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CAREER: ‘Support our Troops’: Re-storying Student Veteran and Service Member Deficit in Engineering through Professional Formation and Community Advocacy: YEAR 1

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Angela Minichiello Utah State University

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Angela (Angie) Minichiello, Ph.D., P. E., is an Assistant Professor of Engineering Education and Adjunct Faculty in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Utah State University. Her research employs asset-based frameworks to improve access, participation, and inclusivity across all levels of engineering education. Angie engages with qualitative, mixed-method, and multi-method approaches to better understand student experience for the ultimate purpose of strengthening and diversifying the engineering workforce. Her most recent work explores the effects of mobile educational technology, online learning and distance education; metacognition and self-regulation, and contemporary engineering practice on engineering student learning and professional identity development. Angie graduated from the United State Military Academy at West Point with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. She later earned a master's degree in mechanical engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a Ph.D. in engineering education at Utah State University. In 2021, Angie's research earned her a National Science Foundation CAREER Award to critically examine the professional formation of undergraduate student veterans and service members in engineering.

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Hannah Wilkinson Utah State University

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Hannah Wilkinson is a graduate student in Engineering Education at Utah State University. She received a B.S. in Chemical Engineering in 2019 from the University of Utah.

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There is an ever-increasing need to recruit, train, and sustain a diverse engineering workforce able to meet the demands of 21st century society. Together, student veterans and service members (SVSM) are a unique yet understudied group that comprises substantial numbers of those historically underrepresented in engineering (i.e., due to race, ethnicity, gender, ability, orientation, etc.). That, in combination with technical interests and skills, maturity, life experience, and self-discipline, makes SVSM ideal candidates for helping engineering education meet these demands. This NSF CAREER project aims to advance full participation of SVSMs within higher engineering education and the engineering workforce by 1) developing deeper understandings about how SVSM participate, persist, and produce professional identities in engineering and 2) putting new understandings into practice through collaborative development, implementation and broad dissemination of evidence-based military ally and mentorship programs for SVSM in engineering and awareness/support trainings for engineering faculty, staff, and administrators.

This project is guided by two research questions (RQ) and subquestions:

RQ 1: How do SVSM participate and persist in undergraduate engineering education? How do SVSM negotiate educational structures to participate and persist in engineering? How do personal and professional assets combine to create SVSM community cultural wealth in engineering?

RQ 2:During their undergraduate engineering education, how do SVSM produce engineering identities? How do SVSM experience transitions between military, civilian, academic, professional, and engineering related roles and contexts? How do SVSM engage in professional identity development in engineering?

Our current research on the state of SVSM literature in engineering finds that this work remains focused on SVSM transition into engineering, including SVSM military and academic roles changes, the relative salience of intersecting identities (e.g., military, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, first generation) during transition, and needs for transitional support (Wilkinson, in progress). The project builds from previous work using a longitudinal, narrative inquiry research approach and an innovative, two-strand theoretical framework to understand SVSM experiences as developing engineers while engaging in engineering programs.

The project employs narrative inquiry, as developed by Jean Clandinin and colleagues in the field of teacher education, to longitudinally and collaboratively explore SVSM lived experience through shared storytelling. Within the critical strand (RQ 1), the project adopts a critical perspective and employs Critical Theories (i.e., Community Cultural Wealth and Veteran Critical Theory) to synthesize the institutional effects within participants’ narratives by questioning the knowns and moving the focus of critique toward the institutions, policies, and practices that shape SVSM experiences in engineering education and away from the SVSM themselves. The goal of this strand is to add to an emerging Veteran Critical Theory in higher education by characterizing the community cultural wealth that SVSM use, as assets, to operate within and resist systematic anti-military bias and oppression that manifests within civilian institutions of higher education and post-secondary programs of engineering. Within the interpretive strand (RQ 2), the project adopts an interpretivist perspective, employing social, multi/intersectional, and professional identity theory tenets to reveal SVSM professional identity development processes within the SVSM narratives. The goal of this strand is to derive a conceptual model of SVSM professional identity development in engineering. Research findings from both strands are then integrated within multi-institutional, collaborative research to practice efforts to develop inclusive, assets based SVSM programs and services to be made available nationally.

This paper reports on Year 1 project activities, including the development, implementation, and emerging results of qualitative methods and processes that support 1) narrative inquiry research with diverse SVSM across distributed institutional sites, and 2) collaborative design-based research to develop actionable interventions with and for SVSM at partner institutions. Specifically, emerging themes from interviews with institutional agents (e.g., veterans resource administrators and staff and engineering college level administrators and advisors) at participating institutions are described in relation to the project’s developing educational outcomes. Integrating research and educational efforts in this way engages SVSM, colleges of engineering, institutions, and local communities in the development, implementation, and sustainment of educational and support resources for SVSM in ways that would be unachievable by the research team alone.

Minichiello, A., & Wilkinson, H. (2022, August), CAREER: ‘Support our Troops’: Re-storying Student Veteran and Service Member Deficit in Engineering through Professional Formation and Community Advocacy: YEAR 1 Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN.

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