Exploring the unique skills and challenges veterans with disabilities bring to college: A qualitative study in engineering

Michael Scott Sheppard, Nadia N. Kellam, Samantha Ruth Brunhaver

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

Military careers and student life have stark differences. No matter each veteran's military experiences, the transition from military to college may be fraught with unexpected challenges. Student veterans with disabilities may face additional challenges that uniquely differentiate them from other students. 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, each with levels of serviceconnected disability exceeding 30 percent and purposively selected for maximum variability across particular demographic characteristics. In this thematic analysis, we explored the rich narratives of the students' transitions from military service to becoming undergraduate engineering students by organizing the themes as they mapped to the Schlossberg Transition Theory. Analysis of the interview data showed that student veterans with disabilities face unique challenges both inside and outside the classroom due to dramatic changes in their social support systems and the existence of service-connected disability. However, these students aspire to be successful against all odds, have an elevated work ethic, and employ a heightened level of leadership, teaming, and communication. These assets can be invaluable for student veterans and their peers as they pursue careers in engineering. Results thus indicate that student veterans' military time and training do lend themselves as useful tools in navigating the transition to undergraduate engineering and ensuring success as engineering students. The identification of these unique skills and challenges affords us a better chance to understand these aspects of transition and to facilitate change that better supports future student veterans with disabilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Apr 14 2019
Event2019 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity, CoNECD 2019 - Crystal City, United States
Duration: Apr 14 2019Apr 22 2019

Conference

Conference2019 Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity, CoNECD 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityCrystal City
Period4/14/194/22/19

Keywords

  • Schlossberg transition theory
  • Service-connected disability
  • Student veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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