More than 8,500 veterans, servicemembers, and their dependents surveyed—in one of the largest data collection efforts to date— to inform policymakers, employers, and leaders in higher education as to the in-service, transition, and post-service experiences and aspirations of post-9/11 veterans and their families.
SYRACUSE, NY (November 18, 2015) – Today the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University (IVMF), with support from Google, released a report that highlights preliminary findings from an ongoing, multi-phased study on servicemembers’ post-service transition, with a special emphasis on education. Co-authored by Dr. Corri Zoli, Rosalinda Maury, and Dr. Daniel Fay, the report is IVMF’s first in a new series of research and thought leadership publications aimed at informing ongoing policy and programmatic discourse related to the social, economic, and wellness concerns of post-9/11 veterans.
Specifically, this initial publication incorporates an emphasis on the social and cultural barriers impacting the transition experience, in a way that is narrated by the voices of veterans themselves—a first-hand accounting of their own perspectives related to the in- and post-service experience, their strengths, skills, shortcomings, their educational and employment aspirations, and their enduring contributions to public service. More than 8,500 service members (active duty, National Guard and Reserves, veterans, and some families) participated in this study.
IVMF Executive Director, Vice Chancellor of Veteran and Military Affairs at Syracuse University, and U.S. Air Force veteran Dr. Mike Haynie, notes that “this effort has resulted in what is arguably one of the most comprehensive and far-reaching datasets available to date that captures the ‘lived experiences’ of the post-9/11 generation of veterans and families. This matters because it should be those lived experiences—the voices of veterans themselves—that inform the choices we make with regard to how best to support their success after they take off the uniform.”
“At the core of this research lies a commitment to deepen understanding of today’s veterans by highlighting the breadth and diversity of their experiences and identities—as warfighters, family members, students, community leaders, and other roles—as well as their post-service challenges and aspirations,” said co-author Dr. Corri Zoli, Director of Research at Syracuse University’s Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, an IVMF partner institute. “We found that recent servicemembers cite an overwhelmingly positive experience of military service and, further, that service both motivates and promotes an interest in education and in developing post-service professional skills.”
The authors also note a significant gap in academic and federal research that provides an evidence-based picture of post-9/11 servicemembers compared to studies following previous wars (World War II, Korea, and Vietnam). As the title lead Missing Perspectives suggests, servicemembers perspectives on military service and post-service life are largely absent from national policy discussions of service, education, security, and transition.
“This survey further reinforces how military service instills self-confidence and a lifelong desire for learning and self-improvement,” shared Dr. Nick Armstrong, IVMF’s Senior Director of Research and Policy and U.S. Army veteran. “But more importantly, in light of these ‘missing perspectives’ and given a massive taxpayer investment in the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we should be asking what higher education is doing to avoid a potential missed opportunity to fully leverage the talent, training, expertise, dedication, and discipline of today’s veterans.”
The report reveals recent Gulf War and post-9/11 servicemembers’ in- and post-service experiences, their perceived strengths and skills, educational and employment aspirations, and enduring contributions to public service.
The IVMF research team at Syracuse University surveyed more than 8,500 participants (active duty, National Guard and Reserves, and their dependents) to build one of the few comprehensive datasets on recent service members’ experiences.
- Top reasons for joining included: education benefits (53%); a desire to serve your country (52%); and new experiences, adventures and/or travel (49%), while 88% reported that joining the military was a good decision.
- Top skills strengthened by the military: work ethic/discipline (87%), teamwork (86%), leadership (82%), mental toughness (81%), and adaptation (78%).
- A majority reported that the military promoted their interest in education and prepared them for education.
- 92 percent either “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that education should play a role in their post-service transition.
- One of the top motivations for pursing education includes career, self-improvement, and personal growth, professional advancement and to use benefits. Some interesting choices were also to “help people/society” and increase their “technical skills.”
- Top problems or barriers that hindered pursuit of education goals: lack of financial resources/financial burden (56%); personal/family obligations (28%); GI Bill benefits expires before degree completion (25%); health/disability issues (23%); and conflict between job and school (22%).
- Top five problems while pursuing their education: age differences with other students (37%); lack of financial resources (32%); working full time jobs (32%); family responsibilities (29%); and few veteran resources on campus (26%).
- Most (84%) felt there was a place for veterans’ leadership, achievement, and/or excellence on campuses; however, a majority (53%) also felt that colleges/universities do not recognize the specific strengths and skills that veterans bring to higher education.
- The majority of servicemembers said they are likely to pursue a different career than their military occupational specialty (55%) or actual job performed in the military (47%).
- An overwhelming majority (79 %) said the military played a role in their success.
Authors of the Missing Perspectives report are available upon request to discuss the findings and highlights of the research. Contact Wayne Westervelt, IVMF Director of Communications, at 315.443.5690 (p); 315.558.9483 (m); or firstname.lastname@example.org.
View/download the report, foreword/key highlights, and infographic at IVMF Missing Perspectives.