This qualitative study explored graduate student veterans’ experience in an engineering master’s program that has implemented a double-layered mentoring structure for the students. By examining the synergistic confluence between mentoring relationships and student veterans’ cultural identities in the graduate program environment, five major themes emerged from the thematic analysis. These themes include (1) understanding veterans’ struggles and advocating for the students’ academic pursuit, (2) establishing a military-safe environment, (3) authentic mentoring experiences, (4) appreciation and utilization of military assets for academic success, and (5) spearheading research endeavors while being in good hands. The results from this study provide important insight into the experiences of graduate engineering student veterans and how various units of higher education (e.g., institutions, programs) can develop an effective and culturally-relevant support system for student veterans in graduate programs.
Jae Hoon Lim is an Associate Professor of Research Methods at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her research explores the intersection of gender, race, and class in STEM education and highlights the dialogical process of identity construction across various groups of underrepresented minorities in STEM fields. She has served as a co-PI and qualitative evaluator for multiple federal grants supporting engineering program innovation and diverse STEM workforce development. Her recent research focuses on student veterans' civilian acculturation through higher education.
Rachel Saunders is a doctoral candidate at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in the Counselor Education and Supervision Program. Her research focuses primarily on culturally responsive school counseling, college and career readiness, and experiences of student veterans in higher education. She serves as a Research Assistant at UNC Charlotte as part of a Office of Naval Research grant supporting student veterans and engineering curriculum innovation.
Peter Tkacik is an Professor of mechanical engineering within the motorsports focus area. His largest area of research is in the engagement of military veterans and early career engineering college students through hands-on learning activities and exciting visual and experiential research programs. Other research activities are related to the details of the visual and experiential programs and relate to hypersonics, tire testing, color-Schlieren shock and compressible flow imaging, and flows around multiple bodies in tandem.
Jerry Dahlberg is the Associate Director for Aerospace and Defense at the University of Tennessee Space Institute. Prior to joining UTSI, he was an Assistant Teaching Professor and Senior Design Committee Chair at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He received a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering Science in 2014, M.S. in Mechanical Engineering in 2016 and PhD in Mechanical Engineering in 2018 from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Madison is a masters-level student in the counseling program at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. She is currently completing the licensure process to become a Professional School Counselor and hopes to work at the elementary school level upon graduation. As a graduate research assistant, she examines the role of student veterans and their transition into higher education institutions.
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