Session: Challenges Student Veterans Experience and Culturally Informed Implications for Researchers, Educators & Helping Professionals (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

285 Challenges Student Veterans Experience and Culturally Informed Implications for Researchers, Educators & Helping Professionals

Sunday, January 16, 2022: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Independence BR F, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
Cluster: Military Service Members, Veterans and Their Families
Kelly Clary, PhD, MSW, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Sierra Sullivan, PhD, Southwest Texas State University and Lucy Byrne, BA, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
The student veteran (SV) population is expected to exponentially grow over the next few years (PNPI, 2019) and SVs are considered "One of America's greatest untapped human resources" (Lighthall, 2012, p. 88). SVs experience transition challenges as they are forced to recreate a new non-military role (Naphan & Elliot, 2015). Veterans go through a process called "role exit" where they create a new identity by absorbing new values and expectations, while concurrently disengaging with previous norms (Ebaugh & Ebaugh, 1988; Naphan & Elliot, 2015), or referred to as 'liminality' an ambiguous 'no man's land' where soldiers learn to restructure their identity within multiple contexts (Bridges & Bridges, 2019). Adjusting to college life is often considered one of the most testing experiences in a military member's transition period (Reyes et al., 2018) due to a plethora of stressors.

Faculty members have been identified as key players in supporting SVs and are integral to how SVs perceive and maintain success in a campus environment and further attain a degree (Heineman, 2016). It is important for faculty members to advance their understanding of military culture and further recognize how they can maximize SVs' potential for academic success (Gonzalez & Elliott, 2016). Data suggests asset based military cultural competency (MCC) trainings positively impact faculty (Sullivan, 2020), insinuating the need for continued education on military culture. There is a current literature gap regarding faculty perspectives of SVs and the impact MCC trainings have on faculty perspectives and teaching practices. Evidence of this gap is apparent as less than half of universities offer any type of MCC trainings (O'Herrin, 2011).

Findings indicate universities must become more cognizant of the diversity within SV communities and provide faculty with assets-based, interactive, MCC training that represent the diverse SV population. Furthermore, post-secondary institutions that are labeled as veteran friendly must adhere to regulations that qualify them as such, which includes mandating MCC training for faculty, staff, and leadership officials. The application of this policy intends to ensure that college recruiting SVs implement adequate support systems to provide quality education, increase retention, and gives holistic, asset-based support to the SV population. To conclude, the topic of military culture for faculty, researchers, and practitioners should be a central topic when it comes to how we interact with and support SV.

We will explore literature to support two qualitative studies: one on challenges young veterans (n=16) face when transitioning into higher education (REMOVED, 2020) and the second on MCC training for faculty (n=10; REMOVED, 2020). We will tie these two studies together with current SV literature utilizing the Veterans Critical Theory (Phillips & Lincoln, 2017). We will discuss the following with research evidence: (a) challenges SVs experience, (b) asset based MCC trainings, (c) best practices for working with SVs, (d) gaps in SV research, and (e) task-oriented implications for researchers, faculty, and practitioners. Participants will gain knowledge and skills to (1) implement culturally informed research strategies, (2) advocate for MCC trainings, and (3) feel confident to engage and mentor SVs.

See more of: Roundtables