Identity and meaning making of student veterans transitioning to college
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Student veterans are returning to higher education institutions in increasing numbers with the advent of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill. With over 1.64 million veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) eligible to enter higher education, the campus community needs more information on the needs of enrolling veterans. The purpose of this study is increase the knowledge base of the identity and meaning making of student veterans as it relates to their transition into university life. Research questions focused on transition issues, identity and meaning making of student veterans as they transitioned from combat deployments to college. Participants included veterans who had been deployed as combat veterans during the OIF and OEF campaigns and were attending the research institution at the time of the study. Qualitative research methods were utilized to gain a personal understanding of the participants’ perceptions of their transition, identity, and meaning making experiences. Grounded research directed the methodological basis for the research since it dictates a constant comparative method when analyzing data. Kegan’s Order’s of Consciousness guided the interpretation on the student veterans’ perception of their meaning making structure. Results concluded that student veterans viewed themselves as separate from the campus community. The perceptions of transition issues from this study are divided among the following five themes: (1) Maturity, (2) Camaraderie, (3) Frustration with the College Experience, (4) Structure and Routine, and (5) Invisibility and Isolation. Additionally, student veterans illustrated the third and fourth stage of Kegan’s Order’s of Consciousness. Recommendations for future practice include educating the campus community on the needs of student veterans, promoting programs that assist the transition of student veterans to campus, investigating the needs of female veterans, and incorporating the multicultural counseling competencies into interactions with student veterans.