Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Kristin A. Searle


Kristin A. Searle


Lisa Lundgren


Jody Clarke-Midura


Kristy Bloxham


Angela Minichiello


There 1 million veterans enrolled in higher education in the U.S., and we know relatively little about them. In this work, the term student veteran refers to both former and current military service members. Most of the small body of literature on student veterans is focused on perceived issues found within this population, rather than the strengths they bring to their academic experience. In recent years, academic work has emerged that advocates a shift to looking at the positive traits of the student veteran community. Building on the emerging strength-based perspectives, the concept of purpose-driven camaraderie among student veterans introduces a different approach to supporting and understanding student veterans. Purpose-driven camaraderie is rooted in the mission-focused, team-driven environment found in the military that builds a sense of camaraderie.

The purpose of this study was to explore the application of purpose-driven camaraderie among student veterans in higher education. This happened through an innovation workshop, where student veterans participated as a team to address challenges within the student veteran community at their institution using a problem-solving process known as design thinking. The workshop was analyzed using Communities of Practice (CoP), which focuses on how individuals learn and interact as a community, and the emerging strength-based perspectives with a focus on purpose-driven camaraderie in the experiences of student veterans.

The study identifies the role of teamwork and a common goal in promoting community and camaraderie among the workshop participants. It further addresses the lack of interest that the participants demonstrated in working with other veterans, and the role of CoPs in overcoming this hurdle to purpose-driven camaraderie. Finally, the study identifies factors influencing how the veterans felt about themselves as veterans and how the workshop influenced their perspectives.