Capturing Diverse Perspectives of Student Veterans: A Call to Action
Today’s U.S military—both active service members and veterans—is more diverse than ever before. In 2017, about 43 percent of the active duty forces identified as Black, Asian, Hispanic, or Other, compared with about 36 percent in 2004. In addition, women’s participation in the military has been steadily rising over the past 50 years, with women currently accounting for 16 percent of active duty service members, up from 1 percent in 1970.
As the U.S. military becomes more diverse, it is important to capture its diverse members’ perspectives and experiences to understand how America can better serve them in return. However, it has becoming increasingly difficult to get people to participate in research studies.
If you have an email address, chances are you’ve gotten an email asking you to take a survey. Do you scroll past the email, or pause to read what the survey is about? Research indicates that responses to research surveys are down, as more and more people are inundated with emails or sales pitches disguised as surveys.
Declining survey response rates make it difficult for researchers to obtain data that accurately reflect the diverse perspectives and experiences that exist in our society. Lack of diversity among research participants can have serious consequences, including making it difficult to implement evidence-based programs or policies that benefit everyone.
AIR, in collaboration with Student Veterans of America (SVA), is currently conducting a study to help colleges and universities better support student veterans in gaining credit recognition for their military learning and training. We conducted focus groups at the SVA Annual National Conference (NatCon) in January of 2020, and virtual focus groups with student veterans throughout the spring. Through these focus groups, we had the pleasure of speaking with student veterans and gained some initial insights into their experiences getting military learning recognized by colleges and universities—in particular, we learned that there is much work to be done to improve the way colleges and universities support student veterans.
As part of this study, we are also conducting a survey of student veterans—to better understand their experiences getting credit recognition for their military learning, and to identify ways to make the experience better and more supportive. To that end, we want to ensure our survey findings reflect the demographic makeup of today’s U.S. military. We especially hope that Black and Hispanic student veterans—who make up about 30 percent of the U.S military population—will share their experiences and perspectives.