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VETWAYS has released a research brief focused on the cultural strengths of undergraduate student service members and veterans (SSM/Vs), particularly those that help these students succeed in college and the workplace.

Despite their expanded enrollment in colleges and universities and their potential to diversify university departments and the workforce, discussions on SSM/Vs typically center on psychological trauma, alienation, and other student challenges on campus. We believe that a focus on SSM/Vs’ unique cultural strengths, however, may help educators and professionals better support these students as they make their way through university and into civilian careers.

Using interviews of 35 current and former SSM/Vs in the fall of 2021, this research brief outlines military-oriented cultural strengths interviewees associate with their academic and early career success. SSM/Vs mentioned five major cultural strength themes, including (1) an orientation towards public service, (2) true on-the-job experience and responsibility, (3) the ability to express oneself and develop rapport with a wide variety of people, (4) an ability to complete the task at hand using a mix of determination, initiative, and resilience, and (5) the adaption of military-based principles, routines, and/or organizational schemes that encourage success in multiple areas of life.

Results affirm that asset-based, instead of deficit-based, narratives should be used across campus and workspaces to more truly support SSM/Vs. They also underline how these SSM/V strengths can be harnessed to improve academic and career advising, community-building, and cultural training on campuses and in workplaces.


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