Date of Award

Fall 9-15-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Amy Rutstein-Riley

Second Advisor

Dr. Diana Dirieter

Third Advisor

Dr. Jose Coll


The purpose of this dissertation is to explore the lived experiences of female United States Army veterans who have enrolled in an academic undergraduate program post discharge. As higher education continues to be an important transition point for female veterans, understanding the lived experiences of this population provides higher education administrators and faculty the opportunity to create and implement services and programs that will appropriately assist this population in their educational journey. Using a phenomenological methodology (Moustakas, 1994; Patton, 2015; van Manen,1990) thirteen female veterans across five different eras (Vietnam, 1980’s peacetime, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan) took part in two-semi-structured interviews. Each participant was asked to retrospectively discuss their time in the military; the transition to civilian life; and their transition to and experience in higher education. The interviews were coded, and themes were developed (Braun & Clark, 20107; Saldana, 2016; Seidman, 2013).

Three major themes emerged: military culture, the transition experience, and navigating higher education. These themes were examined through the conceptual frameworks of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems theory (1979) and Schlossberg’s transition theory (1981) as well as adult learning theory (Knowles, 1968; Mezirow, 1981) and feminist theory (Belenky et al., 1986; Gilligan, 1982; Baker Miller, 1986). The findings from this study suggest that female veterans bring habits, skills, and knowledge from their military experience into higher education that facilitates their academic success. Additional findings reveal the importance of the female veteran having a sense of belonging while moving from military culture to the culture of higher education, the impact of their perceived lack of readiness in the transition out of the military, as well as the value placed by the female student veteran on their relationships with faculty.

Dissertation findings underscore the need for more research into the experience of female veterans’ by centering their unique voices and by focusing on understanding the female student veteran transition between military and higher education cultures and identities. Having a deeper understanding of the under researched areas of transition and identity will allow higher education administrators and faculty to create and implement services and programs that will support female student veterans in higher education.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.






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