Exploring Student Service Member/Veteran STEM Career Persistence Longitudinally and in Military-Centric Contexts
Effective Years: 2022-2026
The project expands a prior study by examining the links between social support networks and persistence along STEM career pathways among “student service members/veterans,” defined as undergraduate students who are retired/discharged military veterans. Building on current surveys in the State of Wisconsin, the study extends the data collection along three dimensions. First is longitudinally along the population’s academic trajectories encompassing several data collection points over five years. Second is contextually by adding a new cohort of student service members/veterans (SSM/Vs) from diverse geographically dispersed military institutions. Third is comparatively by examining STEM and non-STEM career pathways and social support characteristics among student service members/veterans in Wisconsin and in military-centric institutions, as well as between SSM/Vs and non SSM/V undergraduates. The research focuses on an understudied nontraditional student population and has the potential to broaden and strengthen the STEM workforce.
The investigators frame the study conceptually with the theory of social capital supplemented with asset-based concepts to model the support students receive through their social networks as empirically measured resources. The study will answer three sets of research questions. First: How do SSM/W social support networks change as Wisconsin SSW/Vs move further along STEM career pathways; how do network patterns and changes influence STEM career pathway persistence; and how do SSM/Vs perceive these changes over time? Second: How do SSM/V networks change as those in military-centric contexts traverse STEM career pathways; how do network patterns and changes influence STEM career pathway persistence; and how do they perceive these changes over time? Third: How do social support networks, career pathways, and links between the two over time compare among Wisconsin SSM/Vs, SSM/Vs in military-centric contexts, and non-SSM/Vs in STEM and non-STEM fields? The project advances equity-oriented scholarship in STEM education and career development concerning the ways temporal, institutional, geographic, and experiential factors influence nontraditional student pathways in STEM.
The project is funded by the EHR Core Research (ECR) program that supports fundamental research focused on STEM education learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM education, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.