U.S. Military Student Veterans Identity Formation: Policy Feedback and Symbolic Interactionism

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Virginia Tech


This dissertation takes a three-article approach in which the literature from public administration, political psychology and sociology is synthesized around student veterans as a new phenomenon in higher education and public policy. By examining student veterans through the Social Construction of Target Populations (SCTP) framework, these articles contribute to the theoretical understanding of how social identity at the group and individual levels impact a target population's understanding of and reaction to a policy that does not always align with the policy-makers' intent. Because the current SCTP literature has focused on how policy-makers construct target populations and the practices they use to mitigate any negative effects of policy feedback, these articles offer a new perspective by applying symbolic interactionism as a method for capturing the two-way interaction between the target population and the policy's intent. The articles focus on the policy feedback mechanism in the SCTP framework to explain why and how policies shape the identities of target populations, and how they in turn, engage in the policy process by first presenting student veterans as a new social concept, then presenting a case study of how an organization that represents student veterans achieved policy change, and finally, interviewing veterans, revealing that their individual interpretation of the policy is not always representative of the student veteran identity as constructed by policy-makers and advocates.



policy feedback, student veterans, social construction of target populations, Education, Higher