UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Operation returning to school (Op RTS) : Canadian veterans’ experiences of transitioning to post-secondary studies Huang, Alexander H.S.


An essential undertaking for all military veterans is transitioning into civilian spheres. Some elect to pursue higher education, and with the introduction of the Veterans Education and Training Benefit (Veterans Affairs Canada, 2019a), Canadian post-secondary institutions are particularly poised to welcome an increase of veterans on campuses. This transition process may be complicated by mental health concerns or difficulties with navigating a culturally distinct environment, and while the experiences of select veteran populations has been extensively researched, those pertaining specifically to Canadian student-veterans seem to be overlooked. This research, therefore, sought to explore and highlight the encounters of Canadian student-veterans within higher educational contexts. The study was guided by the following research question: what stories do veterans construct about their experiences as they transition from the military to post-secondary education? Utilizing narrative inquiry, semi-structured interviews were conducted with eight student-veterans who were presently attending, or had recently completed, their post-secondary studies. Their shared experiences were developed into co-constructed stories that were then analyzed using a within and across narrative thematic analysis. Six total themes were identified: five themes common to all participants (Assessing Post-Secondary Readiness, Military Baggage, Division and Discord, Awareness Fostering Personal Growth and Change, and Achieving Student Success and Supporting Veterans’ Transition), and one unique theme that applied to several individuals (Hope and Appreciation). Informed by the participants’ narratives and their desire to support veterans’ transitioning into higher education, the study concludes with implications for post-secondary institutions, including ways to enhance post-secondary counselling centres and the practice of clinicians. Directions for future research is also offered.

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