Date of Graduation

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

College/School

School of Education

Department/Program

Leadership Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Paul Raccanello

Second Advisor

Dr. Christopher N. Thomas

Third Advisor

Dr. Dan McPherson

Abstract

Integrated Academic and Social Support for Military Veteran Students: Imagining a New Horizon in Education

Combat and war veterans are enrolling at institutions of higher education hoping to complete their academic degrees. Veteran students' changing identities from soldiers to students and their diverse academic experiences present unique and significant challenges for university support personnel hoping to assist these students in their transition to the academic community. As such, there is a need for college and university officials to better understand military veteran students' academic and social needs. The successful academic transition of this growing student population depends on the initiatives that educational institutions, faculty, and administrators take to support veteran students in achieving their academic goals.

I employed critical hermeneutic theory within a framework of participatory research to conduct this study. Herda (1999:82) writes, "the purpose of participatory research is to create conditions whereby people can engage in discourse so that truth can be recognized and new realities can be brought into the being." By engaging in guided conversations addressing educational experiences and academic expectations, both veteran students and I had the opportunity to expand our understanding of the social and academic factors influencing their college experience. Participatory research provides the researcher and participants avenues to co-create new understandings of past experiences by envisioning a new future. I applied the theories of identity (Ricoeur 1992), fusion of horizon (Gadamer 2000), and imagination (Kearney 1998) as the theoretical foundation to conduct the research conversation.

Findings from this research therefore relate to the research categories of identity, fusion of horizon, and imagination. Findings from this research include the following: 1) veteran students' military identity influences campus involvement and student relationships with faculty and non-military classmates; 2) military training and veteran students' narratives and experiences are a source of knowledge and an influential factor for campus interactions and academic development; 3) military experiences influence veteran students' imagined future as college graduates.

Veteran students' military training and active service experiences provide them an understanding of a command and control culture that is discordant to the relaxed and informal college student environment. To effectively adapt to their new college student identity, it is important for veteran student to engage in conversation with professors and classmates in order to expand their horizon and understanding of college norms, and ultimately navigate their own unique success in their academic course of study.

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