Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy


Education, Educational Leadership & Policy Studies

Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Shawn Woodhouse, Ph.D.


Phyllis Balcerzak, Ph.D.

Thomasina Hassler, Ph.D.

Kenton Mershon, Ph.D.


This phenomenological study described the experiences of student military veterans in a community college with physical and psychological health needs. Each participant enrolled in the community college by utilizing the benefits of the post-9/11 GI Bill and transitioned from active duty to civilian life. More than 40,000 programs in the United States are designed to assist veterans transitioning to civilian life (Carter, 2013). Further, the health needs and transition experiences of military veterans have been well-documented. Numerous programs seek to reduce barriers; however, many veterans experience challenges when using the programs or services (Perkins et al., 2019; Aronson et al., 2019). Previous studies suggested that veterans reported not using services during the reintegration process for the following reasons: many felt they did not need help, had difficulty identifying a program or service that adequately met their needs, did not understand the types of programs they qualified for, and did not know where to acquire assistance (Morgan et al., 2020). Employing purposive sampling and the Moustakas (1994) method for phenomenological analysis, interviews with eight participants served as the primary data collection source. A phenomenological methodology was used to explore veterans’ perceptions of the transition experience to the community college and utilizing college services through the lens of Rendón’s (1994) validation theory. Six major themes emerged, including a positive view of college resources, recognizing feeling misunderstood or isolated, seeking community, a challenging enrollment process, possessing mission-driven goals, and pursuing ways to mitigate needs.