Jodi M. Senk


Currently, there is an increase in veterans returning to colleges, yet little understanding exists of their unique circumstances. Limited resources, programs, and staff for veteran services, along with physical injuries, cognitive impairments, and emotional disturbances due to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and military sexual trauma (MST) further complicate the transition to college. Further, female student-veterans have additional pressures, such as women's health issues and motherhood, creating additional exigencies which affect their return to college. Few studies have specifically sought to understand female student-veterans transitioning to college. Obtaining insight on the experiences of female student-veterans, utilizing the life story framework (Giele, 2010; Weber, 2011) and Schlossberg's transition theory (1984), allows for the discovery of how one's life course impacts the transition to college. Therefore, this exploratory study uses a qualitative, phenomenological approach. Using semi-structured interviews, this study sought to examine the experiences and challenges of female student-veterans, as well as their identities, relationships, motivation, adaptability, strategies employed, and the role of health to determine the impact on transition from the military to college. 17 women participated in the study. Findings indicated a need to be different than family expectations or education level, with many female student-veterans being first-generation college attendees. Relationships played an important role in supporting and mentoring female student-veterans. Having a strong drive to succeed, pursue career goals, and obtain a better life were the prevalent motivating factors for college education attainment. Female student-veterans demonstrated the ability to be adaptive to many demands and milieus, although transitioning to college presented many challenges. Anxieties were further escalated when the added responsibility of motherhood compounded demands, and created work-life-school balance issues. In understanding that there are individual factors in the perceptions of work, life, and school demands, as well as strategies employed to cope with these obligations, a greater awareness and understanding can be realized. Further research in this area is necessary to develop a greater cognizance, discover additional issues, and ultimately inform and develop policies, programs, and services that can be implemented to meet the needs of female veterans transitioning from the military to college.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Organizational leadership; Women veterans -- Education -- United States; Women veterans -- United States -- Social conditions; Women veterans -- United States -- Psychology

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Weber, Margaret J.;