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Exploring the Unique Skills and Challenges Disabled Veterans Bring to College: A Qualitative Study in Engineering

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Engineering Education Graduate Research Consortium (EEGRC) Poster Session

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Michael Scott Sheppard Jr. Arizona State University, Polytechnic campus Orcid 16x16

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Michael Scott Sheppard is a graduate research associate pursuing a Master of Science degree in Engineering and a Ph.D. in Engineering Education Systems and Design at Arizona State University. He received a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science degree from Lynchburg College in 2002, after which he served in the military for six years as a Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman. Following military service, Michael obtained a Bachelor of Science in Engineering degree from Arizona State University, graduating in 2013. His research interests include veterans in engineering, veterans with service-connected disability, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and human sex trafficking.

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Military careers and student life have stark differences. No matter each veteran’s military job or experiences, a transition of this nature will be fraught with unexpected challenges. Disabled student veterans may face challenges that uniquely differentiate them from other students and other veterans. Alternatively, they may find themselves better suited than others to navigate an undergraduate engineering program. This exploratory research study aims to develop a deeper understanding of the experiences of engineering student veterans with service-connected disabilities as they transition into higher education. To investigate these transitions, we utilized semi-structured narrative interviews with three sophomore engineering students with levels of service-connected disability exceeding 30 percent, purposively selected for maximum variability across particular demographic characteristics. In this thematic analysis, we explored the rich narratives of the students’ transitions from military members to undergraduate engineering students by coding the data and organizing the themes as they mapped to the Schlossberg Transition Theory. Preliminary analysis of the data confirms an agreement among disabled veterans that service-connected disabilities and the loss of social support networks have proven to create challenges in and out of the classroom. However, their military time and training have positively affected their transition and ensuing successes as engineering students. The identification of these unique skills and challenges affords us a better chance to understand these aspects of transition and facilitate change to utilize successful strategies and better support future disabled student veterans and disabled students who are not veterans.

Sheppard, M. S. (2018, June), Exploring the Unique Skills and Challenges Disabled Veterans Bring to College: A Qualitative Study in Engineering Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30502

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