Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Dr. Umit Tokac, Ph.D.


Dr. Anne F. Fish, Ph.D.

Dr. Kimberly, B. Werner, Ph.D.

Dr. So Rin, Kim, Ph.D.



Objective: To examine the association between posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury (MI) and the extrinsic factors of the degree of negative patterns of healthy behaviors and negative experiences in an academic setting, the moderating effects of social support on PTSD and MI symptomatology, and the perception of academic success and positive perception of academic experience. Additionally, to examine the mediating effect of intrinsic factors (perceived academic experience) on academic outcomes objectively and subjectively.

Background: Student veterans as non-traditional students face challenges transitioning to the academic environment. Some have underlying mental and psychological complications of PTSD and MI, leaving them feeling disconnected, not fitting in, lacking a sense of belonging, and lacking support, hindering academic success. The existing literature was unclear and inadequate in assessing student veterans’ transitioning experience and lacked academic outcome evaluation.

Methods: Data on 68 college student veterans was collected through a five-month survey from two Midwest universities. The partial correlation network (graphical LASSO) regression method and R was applied to evaluate variables of PTSD, MI, health habits, college experience, social support, perception of academic experience, and academic success.

Findings: PTSD showed a strong positive direct effect on MI; both PTSD and MI had a direct negative effect on academic success; MI showed a negative direct effect on social connectedness. College experience had a direct effect on academic success, a direct negative effect on veteran status, and a negative direct effect on social connectedness. Social connectedness had a strong direct effect on self-efficacy. Health habits showed a weak positive effect on peer sense of belonging, self-efficacy, social connectedness, and number of children. Social support moderated between PTSD and academic success objectively.

Conclusion: PTSD and MI symptomatology increases negative health behaviors and decreases with social support in veterans. Both PTSD and MI combined decrease with perceived academic success and social connectedness. Social support did not show moderation between academic success and academic experience.

Implications: These results can expand the body of knowledge to support student veterans to succeed in the academic environment, provide a social connection and sense of belonging, and help promote academic success.