroat said. "Nearly 11 percent of the student population is connected to the military, and the American Council on Education considers 3 percent to be high. The real power of this in the long haul is when faculty, staff and students embrace it. It's an important facet of the purple diamond."

As the university celebrates 150 years of serving citizens and soldiers, many activities are being planned to honor the long-standing relationship. Cheryl Polson, associate dean of the Graduate School and chair of the president's military engagement committee, said two luncheon events will be offered in October 2013 that will focus on Kansas State University's military traditions.

The second anniversary of the university's Veterans Center will take place Feb. 21, 2013, and numerous 150th anniversary celebrations will be conducted in association with the Air Force and Army ROTC programs.