Lipscomb University College of Business alumna Kari Moore takes the lessons of the classroom and goes to work in the world, serving for the good of others through her efforts as center director of the Fort Campbell, Kentucky, United Service Organization (USO).
Moore fondly remembers her time at Lipscomb while working on a Master of Business Administration degree.
“I loved my time at Lipscomb. My undergrad and Master of Public Health are from big state universities. When I came to campus, it was so warm, so friendly, and it was like a family,” said Moore. “That was it for me. There was never any doubt from day one that this was going to be the right place for me.”
“I feel like my time at Lipscomb was so valuable that I hope other people recognize its impact on me because I’m really proud of it. You walk on campus and it feels like home. I only spent a year here, but I miss it so much and it becomes so evident when I set foot back on campus,” explained Moore.
Having relocated to Clarksville, Tennessee, to help support her sister during her brother-in-law’s deployment, Moore turned her struggle to find work into an opportunity to further her education. “I decided to do my Master of Business Administration. I did it hoping to come out of it being able to work for a military support organization.”
Moore’s time with her sister opened her eyes to the challenge, sacrifices and emotional toll life in the military can have.
“I moved to Clarksville because my brother-in-law was stationed there, and he was getting ready for a deployment. They had just had their second child. I was living in Baltimore, working with a state health department but there was really nowhere for me to go. I felt like I had done everything I could do in my current position,” explained Moore.
Moore left Baltimore, moved in with her sister and settled into military life. Her desire to work for a nonprofit led her to pursue a degree through Lipscomb.
“I had worked for the government, huge corporations and nonprofits. When you find a mission that speaks to you, it’s how you know you are where you belong. For me, I found this working with nonprofits,” Moore shared.
The year living with her sister was enlightening for Moore. One of the most poignant lessons came when she visited her niece’s elementary school and noticed a wall filled with clocks set to various time zones, each one representative of a deployed parent.
“I grew up in rural Minnesota. There was one time zone–the central time zone. I didn’t know any other time zone, except for when the TV said a show started at ‘8/7 central.’ That eight…I didn’t even know what that was,” laughed Moore.
“But in kindergarten, my niece understands time zones because that is the life of a military child. It just blew me away. I cry still when I think about how resilient military kids are, about what they go through. It’s so interesting to me what military kids are exposed to, what they learn because they are military children.”
Moore said she was also impacted by how military families communicate with loved ones who are deployed. She recalled a few instances when her brother-in-law would call home from the field and his unit would come under indirect fire, causing him to abruptly end the call to go to the job he was deployed to do. Sometimes the flow of information stops completely when a unit goes black for some reason.
“So then, to sit, back here at Fort Campbell, Kentucky and wait for the news, it’s so powerful,” said Moore.
Working in the military was not something Moore had planned for her career.
“Before I got to here, I would listen to my sister’s stories and think, ‘Oh, that’s interesting. Oh, there are protestors outside of the gate? Oh yeah, your husband is deployed? Oh, okay.’ Our dad was a truck driver and was gone a lot, so in my mind, it was the same thing,” Moore admitted. “But it’s not the same thing. I learned so much while I lived with her.”
Earning an MBA from Lipscomb completely changed the trajectory of Moore’s career.
“After my experience living with my sister, I went into my graduate business studies hoping to come out of it being able to work for a military support organization. As soon as I finished my degree, they opened this position at the Fort Campbell USO,” she said.
“I was able to speak so passionately about what I wanted to do because of my time spent in nonprofits, my time spent at Lipscomb getting my master’s and really legitimizing my skills at running an organization. Then I got to have the incredible honor of being hired to that position,” said Moore.
In her role at the USO, Moore manages local budgeting, fundraising and human resources in collaboration with the organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Prior to her move to Clarksville, Moore’s connection to the military was distant. However, she was familiar with the USO. “I knew about the USO. I’m always surprised that younger people don’t know about the USO unless they are military and learned about it through their service or connection to a service member,” said Moore.
“But, I don’t know what we did right in rural Minnesota that I knew about it. Maybe we watched Bob Hope Christmas shows or something! But when I saw that job opening, I was amazed. I was so excited to apply, and honored to be hired.”
The Fort Campbell USO is the biggest in the country. It is housed in a 24,000-square-foot facility that provides space for numerous programs and services. The center is multi-functional, providing special activities for families, a gym, and events and seminars. The facility attracts throngs of troops and families, with 15,000 service instances achieved in October 2017. This is not a one-time occurrence, rather a trend with January 2018 reaching nearly the same amount.
Moore said the USO is always looking for volunteers. “The USO operates on volunteers. They’re the ones welcoming the service member, serving the meals, cleaning the building. Whether there is a culture of service, or passion for the military, Nashville is an extremely patriotic community,” said Moore.
“Despite the community support, we lose a majority of our volunteers several times a year due to re-assignments during permanent change of station season. When that happens, we have huge gaps in our schedules,” said Moore.
The USO has three facilities in the Fort Campbell area, one on the installation, one in Nashville Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS), and one at the Nashville International Airport. Of these locations, the Nashville MEPS location makes a great impact regarding education of what the USO can do for service members. Moore said the location provides the opportunity to talk to new recruits about the services the USO offers, including a Pathfinder program through which the organization works with service members up to 12 months after they transition to civilian life. The Pathfinder program has eight focus areas – education, employment, Veterans Affairs benefits, housing, family strengthening and wellness, financial readiness, legal and volunteerism.
“At MEPS, we get to talk to the new recruits about how we’ll be with them all the way through their service and back into their civilian life,” she said.
For transitioning service members interested in the Pathfinder program, the USO has representatives in the Soldier for Life Transition Assistance Program footprint.
“They complement each other. Fort Campbell out-processes about 400 service members each month. We do concierge service. We’re not experts in any of the eight areas, but we know experts and we connect the service members to those entities that can help,” said Moore.
In addition to the services provided by the USO, the organization partners with Lipscomb University on events such as an annual 10-miler, 5K and fun run. This year’s event is slated to happen in March 2018.
“We get almost 1,000 people who come out for the race between the three distances. It is such a great opportunity to share who Lipscomb is with the military community and the great opportunities the university has to offer service members, like tuition free education for qualified service members,” said Moore.
Summing up her thoughts on the USO, “It’s a deeper organization than I ever expected. We do so much good – it’s an incredible organization. I have the best job in the world,” reflected Moore.
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