During my own transition after eight years of service in the Air Force and Air National Guard, like so many of my fellow veterans, I felt passionately about continuing my service to my community and my country. As a doctoral student in the Department of Applied Anthropology at the University of South Florida, I became an active member of the USF Student Veterans Association. I served as President of our local student organization and was also nominated to serve on the national student council for Student Veterans of America (SVA) and selected as the 2013 National Student Veteran of the Year. In the summer of 2013, I completed a 3,800 mile cross country cycling campaign that raised national awareness and over $50,000 for the national organizations chapter grant program. The money was used to provide small business grants to peer run organizations across the country so that they could carry out proposed projects on their own campuses. The cycling campaign was a bigger success than I could have ever imagined, but the most amazing aspect of the ride was the people I met along that journey who made a lasting impact on my life.
While I was cycling from town to town across America, I was joined by many women veterans whose stories not only motivated me to keep going on my journey, but also planted the seeds for what ultimately would become my life’s passion and the focus of my dissertation research. It wasn’t long before I attained a graduate certificate in Women and Gender Studies in coordination with my doctoral coursework in applied cultural anthropology. I used the knowledge I had obtained from my military service, formal education, and community service to shape my proposal on women veterans and re-entry post military service.
My primary research questions for this mixed methods study, address four salient themes: The impact of military masculinity on re-entry; issues with self-identification of women as veterans; programmatic inclusion and exclusion of women veterans; experiential differences between enlisted women and women who served as officers, and how these differences may affect re-entry after service. My goal is to use the data to advocate for increased political representation and resources for our quickly growing population. My study has been IRB approved by the University of South Florida and I am actively involved in the research process, busy collecting online survey responses and scheduling and conducting interviews with participants. My goal is to defend my dissertation at the end of the Spring 2016 semester.
Currently, I am working as a research assistant at the Tampa, Florida Center of Innovation on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (CINDRR) on two studies. One has to do with veterans and farming and the other is a community reintegration study for veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury. My role is to assist with data collection and analysis and database management as well as assist with the recruitment of community reintegration stakeholders throughout the greater Tampa Bay region. I love the community that I get to work with and the work that I do!
If you are a female veteran who served for an enlistment of at least two years in any branch or service of the US military, and would like to participate in this IRB approved study, you can click on the following link that will take you to an online survey: http://cbcs.az1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_cTOUgqSvjc4knvn
Or email: WomenVetsResearch15@gmail.com to schedule an interview or for more information. Thank you. –Kiersten Downs, MS, ABD