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Student Subculture Interview

Anthony Perez

Western Michigan University

The student subculture population that was selected for this assignment is student
veterans. At my undergraduate institution I have a few friends that are in the National Guard and
the Reserves Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program on campus. The reason I selected this
subculture is because I wanted to get a better understanding of the things that my friends
experience as student veterans. After conducting the interview with my friends, I recognized that
the two of them have two very different experiences. To outline this assignment, a brief
discussion about the concerns and issues that student veterans face when entering the college
environment, a review of the literature, and a summary of the responses to the interview
To begin, the literature that I was able to locate primarily reports on the experiences and
issues that face combat veterans during their transition into the college environment. There are a
variety of issues that these students are: lack of connection to the faculty and non-military
students, financial issues, and a lower sense of structure (Olsen and McCuddy, 2014; Osborne
2014). Regarding the lack of connection with faculty, student veterans while in the military are
trained to not show weakness and to not complain. This was reinforced by the military structure
which has been identified as a masculine profession (Osborne, 2014, p, 252).
Combat student veterans have mentioned that they feel a lack of relatability to their non-
military student peers. Part of the issues is, from the perspective of the student veterans, their
non-military peers do not have the same level of discipline and respect that was obtained in the
military. Furthermore, because of the vast work and life experiences that combat student veterans
have had, they find it difficult to connect to their non-military student peers because they do not
have the built-in camaraderie support structure that their used to having (Olsen and McCuddy,
2014; Osborne, 2014; Vacchi, 2012).
Griffin and Gilbert (2015) used Schlossberg’s Transition Theory to gain a deeper
understanding of the issues and barriers that student veterans are faced with. In utilizing
Schlossberg’s Transition Theory, these two authors assess the barriers through the Four S’s of
the theory. The situation, of the theory, comes into perspective when the student veteran feels the
financial strain of paying for college, housing, and other essential means for a comfortable
lifestyle (Griffin and Gilbert, 2015; Olsen and McCuddy, 2014).
Finally, student veterans are used to a strict structure. This student population is used to
living in various types of conditions in close quarters to the other members of their unit.
Moreover, there is a chain of command that is to be followed in terms of respect and
accountability. Which this structure has been identified as an area of strength for these students,
as mentioned in (Olsen and McCuddy, 2014, p. 103). In contrast, this structure has also
engrained in these students that failure is not an option and showing weakness or seeking
assistance is not acceptable; thus, it become a challenge for student veterans to seek assistance
and support from faculty and staff because of their previous structure (Vacchi, 2012, pg. 18).
After having reviewed some of the literature around the student veteran population, I
interviewed two of my friends at my undergraduate institution. I asked five questions to gain a
sense of their experiences as student veterans in higher education: (1) Tell me about your

experience as a student veteran. (2) Do you utilize the resources that are available on campus?
(3) Do you find it easy to work with your professors when you must leave for military required
activities (e.g. drill)? (4) What is something that you wished faculty and staff were aware of
when working with student veterans? (5) What are some of the challenges that you face as a
student veteran?
To protect the identities of the two individuals I will use the pseudonyms Calvin and
Blake. Both individuals identify as being members of the Army National Guard and ROTC.
However, Calvin acknowledges his status as a student veteran, but Blake does not. As described
in Vacchi (2012) there are two types of student veterans: combat veterans (active duty or retired
duty) and non-combat veterans (National Guard or Reserves). This is true for Blake, because
while he is in the National Guard, he does not feel that he rightly can be considered a veteran
because he has not seen combat. I also found it interesting that between Calvin and Blake, Calvin
was more likely to engage and utilize the resources that are offered through the Military and
Veteran Student Services office at the institution. One of the few areas that Calvin and Blake
agreed on is the ease they find when working with professors to get excused for military
requirements such as drill. They simply provide their government orders to the professor and if
the professor wants to verify they simply call the number which connects to their commanding
Overall, this experience was insightful. I was able to get connected with two friends from
my undergrad and gain a better understanding for the things that they experience as being student
veterans. I will say that I wish I would have had the opportunity to connect with someone that is
considered a combat-student veteran so that I could do a contrast and comparison between their
experience and those of my friends that are in the National Guard. Furthermore, recognizing that
it is important that the students self-identify and letting them have that power, because for Calvin
he was comfortable being referred to as a student veteran, but for Blake, he preferred to be
labeled as a student that is in the National Guard.

Griffin, K. A., & Gilbert, C. K. (2015). Better Transitions for Troops: An Application of
Schlossberg's Transition Framework to Analyses of Barriers and Institutional Support
Structures for Student Veterans. The Journal of Higher Education, 71-97.
Olsen, T., Badger, K., & McCuddy, M. D. (2014). Understanding the Student Veterans' College
Experience: An Exploratory Study. The Army Medical Department Journal, 101-108.
Osborne, N. J. (2014). Veteran Ally: Practical Strategies for Closing the Military-Civilian Gap
on Campus. Innovative Higher Education , 247-260.
Vacchi, D. T. (2012, May-June). Considering Student Veterans on the Twenty-First-Century
College Campus. American College Personnel Assocation and WIley Periodicals, Inc.,
pp. 15-21.