FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. - Just as the U.S. Army continues to adjust to face the changing realities in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army is adjusting its approach to education in order to better face the emerging challenges of the 21st century.

The Army University hosted an education symposium at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Dec. 2 and 3. More than 200 people from 31 military organizations and 80 civilian colleges and universities across the country attended the event to discuss topics such as developing world-class faculty, partnerships between civilian academic institutions and the developing Army education enterprise.

"This is the most fundamental change in Army education since 1881," said Lt. Gen. Robert Brown, commanding general of Fort Leavenworth and commandant of the Command and General Staff College, to the symposium attendees during the opening session. Brown also serves as the executive vice chancellor for training and education for the Army University.

Brown told the attendees that the Army trains soldiers very well, but that there is a difference between training and education. The current transformation in Army education seeks to develop greater critical and creative thinking skills in every soldier and Army civilian.

The development of the Army University demonstrates the Army's investment in every soldier and Department of the Army civilian. The Army University will help prepare them for the challenges of the present and future by building partnerships and systems that will get soldiers college credit and civilian credentials for more of their military education and experience.

By partnering with more civilian colleges and universities, the Army will be able to provide more soldiers with greater academic opportunities, which will benefit the individuals, the Army and the nation as those soldiers eventually transition to civilian employment.

"The symposium provided the opportunity to clearly illustrate their mission to provide better degree recognition for their veterans through collaboration with the U.S. higher education institutions," said Dr. Bruce DeRuntz, director of the Leadership Development Program, College of Engineering at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. "I found it to be very encouraging to know that our service men and women will be able to attain advanced degrees that will be better articulated with traditional civilian degrees," added DeRuntz.

The Army University is not and will not be at a single location. It represents the dozens of schools and centers of learning already in place throughout the Army. The partnerships with civilian colleges and universities will help those institutions' leaders better understand the education experience the Army provides. This understanding will lead to college credit for that education, which is equivalent or similar to the college classroom experience.

"The desire to ensure Army education meets the level of academic rigor our accrediting bodies require will go far to increase these partnerships and to serve our military students," said Dr. Patricia Parrish, associate vice president and regional accreditation officer at Saint Leo University in Florida.

Everyone involved in the development of the Army University understands the challenges ahead.

"We have the vision, direction, and charter, for the Army University, but not all the specifics," said Brig. Gen. John S. Kem, provost for the Army University. "It's about partnering with the greatest university system in the world [the United States' higher education system]."

While working on the specifics, everyone involved understands the benefits of the Army University.

"I think the focus on credentialing and other types of certification will not only assist the soldiers but will benefit the Army and, essentially, serve our national interests," said Parrish.

The Army University is planning another education conference for June 2016 to expand on the ideas and concepts introduced at this symposium.