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APSU’s inaugural Leadership Exchange program strengthens partnership with Fort Campbell

By: Ethan Steinquest September 8, 2023

APSU and Fort Campbell leaders in the Morgan University Center.
Leaders from APSU and Fort Campbell gather in the Morgan University Center.

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. - Austin Peay State University (APSU) recently hosted eight senior leaders from across Fort Campbell, Kentucky, during its inaugural Leadership Exchange, a University-level initiative to strengthen community partnerships. 

While visiting campus, the soldiers learned about APSU’s new Military and Veterans Affairs Division, the Institute for National Security and Military Studies, the University’s in-state tuition rates for all military-affiliated students and other opportunities for service members.

“The concept is to open our doors to the community and bring in leaders who have control over their organizational strategies,” said Dannelle Whiteside, APSU’s vice president for Legal Affairs and Organizational Strategy. “We want those leaders to come to our campus so we can think about ways to create new partnerships or expand existing ones.”

Whiteside said Austin Peay and Fort Campbell already have a strong connection, which made them an ideal partner for the first Leadership Exchange.

“Fort Campbell provides us with a lot of support,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Walt Lord, APSU’s vice president for Military and Veterans Affairs. “We’ve got our academic center at Fort Campbell, and they support our athletics teams by bringing them on post for leadership and teambuilding exercises, but we don’t often have them here. I think it was essential to get those senior leaders here to learn more about us so we can support them as well as they support us.”

Capt. Kacie Ryan, assistant professor of military science.
Capt. Kacie Ryan briefs Fort Campbell leaders on APSU's ROTC program. 

Col. Christopher J. Midberry, Fort Campbell garrison commander, said spending the day at Austin Peay was a valuable experience. Although he was previously stationed at Fort Campbell from 2017-19, he assumed command of the garrison three weeks before the visit.

“For me, this was about learning who’s who,” he said. “Meeting the president and the senior faculty, learning about the ROTC program and athletics, getting to know the military affairs program and seeing all the connective tissue. I’m thoroughly impressed with what they have to offer, and I want to know what I can do to continue to build and foster that.”

Midberry said his most important takeaways were that approximately 26% of APSU students are military-affiliated and that the University has numerous programs in place to support them. He plans to share that information with soldiers and families in the Fort Campbell community.

“We have about a brigade’s worth of soldiers every year who transition or retire out of the military – and those soldiers are highly disciplined, trained and looking for job opportunities,” he said. “This is a perfect opportunity to let soldiers, family members and veterans know that Austin Peay is a fantastic academic institution that loves the community of soldiers that come out of Fort Campbell, and to inform them about the opportunities that exist here.”

Col. Kevin Sharp, chief of staff for the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), said the event was also an opportunity to renew the partnership between APSU and Fort Campbell after the disruption caused during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As the division’s chief of staff, I can serve as an entry point for the faculty and senior leaders at Austin Peay when there’s an opportunity to strengthen those bonds,” he said. “They honestly have a passion here for supporting the military community, not only those who are transitioning out of the Army but their spouses and our veterans.”

Whiteside said she appreciated the engagement from the soldiers as they learned more about APSU’s military-focused efforts, adding that they were able to strengthen their connections to the University by meeting the people involved with each program.

“This was a cross-campus initiative in terms of collaboration with Academic Affairs, ROTC, University Facilities and the Military and Veterans Affairs Division,” she said. “One of the first things we did was sit down and decide what would be most beneficial for the soldiers to hear and see. Each one of these exchanges will have a different audience, so the day could look completely different depending on who we’re bringing.”

APSU plans to host two Leadership Exchange programs each semester to reach participants from across the community. The next event will focus on the arts and is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 14.