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Military Veteran Students’ Pathways in Engineering Education (Year 2)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session I

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Susan M Lord University of San Diego

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Susan M. Lord received a B.S. from Cornell University and the M.S. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. She is currently Professor and Chair of Electrical Engineering at the University of San Diego. Her teaching and research interests include electronics, optoelectronics, materials science, first year engineering courses, feminist and liberative pedagogies, engineering student persistence, and student autonomy. Her research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Lord is a fellow of the ASEE and IEEE and is active in the engineering education community including serving as General Co-Chair of the 2006 Frontiers in Education (FIE) Conference, on the FIE Steering Committee, and as President of the IEEE Education Society for 2009-2010. She is an Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education. She and her coauthors were awarded the 2011 Wickenden Award for the best paper in the Journal of Engineering Education and the 2011 Best Paper Award for the IEEE Transactions on Education. In Spring 2012, Dr. Lord spent a sabbatical at Southeast University in Nanjing, China teaching and doing research.

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Joyce B. Main Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Joyce B. Main is Assistant Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She holds a Ph.D. in Learning, Teaching, and Social Policy from Cornell University, and an Ed.M. in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

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Catherine E. Brawner Research Triangle Educational Consultants

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Catherine E. Brawner is President of Research Triangle Educational Consultants. She received her Educational Research and Policy Analysis from NC State University in 1996. She also has an MBA from Indiana University (Bloomington) and a bachelor’s degree from Duke University. She specializes in
evaluation and research in engineering education, computer science education, teacher education, and technology education. Dr. Brawner is a founding member and former treasurer of Research Triangle Park Evaluators, an American Evaluation Association affiliate organization and is a member of the Amer-
ican Educational Research Association and American Evaluation Association, in addition to ASEE. Dr. Brawner is also an Extension Services Consultant for the National Center for Women in Information Technology (NCWIT) and, in that role, advises computer science departments on diversifying their under-graduate student population. Dr. Brawner previously served as principal evaluator of the NSF-sponsored SUCCEED Coalition. She remains an active researcher with MIDFIELD, studying gender issues, transfers, and matriculation models in engineering.

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Catherine Mobley Clemson University

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Catherine Mobley, Ph.D., is a Professor of Sociology at Clemson University. She has over 20 years experience in project and program evaluation and has worked for a variety of consulting firms, non-profit agencies, and government organizations, including the Rand Corporation, the American Association of Retired Persons, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research. Since 2004, she been a member of the NSF-funded MIDFIELD research project on engineering education; she has served as a Co-PI on three research projects, including one on transfer students and another on student veterans in engineering.

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Michelle M. Camacho Ph.D. University of San Diego

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Michelle Madsen Camacho is Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of San Diego. She formerly held two postdoctoral fellowships at the University of California, San Diego, at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies and in the Department of Ethnic Studies. Fluent in both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies, her research uses theories from interdisciplinary sources including cultural studies, critical race, gender and feminist theories. Central to her work are questions of culture, power and inequality. She is affiliated faculty with the Department of Ethnic Studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, and Latin American Studies.

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Given the diverse backgrounds of veterans, their increasing numbers, and the growing national demand for engineers, the timing is ideal to study the conditions under which student veterans pursue engineering education and the factors that support their success. This project aims to address gaps in the literature on student veterans in engineering through a comparative case study across four institutions: University of San Diego (USD), North Carolina State University (NCSU), Purdue University, and Clemson University. Our research questions include:

1. Why do veterans pursue a Bachelor’s degree in engineering? 2. How do military experiences shape student veterans’ educational experiences? 3. What are the experiences of student veterans in engineering education? 4. How do institutions support veterans in engineering education?

Our research plan incorporates content analysis of academic policies that student veterans encounter, interviews with key informants on each campus, focus group interviews with student veterans, and in-depth student interviews to elicit rich narratives. The theoretical framework builds on Tinto’s student integration model and Schlossberg’s adult transition theory. This study has potential for broad systemic impact by diversifying pathways to and through engineering programs, and in capitalizing on the informal and real-world experiences of engineering student veterans.

During the first phase of the grant, our team developed protocols for key informant interviews and interviewed 23 key informants at our institutions. We identified three themes that shape student veteran experiences on these campuses: the presence/absence of key student policies; student support services; and gaps in the provision of such services. At each institution, there has been a heightened emphasis placed on improving services for veterans and the policies that provide the framework for these services. We also identified a few challenges faced and assets brought by student veterans to campus from the perspective of administrators.

We have worked extensively with our distinguished External Advisory Board (EAB) to inform and refine our method. For example, based on their feedback, our qualification survey for our focus group participants was redesigned to be shorter and to use more appropriate military terminology. The student focus groups began in Fall 2015 at USD, NCSU, and Purdue and will continue into Spring 2016 at Clemson.

Lord, S. M., & Main, J. B., & Brawner, C. E., & Mobley, C., & Camacho, M. M. (2016, June), Military Veteran Students’ Pathways in Engineering Education (Year 2) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26213

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