Wright State’s Veteran and Military Center scores high marks in national study

How connected is a student population to their university? How connected are military students to their veteran’s center? Do universities need a veteran’s center? How connected are student veterans to each other? Or to career support networks?

These are the questions that the Wisconsin Center for Education Research endeavored to answer for Wright State University’s military population in its Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study.

The study, which was published in January 2024, is phase 1 of a longitudinal study of five universities with a high local military service member and veteran population. The universities are all located near military bases. The goal of the study is to understand how social networks influence veterans and service members and their career paths and how the military and veteran college experience compares to a non-military experience.

Wright State’s Veteran and Military Center received positive marks in staff efficiency and process fidelity, which means the center is effective at helping veteran and active-duty military students navigate their Department of Veteran Affairs GI Bill benefits, Department of Defense tuition assistance or their Ohio National Guard scholarships.

According to the study, 174 students took part in a survey that asked about their experience as a student, how connected they felt to the university and their life and career goals. The students included 99 undergraduate non-military-connected students and 75 students who identify as active service members, guard/reserve or armed services veterans.

Wright State veteran and military students reported that they felt connected to the Veteran and Military Center and that they could reach out to the center for help or advice when needed. Seth Gordon, Ph.D., director of the Veteran and Military Center (VMC), said he was proud that students feel connected enough to reach out for support.

“I want students to feel like they can come to the VMC if they don’t know what’s going on. It’s nice to hear that they can, we want them to feel like they belong here,” Gordon said. “It was great to see that people had all of these nice things to say about the VMC when I wasn’t even in the room. That’s powerful.”

Despite a smaller overall student population compared to some of the other universities in the study, Gordon said he feels Wright State’s VMC holds up against larger universities.

“I think this study reinforced what we already suspected, that veterans services are good for our students,” Gordon said. “Having us compared to larger schools adds to the validity of the information. What we’re doing makes sense and reinforces that the VMC is a good thing. This study quantifies much of the good work we’ve been doing.”

Gordon worked with Ross Benbow, a researcher in the Wisconsin Center for Education Research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, after they connected at the American Education Research Association Conference in 2022.

Benbow told Gordon he was interested in researching the student experience at universities near American military bases.

“We fit the parameters of what he was trying to do,” Gordon said. “It’s free research, it’s high validity, it’s approved by the National Science Foundation. Benbow had the resources to do a study I could not do myself. This was the right way to go.”

Gordon said he hopes to use the study to introduce more improvements in the Veteran and Military Center. One of his goals in the future is to encourage more veteran and active military students to build relationships with each other and to further develop Wright State’s connections to enlisted airmen and family members at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Download the Veteran Education to Workforce Affinity and Success Study (PDF).

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