The purpose of this study is to better understand how combat zone experiences affect educational engagement for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans, and what colleges and universities are doing to aid these veterans in their return to school.
“Research on the veterans of previous wars may not be applicable as colleges look to prepare for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. What specifically is missing is an analysis of how the experience in a combat zone affects educational engagement for Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans and what colleges and universities are doing to aid them in their return. For that reason, the primary and secondary questions that frame this research center on enhancing our understanding of this phenomenon, as well as how the veteran perception of institutional culture enhances or inhibits their experience…Individual interviews, as well as a focus group [was conducted to address the primary and secondary research questions]. Ultimately, the conclusions of this research confirm the prior programming recommendations of previous research on veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars but differ in the manner in which they should be conceived. A new theoretical framework, student-veteran integration theory, is introduced to give practitioners more informed guidelines when creating effective programming that engages veterans based on a deeper understanding of if their experiences at war, rather than addressing them as a population with a uniform cultural background” (p. 2). (Abstractor: Author).

Major Findings & Recommendations

Pre-Military background findings include: • “Veterans were able to look back on their previous experiences in higher education and reflect on them in light of their current mindset; one affected by war and the circumstances of time. These experiences continually influenced how they approached higher education and are not wholly unrelated to their subsequent reflections on the influence of combat" (p. 82). Entering and Experiencing higher education. • “Undergraduate and graduate veterans alike expressed the need for more targeted information that pertained to them, the funding they receive from the federal government, and services that would be available to them” (pp. 91-92). • “With regard to the academic demands of college, on the whole veterans said they felt prepared for the academic work of college, both mentally and intellectually. The greatest challenges discussed by veterans entering college were social and cultural…veterans felt that their experiences and age separated them from their younger colleagues” (p. 94). • “Veterans felt that the common student experience and frame of mind was not something that they could identify with. While it was not mentioned as a distinct barrier to their own engagement in higher education, it remained a dominant theme in veteran responses” (p. 95). • With regard to the broader experience, when asked if they felt that their experience in war had a positive or negative effect on their lives, the vast majority of participants sited the pride in the work they had done, as well as the pride in the men and women they had served with as positives taken from the experience” (p. 96). Recommendations: •“The creation of a designated Student-Veterans’ Affairs Specialist is necessary for institutions to fully acknowledge and address the needs of [veterans]” (p. 139). •“The creation of a veteran-specific orientation…[to] acknowledge veterans as a special population [and to] serve as the university’s recognition of issues veterans face, [separating] them from traditional college going students” (p. 139). • “The creation of a veteran-peer mentoring program [to increase] the presence of other veterans [which is] essential to the adjustment associated with leaving a combat zone experience” (p. 139) (Abstractor: Author) Could not find anything in the report that was specific to the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.