David McKinney/University Relations

Bill Steele is a key staff member in the Office of Professional Military and Graduate Education. The office works closely with veterans and the military.

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Bill Steele, program assistant, Office of Professional Military and Graduate Education

Years at current job: 1.5

Job duties: My primary responsibility is running our office on a daily basis. I’m never very far from my desk. The majority of my time is spent coordinating meeting requests and other activities that relate to the numerous educational initiatives we’re involved in. For example, this month I’m working with the Army’s Human Terrain System program at Fort Leavenworth to help them establish their Iraq culture course here at KU, which will begin in December. The remainder of my time is spent mostly responding to inquiries from military personnel seeking graduate education at KU. This is our core mission. As such, my job is to help make KU the most user-friendly university in the country to service men and women.

What’s one thing that would surprise people about your work? One of the most surprising things is the access I’ve been privy to within the military’s power structure. For instance, thanks to the help of a former KU graduate student who studied at the Command and General Staff College, we have been able to establish an acquaintance with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen. We have invited Adm. Mullen to visit and speak at KU next spring, which he has accepted. We also have close ties to the command structure at Fort Leavenworth, which has brought us into contact with some influential people within the Department of Defense. Our director, Adrian Lewis, professor of history; former Ambassador David Lambertson, and KU’s government relations director, Keith Yehle, have been mostly responsible for this access.

Have you been involved with student veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan? Yes. Our office currently manages the Army’s Wounded Warrior Education Initiative, a pilot program now in its second year. It gives wounded soldiers the opportunity to earn a master’s degree and then find employment with the Army upon completion of their degree. This is the only program of its kind in the U.S. and we’re very proud that KU is a part of it. Today we have a dozen Wounded Warriors studying on campus. They’re a great group of people. Our office is also working to improve veterans’ services on campus; though we wish we could do more. We’ve been very supportive of the Collegiate Veteran’s Association, and in fact, our office just loaned them some artwork for their new Veteran’s Lounge in the Burge Union, which opened on Veteran’s Day.

What does KU have to offer to the branches of the U.S. military, and by extension the Department of Defense? That’s an important question, because I think KU has more to offer than just graduate education to our armed forces. We have amazing resources that can be brought to the table. This became clear to me last spring when some higher ups from Fort Leavenworth came to visit more than a 20 KU faculty and researchers. They were surprised and impressed with the research that was going on right in their backyard—research that could benefit the Army. For example, KU has already built a web-based “Community Tool Box” that could be used in developing and war-torn countries to help start schools and other infrastructure, requiring less U.S. intervention. It just needs money to be translated into foreign languages. The list goes on. KU is in a position to take leadership with respect to our nation’s defense. We need to do a better job of advertising ourselves, getting the word out, and that’s what we’re working on.

Campus closeup
Bill Steele, program assistant, Office of Professional Military and Graduate Education
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