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HomeEducationAustin Peay State University’s annual industry summit examines leadership during life’s disruptions

Austin Peay State University’s annual industry summit examines leadership during life’s disruptions

Austin Peay State University - APSUClarksville, TN – Austin Peay State University held its third annual industry summit – titled “Leading in a Disruptive Environment” – immediately recognized in its very existence how a disruptive event can alter our lives.

Austin Peay State University holds annual industry summit. (APSU)
Austin Peay State University holds annual industry summit. (APSU)

As he helped to open the February 11th event, Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett reflected on how the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic had forced the summit online. He also acknowledged the community’s successes during the pandemic.

“I think today is, even though we’re doing this virtually, which is a little bit different … quite frankly, it’s a lot different, I still think it shows the collaboration between all of the local players,” Montgomery County Mayor Durrett said. “We have a great community. We have willing partners who work together collaboratively.”

Because of the pandemic, this year’s summit – which each year strives to connect education, government, and industry partners – took place as an online seminar comprising several speakers and panel discussions.

As Clarksville Mayor Joe Pitts introduced the summit’s keynote speaker, Washington Post columnist, and best-selling author Max Boot, he foreshadowed a major theme of Boot’s presentation.

“The topic ‘Leading in a Disruptive Environment’ kind of gave me pause because I view life as a state of continuous disruptions,” Clarksville Mayor Pitts said before praising how the local community and its leaders have navigated us through the pandemic. “We have proven we are strong, and we have proven we are resilient.”

Max Boot: ‘I don’t know what normal is anymore’

Max Boot
Max Boot

Max Boot is a foreign-policy analyst and national security expert who has been described by the International Institute for Strategic Studies as one of the “world’s leading authorities on armed conflict.”

Much of his presentation focused on the multiple black swan events – occurrences that deviate from what normally happens and are difficult to predict – that the world has faced in recent decades.

“In the last 20 years, I think we’ve seen one abnormal event after another, from 9/11 to the coronavirus,” Boot said. “In the previous 10 years, we also saw some highly unexpected events like the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of the Soviet Union.

“So I honestly don’t know what normal is anymore,” he added. “I think normal in America is changing greatly because the makeup of our society is changing.”

Boot also noted the recent role that disinformation has taken in further complicating disruptive events.

“I think conspiracy theories and disinformation are one of the biggest dangers that our political system faces,” he said. “We saw that danger manifest on January 6th.”

Boot tied disinformation to the struggles we have faced while navigating the pandemic.



“We’re in danger right now because there’s so much coronavirus denialism,” he said. “A lot of the deaths that we’ve suffered because of the coronavirus are completely unnecessary.”

Boot said one way to combat disinformation could be through education, teaching children the distinction between credible and extreme news and information sources.

“We need to educate, I think younger people in particular, but really everybody, … to be skeptical about their sources of information and look for credible, mainstream factual sources of information,” he said.

Other speakers, panel discussion

The summit also included presentations from Austin Peay Interim President Dannelle Whiteside and Tennessee State Commissioner for Labor and Workforce Development Jeff McCord. Whiteside spoke about building a crisis team in higher education, and McCord shared information about Tennessee’s workforce during the pandemic.

Panel discussions included the recovery and resilience of the state’s workforce and a partnership between manufacturers and area higher education.

To learn more

For information about the summit, including biographies on all the speakers and panelists, visit www.apsu.edu/summit.


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