IR Professionals and Military-Connected Students

IR Professionals are Integral Partners in the Postsecondary Success of Military-Connected Students

By Andrew Morse, Director, Policy Research and Advocacy, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and Dani Molina, Senior Program and Research Manager, American Council on Educationmilitary.png

In 2015, the American Council on Education and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education launched a partnership to elevate dialogue and action in support of military-connected student success. Throughout the spring, we convened practitioners, researchers, and federal officials who work with or study service members and veterans to better understand the current state of research and practice and to build on campus strategies to support the postsecondary experiences and outcomes of those with a current or prior connection to the military. Following our conversations with leading experts, and in collaboration with RTI International, we jointly released a convening summary that detailed guiding strategies for future research to inform areas of strength or need. The guiding strategies affirm the important role of IR professionals in leveraging data to inform key areas of strength or need in how our campuses support students. Some of the strategies include:

  • Building a consistent and reliable approach to identify military-connected students and their campus experiences. Finding opportunities to coordinate data that are collected within different campus units, but that, when combined, depict a more holistic view of student experiences can help illuminate strengths and needs among military-connected students. To that end, making sure that military-connectedness is captured within campus data, and captured consistently across the institution, will allow for institutions to dig deeper in the effect of programs and services on the postsecondary experiences of these students.

  • Creating a more inclusive identifying measure to capture points of similarity or difference among military-connected students. Institutions should avoid treating military-connected students as a single entity—veterans—without paying attention to the unique characteristics associated with current military service. Being able to disaggregate veterans from active duty, reservists, and members of the National Guard, for instance, will enable institutional leaders to understand the extent to which campus support systems encompass the needs and experiences of service members and veterans on our campuses. And in the first of a series, ACE and NASPA demonstrated the importance of developing a more inclusive understanding of service members and veterans by using existing national-level data to study differences between National Guard, active duty, reserves, and veterans on key factors associated with postsecondary access, success, and non-completion.

  • Building a more robust understanding on the efficacy of institutional programs and services in supporting positive experiences and outcomes among military-connected students. Though some campuses collect data on their institution’s service members and veterans, little is known about the efficacy of campus programs or the experiences of the military-connected students who use them. Having better data will help inform strengths or target improvements where they may be needed.

Our partnership has already resulted in action. We are connecting with professionals on next steps to support the postsecondary success of military-connected students on our nation’s campuses, and institutional researchers are integral to this work.

We invite you to register for a free live webinar entitled Present, but accounted for? Examining differences between military-connected undergraduates on Wednesday, Jan. 20, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EST, in which we will present and discuss findings of our recent work to explore differences between military-connected students and examine takeaways for research and practice. For more information about this work, please email Dani Molina or Andrew Morse.

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Total Comments: 2
Bill posted on 1/14/2016 2:26 PM
I am a lifetime member of MOAA - the Admiral Arleigh Burke chapter (AABC) in Boulder CO which has an established relationship with CU-Boulder. Suggest you contact them for assistance. There is a wealth of talent there. Also suggest you survey members for MOAA members.
Bill Tetlow, AIR Past President 81-82
Bruce posted on 1/20/2016 8:06 PM
The picture may need to include family members who now, much more then ever, commonly share their military member's educational benefits. Though these students are not technically a part of the military, they are engulfed by the military culture as family members and should be included in this study.
Two other questions come to mind from the paragraphs above: Why the need for immediate action? and What is the thesis or goal guiding the gathering of data (increased leadership, persistence, efficiency in benefit use, etc)?
The first question is very important as it seems educators want to take action now and do not have a clear dataset or experience with the military culture to provide intuitive direction. The second question is obvious from the second bullet above. It sounds like this effort needs a clear focus of effort.
Dr. Bruce Mentzer
USN retired