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Austin Peay State University receives $100,000 grant from Tennessee to host Veterans’ Reconnect Conference

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Austin Peay State University (APSU) was recently awarded a $100,000 grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to host a two-day Veterans’ Reconnect Conference on the University’s campus.

The conference, “Bridging the Gaps: Tennessee Institutions Leading the Change for Military/Veteran Transition,” will take place October 14th-15th, 2019 at the APSU Morgan University Center.

Austin Peay State University to host Veterans’ Reconnect Conference, October 14th-15th. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University to host Veterans’ Reconnect Conference, October 14th-15th. (APSU)

The event will bring in academic leaders from across Middle and West Tennessee to provide attendees with resources and training for supporting military-affiliated students on their campuses.

“Returning to civilian life presents new opportunities—and challenges—for veterans,” Dr. Kristine Nakutis, executive director for the Austin Peay Center at Fort Campbell, said. “Many veterans look forward to life after the military to spend more quality time with family and friends without the worry of military structure or deployment.”

“However, transition comes with challenges including the pursuit of higher education. Tennessee higher institutions of learning continue to position themselves to support transitioning veterans and become the first choice in higher education,” stated Nakutis.

Austin Peay won the competitive grant by pooling its military resources to develop a meaningful event that will help individuals successfully transition from the military into institutions of higher learning. Nakutis, a retired lieutenant colonel, and Scott Brower, a retired brigadier general and APSU military adviser in residence, led the effort to develop the conference.

“The University will invite experienced military and veteran personnel to speak on various topics of veteran education to help other schools enrich the conversation on bridging the gap between military service and civilian education,” Brower said. “The mission of APSU’s conference is to bring Tennessee’s best minds together to create more robust educational experiences and career-readiness for military-affiliated students.”

Austin Peay is the ideal location for the conference because the Clarksville university is the state’s largest provider of higher education to military-affiliated students, with at least 2,659 enrolled students having a military connection in the fall of 2018.

Last September, the APSU Board of Trustees unanimously voted to create the William E. & Sadako S. Newton Military Family Resource Center, which will have the potential to house several of the University’s existing academic and support programs in one location, including the Military Student Center, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ VetSuccess on Campus office and enrollment management support offices.

Last year, retired Lt. Gen. Ronald Bailey, former deputy commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations for the U.S. Marine Corps, was named vice president for external affairs at Austin Peay, and Brower, former deputy commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division, joined the University’s senior leadership team as the institution’s first military adviser in residence.

In 2015, THEC honored the University’s support of this population by naming Austin Peay a Veterans Education Transition Support (VETS) Campus. According to THEC, VETS Campus certification is awarded to higher education institutions that “not only prioritize outreach to veterans, but successfully deliver the services necessary to create a supportive environment where student veterans can prosper while pursuing their education.”

The University also offers academic programs and classes at its Austin Peay Center at Fort Campbell. Active-duty military service members, veterans and civilians can earn an associate, bachelor’s or master’s degree through 7 1/2-week courses at the center, allowing them to achieve their academic objectives faster than during traditional 16-week semesters.

More information on the THEC conference, which is still in the planning phase, will be released closer to the October event.


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