Prominent IMSE Alumni Featured on Landon Lecture Higher Education Panel
Tackling the toughest issues at universities today, including diversity and inclusion, sexual assaults, and campus security, requires a cultural climate change that starts with open and honest dialogue, according to participants at a Landon Lecture Series on Sept. 26.
Three educational leaders returned to their alma mater to participate on the Landon Lecture Series Higher Education Panel of Kansas State University Alumni, including two graduates of the industrial and manufacturing systems engineering department, Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen Jr. and Bud Peterson.
Caslen serves as superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He received his master’s degree in industrial engineering in 1989. Before taking his current position, he served as chief of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) and commanding general of the Multi-National Division-North during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Peterson earned his master’s degree in industrial engineering in 1980 after receiving bachelor degrees in mechanical engineering and secondary education, all from K-State. Since 2009, Peterson has held the position of president of Georgia Institute of Technology. Appointed by President George W. Bush in 2008 and reappointed by President Barack Obama in 2014, he also serves on the National Science Board, which oversees the National Science Foundation.
“It’s amazing to see how many IMSE alumni rise to prominent leadership positions,” said Brad Kramer, IMSE department head. “Caslen and Peterson are some of the top educational leaders in the country, and it was an honor to have them return and share their wisdom with their K-State family.”
Both panelists recalled the positive influence K-State played in their lives.
“I came to K-State to get an engineering degree and had a wonderful experience,” Peterson said. “It shaped my life. It made me who I am today, and I look back on it with fond memories.”
“What I learned more than just industrial engineering,” Caslen said, “was that it really taught me how to think—how to think critically, how to think methodically … how to summarize complex issues and articulate them in simplistic manners—all skills that I think are necessary for senior leaders, whether you’re in the military or not.”
The panelists were asked to discuss their thoughts and experience on issues of higher education funding, diversity and inclusion, sexual assaults, and concealed carry laws on campus.
Although they serve very different institutions, the panelist all agree that enacting change on campus starts at the smallest level.
When asked how—or if—universities can change their cultural climate to promote inclusion and respect for all genders and cultures, Caslen said that institutions must first seek to change individuals’ behavior by creating opportunities for reflection, introspection and open conversation.
“It’s really about communication and respect,” Peterson added. “If people will just work to try to understand and respect each other and talk to each other…you realize that these are human beings; they have the same desires as everyone else.”
The goal of the Landon Lectures is to bring the most prominent thought leaders to Kansas State University to discuss the pressing issues of the day. It is one of the nation’s most prestigious lecture series.
David Hall, a K-State political science graduate and current president of the University of the Virgin Islands, was the third alumni panelist.