Researchers in Kansas University’s William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications this academic year will begin studying how the media have portrayed post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We want to look at the initial focus on how the media reports on that and what effect the media have in terms of getting the word out,” said Tom Volek, the school’s associate dean for graduate studies and faculty development.
It’s one of two major research projects on military issues this year that the school will undertake, and both represent a new phase in the school’s “Bridging the Gap: Military and the Media” program, directed by Volek and Barbara Barnett, the journalism school’s associate dean for undergraduate studies.
The expansion of the journalism program, which is grant-funded by the McCormick Foundation, is one piece of KU’s academic relationship with the military, namely the U.S. Army’s Fort Leavenworth 40 miles from Lawrence, that has flourished in recent years. Fort Leavenworth is home to the Army’s Command and General Staff College, the premier training program for officers moving up through the ranks, plus officers from other military branches and other countries.
“I think the journalism school and KU have helped the Army become more transparent,” Volek said. “We’ve helped a number of officers better understand the media and what its role is in society.”
The journalism school also operates a one-week workshop each fall that includes 18 journalists from across the country who participate in a military-type experience for journalists. A spring course includes a mix of KU students and majors from the staff college who both learn about media issues and the military.
The program includes an e-journal online at military-media.kuinteractive.com. And in addition to the PTSD research, Volek, Barnett and Dean Ann Brill will also research how media savvy military officers have become and how officers use education about the media.
KU’s relationship with the military and Fort Leavenworth expands beyond the journalism school.
The School of Business has two programs for Fort Leavenworth officers. This year a fourth class of officers will participate in a master’s degree program with a concentration in supply chain management.
Greg Freix, a business school lecturer and retired Air Force officer, said officers in the program better learn skills that have become a necessity once they leave Fort Leavenworth.
“They will better understand the forces that drive the business with whom they interact in the civilian world,” Freix said.
An understanding of business principles has become more important in the last decade because the military’s mission has changed, especially over the last two decades with deployments to places such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Freix said a past officer who graduated from the master’s program lauded what he learned at KU because he was later stationed in Kuwait.
“The role that they’re in requires them to do so much,” Freix said. “It’s multifaceted compared to the things that we did.”
It also helps make them employable once they leave the military, he said.
The business school also operates a week-long workshop for active Army colonels who are handpicked to participate in the program where they learn business-world models they can help apply to managing soldiers they lead. That workshop is led by KU lecturer Tom Jindra.
KU has also been recognized in recent years for its Wounded Warrior Educational Initiative that gives wounded soldiers the chance to continue their education. And in June KU officials announced Gary “Michael” Denning, a retired Marine colonel, would become the new director to lead KU’s Office of Professional Military Graduate Education to help enhance collaboration with the military.
Volek, a journalism associate dean, said the military, KU and the public have benefited in the last decade by having a better working relationship.
“It’s so both sides, journalists and the military, can learn about the other side. Both sides have a constitutional role in America. Both are mentioned in the Constitution,” he said. “And consequently, they don’t necessarily have to like each other. But the more they understand each other will better facilitate the exchange of information.
“Ultimately, that’s what makes a democracy work.”