Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session
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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