By Clara Turnage
University of Mississippi
Experts in the field of leadership in civilian and military life will speak next month at the University of Mississippi as the first of a collaborative speaker series created by the Trent Lott Leadership Institute and the Army ROTC program.
Maj. Gen. William Freeman Jr., Col. Andrew Robertson and Carl Biersack will discuss leadership as it applies to military and civilian careers on Thursday (Nov. 3) in the Jackson Avenue Center for the first Lott and ROTC Leadership Seminar.
The event, titled “Transcending Leadership: What Leadership Strategies Worked and Didn’t Work over Respective Careers,” will focus on how the speakers achieved the leadership positions they hold. Students and attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions.
“They’re going to share their leadership journey,” said Melissa Jones, associate director of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute. “Their path, things that have worked in military and civilian leadership.
“We’re hoping students will be able to see how you combine a really successful military and civilian career.”
Lt. Col. Vincent L. Jackson, chair and professor of the Department of Military Science and Leadership, said he immediately supported the series. Jackson noted that many of the military’s top leaders – secretary of the army, secretary of defense and U.S. president – are civilians.
These leadership skills are important for anyone on campus to learn, he said.
“Not only is this a tremendous opportunity for collaboration between the Lott Leadership Institute and the Army ROTC program, but it is a natural fit for two organizations within the university that practice the art and science of leadership on a daily basis and provide vital leadership to both students and cadets through a comprehensive program of courses and speaking engagements,” Jackson said.
Freeman is the retired Mississippi adjutant general and commanding general of the Mississippi Army and Air National Guard, where he commanded a force of more than 12,000 across the state. He joined the military in 1966 and graduated from Ole Miss in 1967.
Robertson, a UM alumnus who has more than 25 years’ experience in the military, is a troop programming unit brigade commander stationed in Puerto Rico. He is also an adjunct professor at the university.
Biersack spent nearly four decades in Washington, D.C., where he worked in a range of positions from staffer for Sen. Trent Lott to lobbyist to the U.S. Army Secretariat appropriations director at the Pentagon. He also spent eight years in the military, commanding three companies and serving twice as a general’s aide.
Maj. Joy Harry, executive officer and assistant professor of military science, initially brought the idea to the Lott Leadership Institute as a way to create a credit-based program in leadership, Jones said. The first event is a trial run of what is envisioned as a recurring series, she said.
“We want to show that you can be a dynamic leader in both military life and the civilian sector,” Harry said. “ROTC is based in leadership. We are developing future officers, but those skills apply to everyone.”
Harry, who joined the university in August 2021, said she was seeking a leadership certificate from the university last year when she realized Ole Miss didn’t offer one. She hopes the speaker series will be the first step in the process of creating a leadership certificate program on campus.
The Lott Institute invited the first round of speakers, and ROTC will organize the second event’s presenters, Jones said.
“We thought, ‘Let’s open this up; let’s kick this off with as many UM alums as we can and people who have directly invested in Mississippi,'” Jones said. “These are three people who have given back to Mississippi and have walked the line with military and civilian careers very successfully.”