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Benbow, R. J. (September, 2020). Student military service member and veteran university transitions: The cultural importance of camaraderie and social support [Research Brief]. The Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study (VETWAYS): University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Summary: With the establishment of wide-ranging post-9/11 state and federal higher education tuition and living benefits, military service member and veteran enrollment in American colleges and universities has increased exponentially over the last decade. Research examining the difficult transition these students make as they move from the military to the university typically does not position these institutions as separate cultural spheres, however, limiting the helpfulness of findings for college educators and others looking to better support these students. Using freelisting interview methods (n=54), this qualitative study explores cultural differences between the military and university and how student military service members and veterans believe these differences influence their transitions into college. Results show that students perceive an absence of camaraderie in university life in particular, and that the missing family atmosphere, trust, and deeper relationships of their military experience are an important influence on their university experience. Findings point to the importance of social support networks and community-building efforts to mitigate these students’ challenges as they move into university.

Benbow, R. J. & Lee, Y. G. (October, 2020). Campus belonging among student military service members and veterans in STEMM majors: A social network and social capital study [Research Brief]. The Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study (VETWAYS): University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Summary: Analysts contend that the U.S. science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medical (STEMM) workforce suffers from a training and diversity shortage. While recent university reforms have aimed to improve STEMM undergraduate persistence in response, little research has studied retention among student military service members and veterans (SSM/Vs), a group of students with the potential to broaden and strengthen the scientific workforce. With research indicating SSM/V academic experiences improve with strong social support, this study explores links between social support networks for SSM/V in STEMM and feelings of campus belonging that are important to college success. Findings from SSM/V surveys (n=333) indicate that larger support networks that include students and university educators positively associate with a sense of campus belonging. At the same time, SSM/V interviewees (n=54) describe how feelings of belonging often come through student friendships, faculty care, and campus veteran support. Results reconfirm the importance of social support among SSM/Vs and suggest that university service providers looking to support these students should actively and purposefully encourage social ties with fellow students, staff, and faculty members.

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