The inaugural Legion College of Arkansas was a great success

The American Legion Department in Arkansas recently held its inaugural Legion College with 31 graduates. Of those graduates, 24 were Legionnaires – six from the Oklahoma Department, three from the Missouri Department – and five Sons of the American Legion members and five Auxiliary members.

“We had a unique combination of a multi-departmental, multi-family legion college. It really adds a lot to it, ”said Patrick Doc Phillips, dean of the Arkansas Legion College Department. “It was a lot of fun and there was a lot of communication. As far as networking goes, you could not provide the perfect atmosphere for it to happen.

The department’s Legion College was held March 11-13 at Post 100 in Rogers. Philip said it was nice to get it in one place as the post 100 members cooked food for the students during the three days they were there. “Post 100 is a great post. They opened the door for us.” Arkansas Legion College opened that Friday evening with a welcome address by Philip, Department Commander Kevin Caldwell and National Executive Committee Chairman Mary Erdman. Followed by a successful Legion College.

“I want this college to have the notoriety and understanding that they are doing good things in Arkansas for the good of the Legion,” Phillips said. “This (Legion College) is part of that success.”

The curriculum presented met the requirements of the Department Legion College from National Headquarters as well as the posts and districts of Arkansas. This includes training in leadership, how to conduct a meeting, membership recruitment, training principles, resolution writing, and the history of The American Legion and the Arkansas Department.

“Legionnaires are now beginning to write resolutions and help us understand the resolution process,” said Michael Westgren, a former department commander and current department judge advocate. The history section also opened people’s eyes to “what we were and what we can be”.

The other course syllabus includes shaping an elevator dialogue. After joining the National Legion College in 2017, Philips said, “Training is more important in my view than a legionaire’s perspective.” “Do you have an elevator speech or what do you say when you see a veteran (about American Legion)? That’s what I wanted to make sure we covered in Legion College, and we did.

All course training materials went to their home in a personal binder for students to share and implement at the post and district levels.

“We know we can not reach everyone in a college classroom, but we can reach the post through other people who have received this training,” Westgren said. “We have taken the curriculum and made it available to the graduates in the class so that they can choose what they want now and teach at a district or post level. Graduates now have the power to make changes at the post level and district level. To ensure that everyone knows how to use their voice in the organization.

Vision for a Legion College

The vision for a Legion College in the Arkansas Department began in 2016, when several members, including Westgren, the then First Vice Commander, saw the value of departmental training after attending Leadership Education and Development training at the Texas Department. As a result, the department has set up a department head training program. Westgren has served as chairman of the training for the past three years, where he has worked with the department’s executive committee (DEC) to implement a standing training budget to ensure that funding is always in place, including funding to send members to the National American Legion College. Establish senior instructors for the department level legion college he wanted to develop.

The beginning

In February 2020, members of the Texas Department came to share their adoption of the Legion College program in Arkansas and to modify it to suit their needs. Attended by 19 students from two departments, Westergren said, “I think it’s a strong one to influence the value-added value of an American Legion College among our members and to develop a cadre of new trainers. Participate in them and then bring it back to your department. If you have a college, join another college to see how they do it so you can think about modifying and we can learn from each other. “

The initial goal was to host a Legion College in 2021 but it was postponed due to an epidemic. “But that did not stop us,” Westgren stressed, moving forward. He set a goal that the department would hold its inaugural Legion College within the year of Caldwell’s command.

At the Legion’s 2021 National Convention in Phoenix, Westergren and some other department members attended training on the subject, and upon returning home they wrote a resolution to establish an American Legion College program and presented it to the DEC at its Mid-Winter Conference. . It was approved with a resolution of $ 1,000 to fund the inaugural Legion College for the purpose of the program with tuition-based funding.

He also founded the American Legion College Committee. The committee met virtually every Wednesday for up to six months until the week of college to discuss the course curriculum, budget, applicants and more. “It took a lot of time and effort to establish this (Legion College),” Westgren said. Many of those who have served as course instructors, including Philip and Westgren, have their Legion College Committee titles as follows: Director of Curriculum William “Dock” Sheets, Director of Administration, Mary Will Banks, Director of Finance , Robert Renner, Department Adjutant. The other course instructors were National Headquarters staff from the Americanism and membership sections, who served as subject matter experts.

Students for the inaugural class

To recruit applicants, it was promoted on the department’s Facebook page, the website. Arkansas Legionnaire Newsletter, weekly membership reports for post commanders, Philip called all post commanders in the Northwest region. Members from departments in Oklahoma and Missouri are invited to attend to learn more about the Legion College program for starting your own. Missouri Commander Gary Griggsby attended training, while Oklahoma Commander Charlie O’Leary presented Arkansas Legion College pins and awards to his state legionnaires in class, as Griggsby did. Westgren said they want to share their program with other departments, just as the Texas Department did with them. Phillips added, “We have a great team here and we have a lot of work to do to help other departments start a legion college.”

Future events

The Arkansas Department plans to host Legion Colleges twice a year in different parts of the state to provide training opportunities for as many members as possible. The department then aims to establish an extensive Legion College where graduates can participate in additional training with the potential to enroll in the National Legion College.

“The idea is to recognize leaders who need to be recognized, empowered and given all the tools they need to be effective leaders. We need effective leaders in our future,” Westgren said.

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