2018 CoNECD - The Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference

Exploring the Experiences of First-generation Student Veterans in Engineering

Presented at Potpourri - Technical Session IV

Understanding the experiences of first-generation students is important for expanding diversity and inclusion in engineering education. Some of these students may include the military as a part of their educational pathways. However, there is little research on the experiences of first-generation student veterans in engineering education. This qualitative study seeks to address this gap. The investigation focuses on first-generation student veterans in engineering (FGSVEs) (n=15) who were interviewed as a part of a larger study of SVEs (n=60) on four college campuses. The study addressed the following research questions:

(1) Why do FGSVEs decide to join the military?
(2) Why do FGSVEs choose to major in engineering?

Results suggest that these FGSVEs join the military to gain some direction and purpose in their lives and to pay for college. They primarily choose engineering as a pathway toward financial stability and to engage in creative problem solving. This study reveals that the military provides opportunities to first-generation students that would otherwise not likely be available to them due to their reported lower level of motivation and academic discipline during and after high school. The study results can aid in the development of recruiting strategies and the design of more effective programs and policies for SVEs in general and first-generation SVEs in particular. For example, because many of these students overcame initial obstacles in higher education, they could be a potential pool of effective mentors in engineering, both to other student veterans and to first-generation students.

  1. Dr. Catherine Mobley Clemson University [biography]
  2. Michelle M. Camacho University of San Diego [biography]
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