By: Dr. Christopher M Reynolds, CEM, MEMS, CFO and Lt. Col., USAF (Ret), Dean, Academic Outreach and Program Development at American Public University System
Military educational institutions, from the Army and Air Force War Colleges, and civilian institutions, from American Public University System (APUS) and Kansas State to the University of Alabama, recently spent two days together at the Army University’s first higher education symposium at Ft. Leavenworth. The main purpose of the symposium was to bring together both military and civilian higher education executives to discuss strategies to better support active-duty, Guard and Reserve US Army members, veterans, and Army civilian employees seeking a college degree.
The Army and APUS share the common goal of providing career-relevant, affordable higher education. Just as institutions of higher education are concerned with retention, so, too, is the Army. They realize that by providing avenues that bridge the military training realm to higher education opportunities will increase the likelihood a soldier will want to remain in uniform. If soldiers can continue to work on a degree in higher education while serving, they prepare themselves for growth not only in the Army, but also for opportunities when they retire.
APUS Provost Dr. Karan Powell participated in the “Producing Relevant Curriculum” panel that discussed the importance of weaving critical and measurable learning outcomes into curricula, from training programs to more advanced professional military education. Dr. Powell discussed our work with the Lumina Foundation and its degree qualification profiles, relating the tough and introspective look we accomplished across our educational programs.
“All of us recognize the Army possesses men and women with specialized knowledge and unique intellectual skillsets”, Dr. Powell said. “We should map these special skills and relate them to applied and collaborative learning processes that will provide soldiers with the optimal higher education opportunity at civilian institutions of higher learning.” Dr. Powell concluded her discussion by emphasizing the importance of industry advisory councils, comprised of industry -specific professionals, and their impact on ensuring that curricula is relevant to the professional communities they serve.
I participated in the “Adopting Nationally Recognized Standards” panel, along with two other panelists representing Army credentialing, policy and governance, noting that the vocational and experiential skills that soldiers possess demonstrate a measurable competency that can translate to experiential college credit. Indeed, a number of Army professional military education courses meet the same academic rigor as any traditional college course. There has also been a convergence of special board certifications and professional standards with training as well. Whether one wears Army green or business attire, special skillsets requiring certain certifications are not mutually exclusive to either the civilian or military communities.
The future is bright for the Army’s higher education initiative, and I applaud their efforts to bring higher education leaders together to help increase opportunities for our nation’s service members.