Educational Administration, Department of


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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Educational Studies (Educational Leadership and Higher Education), Under the Supervision of Professor James V. Griesen. Lincoln, Nebraska: December, 2014

Copyright (c) 2014 Marcía L. Brown


The purpose of this research study was to identify gaps in understanding of the specialized educational needs of active-duty military service members enrolled in higher education and to develop new insights that may be helpful to colleges and universities in designing initiatives, strategic plans, and resources to address these needs most effectively. In addition to the many recent intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and support missions and operations abroad, U.S. involvement in peacekeeping operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has resulted in significantly increased deployments of active-duty students. In existing literature, the impacts of deployment—specifically, effects of war-zone experiences such as post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries—have received much attention. Military educational benefits and educational challenges in transitioning to civilian life have also been researched and well documented. However, there has been little research surrounding the impacts of deployment on military personnel enrolled in higher education.

Aligning a more informed understanding of these impacts with Schlossberg’s Transition Theory (Schlossberg, 1984)—which facilitates understanding of issues affecting adults in transition—and Tinto’s Framework for Institutional Action for Student Success (Tinto, 2012) will benefit these students as well as colleges and universities by encouraging the development and design of initiatives and policies addressing these issues.

Using a purposeful sample, I interviewed 10 individuals who had experienced deployment while enrolled in higher education. From the data analysis, four primary themes concerning the unique challenges and responsibilities of active-duty military students while on deployment emerged: (a) challenges to higher education, (b) Internet-related challenges to completing coursework, (c) challenges to focus and concentration, and (d) proactiveness and responsibility of service members. Aligned with the theme-related findings and theoretical frameworks, this research study provides recommendations for practice in the areas of professional development, academic advising, student-faculty relationship, and distant education programs and online classes. Additionally, this study provides recommendations for future research.

Advisor: James V. Griesen