At Ease: Developing Veterans’ Sense of Belonging in the College Classroom

January, 2018

This research focus’s on military to academic transition with a particular focus on developing student veterans’ sense of belonging in the classroom, through the use of peer groups. Using an auto-ethnographic approach the study found that the familiar structure of the peer group allows student veterans to ease into the individual classroom setting, but it also places them in constant contact with peer group members with whom they will interact throughout the semester, thus preventing them from isolating themselves from their classmates and furthering their ability to transition into academic life.


Recent changes to university services address student veterans’ abilities to complete their degrees, including programs that assist student veterans in finding a sense of belonging on campus. However, the need for student veterans to feel they belong in the classroom remains less a focus in scholarship. Incorporating semester-length peer groups into classes offers one pedagogical strategy for addressing this need. This article presents an autoethnographic study detailing my pedagogical process to develop and implement these peer groups and illustrates how these peer groups aided several student veterans in developing a sense of belonging in the classroom.

Full Reference

Blackwell-Starnes, K. (2018). At Ease: Developing Veterans’ Sense of Belonging in the College Classroom. Journal of Veterans Studies, 3(1), 18–36. DOI:

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