Western taps U.S. Air Force veteran to lead military education program

CULLOWHEE – Randy Plunkett, a retired senior master sergeant with the U.S. Air Force, has been named director of military education at Western Carolina University.

In the new position, effective April 1, Plunkett is serving as the primary contact for recruitment and support of military students, providing advisement for students from the military who are enrolled in Western’s distance education programs. He also is advising Western’s distance education program directors on evaluating military education and training for transfer credit.

“Serving the learning needs of our military is a commitment central to our outreach mission,” said Pat Brown, dean of Western’s Division of Distance and Continuing Education. “Randy has the enthusiasm and experience to take Western even further beyond the campus borders by welcoming a new population of military students from throughout the region and the world.”

Formerly of Newark, Del., Plunkett has 16 years of recruiting experience with the Air Force and directed recruitment sales force teams in the central and eastern U.S. recruiting regions. He served in the Air Force for a total of 24 years. In that role, he restructured the Air Force’s recruiting process throughout Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, and also served as a regional trainer for newly promoted managers, with responsibilities including logistics, planning, employee training, mentoring and coaching.

Plunkett earned a doctor of education degree in educational innovation and leadership from Wilmington College in Newcastle, Del., in 2004. His dissertation focused on the use of educational benefits by Air Force reservists. He also holds a master’s degree in organizational leadership and quality from Marian College, Fond du Lac, Wis., and a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies and mission studies from Maranatha Baptist Bible College in Watertown, Wis. He began his undergraduate career as a distance learner in the University of Maryland Overseas program while based in Okinawa, Japan.

“The biggest advantage to distance education is that it comes to you and goes with you,” Plunkett said. “I have been a non-traditional adult learner for more than 25 years, and I have no plans to stop now.”

Randy Plunkett, recently appointed director of military education at Western.

Randy Plunkett, recently appointed director of military education at Western.

Plunkett has experience with traditional and non-traditional teaching formats, having spent time in the classroom as an adjunct faculty member and online instructor in business and human resource management at Wilmington College, the University of Phoenix Online, DeVry University Online and Aspen University Online.

At Western, Plunkett will work to establish relationships with military installations, the branches of the military and programs supported by the Department of Defense.

“A key but often overlooked population in our communities is the National Guard and Reserve. I have a great desire to reach out to these citizen-soldiers and their families. Most of these folks are not aware of the wonderful education benefits available to them, which extend to their families, as well,” he said. “I am thrilled to know that we have many members of the Western family who are serving as guardsmen and reservists, including student, staff and faculty.”

Plunkett will coordinate program requests from the military, work with military contracts available through private and defense sectors and serve as Western’s representative on the state’s Troops to Teachers Advisory Board. He also will manage the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges agreement process and compliance with SOC membership requirements.

For more information on enrolling in Western’s distance education programs as a military student, contact Plunkett at (800) 928-4968 or (828) 227-7397.