View the UMKC Institute for Human Development Annual Highlights Brochure here.


UMKC Institute for Human Development Study


Focuses on Finding Solutions for


Universities and Student Veterans


After five years of work designing a support network for Veterans going into the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and math), the National Science Foundation (NSF) has provided the UMKC Institute for Human Development with additional funding to identify essential supports colleges and universities can provide to help students who are Veterans to be more successful in college.  

This study continues the productive, ongoing research relationship formed between the National Science Foundation and UMKC Institute for Human Development regarding Veterans’ issues. Through this new project, “Veterans in STEM: Critical Analysis of the Factors Affecting Pathways to STEM Careers,” NSF is furthering its commitment to supporting the STEM workforce to include Veterans and people with disabilities.

The study poses a critical analysis of the factors affecting success in STEM careers. The end goal is to increase graduation rates of students who are Veterans. The research will study a national sample of transitioning and current Veterans, with data collection sites in the Midwest, east and west coasts, and Hawai’i. Researchers will use cognitive mapping to determine interdependencies, characteristics, timing, and intensity of factors influencing Veterans’ success in attaining STEM degrees.

As noted by Ronda Jenson, Ph.D., principal investigator and Director of Research at UMKC Institute for Human Development, results from this study will help higher education institutions improve graduation rates by addressing factors uncovered or better understood through “Veterans in STEM.”  “When Veterans enter college after military service, they often are highly motivated. However, those who have experienced combat trauma may also contend with memory loss, irregular sleeping patterns, and feelings of lost camaraderie and structure. These issues affect Veterans’ learning, presenting educational challenges that differ from their peers’,” said Jenson. “Our study will identify key factors contributing to and also endangering Veterans’ success in pursuing undergraduate degrees.”

Alexis Petri, Ed.D., co-principal investigator and Director of Interdisciplinary Training at UMKC IHD, said the study will be useful for colleges and universities making decisions about how to support students who are Veterans.  “In an era when scarcity of resources within colleges and universities is growing, efforts to discover and provide the most valuable and necessary veteran supports are vitally important,” said Petri. “Currently, higher education professionals working with this student population share a general consensus about a vague set of Veterans’ needs. What we’re lacking is agreement over solutions. The results of this study will help colleges and universities make wise investments in supporting students who are military Veterans, which will lead to increased retention and persistence toward STEM degrees.” 

For more information, visit or contact:
Ronda Jenson, Ph.D., principal investigator, at (816)235-6335 or
Alexis Petri, Ed.D., co-principal investigator, at (816)235-5872 or

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