After service, veterans return to Pitt State to make a difference teaching 

Gorilla grads Carol and Chris Bakke once served their country in the military with deployments to Kosovo and Iraq. Today, they’re serving in a new way: in Social Work and Criminal Justice both in and out of the classroom at Pittsburg State University. 

Carol and Chris first crossed paths at a military leadership school in Nebraska in 2010 and started dating shortly after. 

Over the years, their military careers took distinct paths: Chris dedicated eight years to the Minnesota National Guard as an infantryman, while Carol spent 12 as a heavy equipment operator in the Kansas Army National Guard. 

It was while on a mission in Iraq that Carol’s vehicle was stuck by an EFP, and she returned home with a Purple Heart.  

Vet Chris Bakke Vet Carol Bakke

Back in Pittsburg, she wanted to continue to make a difference and chose to enroll as a Social Work major with a minor in Psychology at Pitt State. Chris, too, wanted to make a difference, prompting him to enroll as a Criminal Justice major with a minor in Fraud Examination.  

As students, they established the Brad and Dana Cameron Scholarship, named after a beloved professor and aimed at assisting future Social Work and Criminal Justice majors. 

The couple married in 2015, their family grew to include two children, and they completed master’s degrees: Carol’s in Clinical Social Work at the University of Kansas, where she was awarded the prestigious Wounded Warrior Scholarship, and Chris’ from the University of Oklahoma. 

“We were driven by a desire to return to our alma mater and teach, so we both set our sights on Ph.Ds,” Carol said.   

Once a first-generation college student, she earned her doctorate with honors from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio. Chris, who also juggles serving as a part-time deputy sheriff in Crawford County, is working on his doctorate in Criminal Justice with an emphasis on Intelligence through the University of North Georgia. 

They’ve both landed those dream jobs at Pitt State in the past year: Carol as an assistant instructional professor of Social Work and Chris as an assistant instructional professor of Criminal Justice. 

Bakke veterans 

In October, Carol was appointed by Gov. Laura Kelly to the Military Council, where she will advocate for service members. She also was chosen by the Council on Social Work Education to help revise the "Specialized Practice Curricular Guide for Military Social Work," scheduled for publication in February 2024. 

Chris's passion lies in giving his students real-world scenarios by incorporating crime scenes into his Criminal Forensics Class, field trips to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation lab, and partnership with local law enforcement communities.  

Here at Pitt State, they also have revitalized the Student Veterans Organization, serving as primary advisors, assisting student veterans with resumés, educating them about veterans’ benefits administration, connecting them with community and campus resources.  

That organization will make a public debut on Nov. 11, Veterans Day, at Operation GameDay at Carnie Smith Stadium.

Other veterans can be found in offices and classrooms across the Pitt State campus. They include: 

Steve Brown, Office of Teacher Education 

Brown served as a 1st Sergeant for four years active duty in the U.S. Army and 17 years in the U.S. Army Reserves, from January 1989 to January 2010). During that time, he participated in Multinational Force and Observers Mission in Sinai, Egypt, and in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He is an honor graduate of several leadership schools and has specialized training in the U.S. Army Airborne School, Drill Sergeant School, Jungle Warfare Training, and Scout Reconnaissance and Surveillance Course. He earned numerous awards and badges including two Meritorious Service Medals, two Army Commendation Medals, and 12 Army Achievement Medals.  

Andrew M. Klenke, Technology & Workforce Learning 

Vet Klenke

Klenke served as an 05H-Morse Code Interceptor in the U.S. Army from 1983-1990, achieving the rank of staff sergeant E-6. He also was trained in tactical intelligence gathering, collecting intel out of the back of enclosed trucks. His duty stations included Ft. Lewis, Washington; Camp Hovey/Camp Casey and Camp Humphreys in Korea; Flak Kaserne in Augsburg, Germany); and Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey. He earned an Army Commendation Medal and two Army Achievement Medals. During his service in Germany, he picked up an SOS along with plain text morse that a ship was sinking in the Mediterranean Sea; he intercepted the distress call, contacted NSA, and help was deployed; all aboard were saved. 

Robert Lindsey, Library Services 

Vet Lindsey

Lindsey served in the U.S. Army from 1984-1987, achieving the rank of E-4 Specialist. He spent two years in Germany where he was a commander’s driver.  

David Newcomb, Math Department 

Vet Newcomb

Newcomb served as a SPC E-5 in the U.S. Army. He was deployed to the Central Highlands of Vietnam from February 1969 through April 1970 as a fire direction controller for 105 mm and 155 mm field artillery.  

Steven Potter, Building Trades 

Potter served as an SPC E-4 in the U.S. Army from 1988 to 1992 and was a multi-channel communications specialist for Patriot Missile Battery during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm in Saudi Arabia. He earned the Army Commendation Medal, the S.W. Asia Service Medal, and the Kuwait Liberation Medal. 

Tim Senecaut, director of Facility Operations 

Vet Senecaut

Senecaut is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army, having served for 29 years. He was awarded the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star medal, earned on deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, where he commanded Task Force Roughneck.  

Kevin VanLanduit, ITS 

VanLanduit served in the U.S. Air Force for 25 years, achieving the rank of E8 – senior master sergeant. He was stationed at England Air Force Base, Louisiana; Yokota Air Base, Japan; Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana; and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. He was deployed to South Korea, Iraq, and Afghanistan; and earned four Meritorious Service Medals, two Air Force Commendation Medals, three Air Achievement Medals, an Iraq Campaign Medal, an Afghanistan Campaign Medal, and a Global War on Terrorism Medal.

Billie McCloud, International Programs and Services

McCloud served in the U.S. Air Force 10 years, deploying to Desert Shield/Storm. McCloud was a Unit Squad Leader who was also a certified Customs inspector and military aircraft load planner, and was Squadron Unit Representative for the Unit Advisory Council, Wing Level Unit Advisory Council, Wing Enlisted Advisory Council, Wing Jr. Enlisted Council, and Base Council for Squadron and Wing level.
McCloud was stationed at Okinawa Air Base, Japan; Seoul Air Base, Korea; McChord Air Force base, Washington; Dover Air Force Base, Delaware; and Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. McCloud earned the National Defense Service Medal, Humanitarian Service medal, Outstanding unit award with one oak leaf cluster, Achievement Medal, Longevity Service medal with one oak leaf cluster, Good conduct medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, and many others. She has been married to Army Veteran Gene McCloud for over 33 years; their children both were born at Fort Lewis Madigan Army Hospital in Washington.

John Daley, History

Daley, who served in the U.S. Army and achieved the rank of Captain, earned the Distinguished Tanker Badge. He was a member of the top tank platoon in the 1st Armored Division tank crew qualification course, Level I Gunnery, 1978, and earned a distinguished rating in platoon battle runs, 1st Armored Division Level I Gunnery 1978.

Brian Welch, School of Construction

Welch served in the U.S. Marine Corps as an E-5 Sergeant. He deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom 1.

Pittsburg State University understands the needs of the military student and has built a military-inclusive institution offering a broad range of high-quality, very affordable undergraduate and graduate academic programs.

Learn more about Veterans Services at Pitt State.