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Military Veteran Students’ Pathways in Engineering Education (Year 6)

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

NSF Grantees: Diversity 3

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 in Materials Science and Electrical Engineering (EE) and the M.S. and Ph.D. in EE from Stanford University. She is currently Professor and Chair of Integrated Engineering at the University of San Diego. Her research focuses on the study and promotion of diversity in engineering including student pathways and inclusive teaching. She is Co-Director of the National Effective Teaching Institute (NETI). Her research has been sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). Dr. Lord is among the first to study Latinos in engineering and coauthored The Borderlands of Education: Latinas in Engineering. Dr. Lord is a Fellow of the IEEE and ASEE and is active in the engineering education community including serving as General Co-Chair of the Frontiers in Education Conference, President of the IEEE Education Society, and Associate Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Education (ToE) and the Journal of Engineering Education (JEE). She and her coauthors received the 2011 Wickenden Award for the best paper in JEE and the 2011 and 2015 Best Paper Awards for the IEEE ToE. In Spring 2012, Dr. Lord spent a sabbatical at Southeast University in Nanjing, China teaching and doing research. She is on the USD team implementing “Developing Changemaking Engineers”, an NSF-sponsored Revolutionizing Engineering Education (RED) project. Dr. Lord is the 2018 recipient of the IEEE Undergraduate Teaching Award.

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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 30 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 and another on Black students in engineering.

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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, 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 American 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 and engineering departments on diversifying their undergraduate student population. She remains an active researcher, including studying academic policies, gender and ethnicity issues, transfers, and matriculation models with MIDFIELD as well as student veterans in engineering. Her evaluation work includes evaluating teamwork models, broadening participation initiatives, and S-STEM and LSAMP programs.

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

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Joyce B. Main is Associate 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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This NSF Research in Engineering Education (REE)-funded project explores the experiences of student veterans in undergraduate engineering (SVE) at four institutions across the US. We conducted interviews with key informants in year one of this grant, focus groups with SVEs in year two, and in-depth SVE interviews in year three at each campus. Here, we highlight some results from this project. This study has potential for broad impact by helping engineering programs understand, recruit, and serve veterans.

We have conducted focused explorations of specific populations within the larger group of SVEs including first-generation in college (FGSVEs) and women (WSVEs). In this past year, we have begun to explore the experiences of Black students (BSVEs) and gay students. Our research found that family influences, a desire to be part of something bigger than themselves, and economics were factors in BSVEs’ decision to join the military. These BSVEs claimed that their military and engineering identities were central to their core identity. Of those who mentioned racial identity, all indicated that it was central to their core being, often intersecting with their male identity. The theme of sexuality emerged authentically from a few respondents who are cisgender men in engineering programs, military veterans, and identify as gay. These men reported that, in their experience, being in the military helped in engineering. In contrast, they described challenges of being gay in the military, where “don’t ask, don’t tell” prevented them from being honest about their sexual orientation, and in engineering which they do not consider as welcoming to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. They related how circumstances influenced whether they chose to conceal or reveal their identity as gay.

We analyzed our key informant interviews exploring their roles as campus allies and advocates. Interviewees worked in a variety of settings across campus, including financial aid, health services, and First-Year Engineering (FYE). Our study highlighted how IAs positively effect change for student veterans and help SVEs navigate the transition from the military to university structures and cultures. The IAs felt they played an instrumental role in expanding services for student veterans and in establishing a positive and supportive culture for student veterans. However, they also recognized the need for additional resources for and improvement in certain policies and programs. The results can inform university and departmental efforts to enhance SVEs’ transitions from the military to higher education and engineering studies.

To share our overall results with a wider audience including veterans and those in the military, we drafted tips sheets for service members considering going to college, veterans interested in pursuing a bachelor's degree in engineering, and engineering faculty. We are working with the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University to transform these tip sheets into visually appealing products for wider dissemination. MFRI has experience developing such materials and has access to military venues for dissemination. Our External Advisory Board has also continued to provide feedback to the research team.

Lord, S. M., & Mobley, C., & Brawner, C. E., & Main, J. B. (2020, June), Military Veteran Students’ Pathways in Engineering Education (Year 6) Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34973

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