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UW graduate standing at ceremonyAnalysts believe that the U.S. science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce suffers from a lack of well-trained and diverse professionals. While recent research and reforms have aimed to improve college graduation rates as students move through STEM programs into careers, little work has investigated the career pathways of undergraduate student military service members and veterans, a group of talented students poised to expand and diversify the workforce through advanced technical, collaborative, and leadership skills and diverse experiences. Despite their potential, however, student military service members and veterans face a number of social, financial, and health-related obstacles in college that educators and scholars still struggle to understand.

With these issues in mind, the Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study (VETWAYS) explores the connections between student military service member and veteran experiences in undergraduate education and these students’ “social support networks,” or relationships that provide help, advice, comradery, or guidance.

Specifically, using surveys and interviews of students and the educators who work with them across five Wisconsin universities, we seek to advance knowledge about the social networks of student military service members and veterans and how these networks connect with persistence along student academic and workforce pathways. Results will allow us to better understand social factors that help undergraduate military service members and veterans persist in college as well as how administrators, educators, and their higher educational institutions might better support these students on their career pathways.

This research is supported by the National Science Foundation’s EHR Core Research (ECR) program, which emphasizes fundamental STEM education research that generates foundational knowledge in the field in critical areas that are essential, broad and enduring. The program supports the accumulation of robust evidence to inform efforts to understand, build theory to explain, and suggest interventions and innovations to address persistent challenges in STEM interest, education, learning and participation.

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