In an age of continued national level gaps in qualified science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workers, recent military education benefits and military end strength reductions have the potential to bolster the nation’s engineering technician, engineering technologist, and engineer (ETETE) workforce. Recent work by the National Science Foundation indicates that supporting veteran students towards ETETE careers involves three key tasks for educators: 1) building early awareness of ETETE pathways; 2) ensuring academic recognition for prior military work experience; and 3) providing seamless support from government agencies, academic institutions, and industry. Many veterans experience an abrupt and unsupportive transition from military to civilian academic pursuits, which may negatively affect their retention and persistence in the field. Among other factors, delays in education benefits, a lack of academic credit for prior work experience, and less structured academic environments all may contribute to this negative perception. The growing number of veterans pursuing STEM degrees, and the diversity of this underserved group of students continues to garner the attention of faculty and administrators in an effort to mitigate these transition challenges.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the initiatives and challenges discussed by a diverse panel of military and veteran-related students, faculty, and researchers during the 2016 ASEE annual conference. The topics discussed during the panel are related to previous research regarding the challenges faced by veteran students beyond ETETE career paths to contrast similarities and differences between ETETE students and their peers in other undergraduate programs. Results from this panel suggest that veteran students still struggle in navigating the transition from military to academic life and that a lack of constructive credit for military training and experience may exacerbate these challenges. A series of novel initiatives are presented that may assist faculty and administrators in adopting a fresh approach to veteran student support. Developing veteran student support programs also suggest that on-going peer mentorship programs being adopted by women and underrepresented minority engineering support programs may play an important role in supporting veteran student success.
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