Supporting Resilience in the Academic Setting for Student Soldiers and Veterans as an Aspect of Community Reintegration: The Design of the Student Veteran Project Study


  • Alexa M. Smith-Osborne University of Texas at Arlington



Veterans, resilience, supported education, psychiatric rehabilitation, GI Bill


The Post 9/11 GI Bill is leading an increasing proportion of wounded warriors to enter universities. This paper describes the design and development of an adapted supported education intervention for veterans. The intervention trial was one of two projects which grew out of a participatory action research process aimed at supporting reintegration of returning veterans into the civilian community. This intervention is being tested in a foundation-funded randomized controlled trial in a large southwestern university, with participation now extended to student-veterans at colleges around the country. Some protective mechanisms which were found in theory and in prior research were also supported in early results. SEd intervention was associated with the protective mechanisms of support network density, higher mood, and resilience. Practitioners may benefit from the lessons learned in the development of this supported education intervention trial when considering implementation of this complementary intervention for veterans reintegrating into civilian life

Author Biography

Alexa M. Smith-Osborne, University of Texas at Arlington

Biographical Sketch Alexa Smith-Osborne, M.S.W., Ph.D., A.C.S.W., L.C.S.W Assistant Professor, the University of Texas at Arlington, School of Social Work Military/Veteran Focus Area A. Research and Professional Experience Research (selected) 2008-2009 Principal Investigator, “Psychosocial and Physical Effects of Equine-Assisted Activities on Aging Veterans” 2007 on Principal Investigator, funded study “Examining The Impact of a Supported Education Intervention on Student-Veterans’ Educational Attainment and Resilience: A Randomized Controlled Intervention Trial”, UT Arlington Research Enhancement Grant and The Dallas Foundation 2006 on Co-Investigator, “Women’s Perspectives on the Impact of Communications Technology on Long- Distance Relationships: Implications for Military Families” Professional (selected) 1980-1982 Social Work Consultant, Westinghouse Pilot Stress Management Initiative, Westinghouse Health Systems 1982-1984 Director, Military Liaison, Health Education, and Community Outreach Unit, the former Public Health Service Hospital at Wyman Park, Wyman Park Health System, Baltimore, Maryland 1986 on Private practice, licensed clinical social worker Maryland, Texas, Oklahoma 1988-1999 Caseworker, Regional Mid-Shore Mental Health System Talbot and Dorchester Counties, Maryland 2007 on Director and Field Instructor, The Student Veteran Project, Community Services Clinic, UT Arlington School of Social Work 2008 Interim Director, Community Services Clinic, UT Arlington School of Social Work Honors 2008 Awarded the annual “Faculty Friend” to the Division of Student Affairs for 2007-2008 for contributions in research, advising, teaching and interdepartmental collaboration for students with disabilities and student veterans 2008 Dissertation on veterans’ mental health invited through national competition for presentation at the National Symposium on Doctoral Research in Social Work, Ohio State B. Collaborators and Affiliations Ainspan, N.D., Penk, W.E., Arita, A.A., Darwin, J.L., Bowles, S., & Smith-Osborne, A. (August, 2010). Serving those who served: Partnering with Returning Veterans to Ai Transitions. Panel presentation, 2010 American Psychological Association Convention CE Workshops. Ellison, M., Mueller,L., Smith-Osborne, A. and others. (December, 2009). Grant Proposal to VA HSR&D, under review: Assessing campuses for MH treatment engagement for OIF/OEF Veterans with PTSD—A Pilot Project. Cobb, N., Principal Investigator, & Smith-Osborne, A., Co- Investigator (2008-2010), Infusion of gerontology content into the graduate social work curriculum in mental health: A curriculum innovation. $38,000 Gero-Ed Advanced Curriculum Innovation Grant, Council on Social Work Education. C. Publications and Synergistic Activities Publications (selected) Lutter, C. & Smith-Osborne, A. (in press). Exercise in the treatment of eating disorders: An alternative view. Best Practices in Mental Health: An International Journal. Smith-Osborne, A. (2009). Mental health risk and social ecological variables associated with educational attainment among Gulf War veterans: Implications for current veterans in returning to civilian life in the community. American Journal of Community Psychology, 44, 327-337. doi: 10.1007/s10464-009-9278-0 Smith-Osborne, A. (2009). Does the GI Bill Support Educational Attainment for Veterans with Disabilities? Implications for Current Veterans in Resuming Civilian Life. Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare, 36, 111- 125. Smith-Osborne, A. (2009). Veterans return to civilian life: Factors associated with a resilient outcome and what social workers can do to help. Professional Development: The International Journal of Continuing Social Work Education, 12, 61-71. Jani, J., Sowbel, L., Smith-Osborne, A., Yum, J., Mollette, A., Hall, D., & Bina, R. (2009). Perceived preparedness and Knowledge of substance abuse among recent MSW graduates: Advanced Standing revisited. Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, 9, 381-399. Smith-Osborne, A. (2009). Use of meta-analysis to study resiliency factors: An exemplar. In M. Unger & L. Liebenberg (Eds.), Researching resilience. Toronto, CA: University of Toronto Press. Smith-Osborne, A. & Selby, A. (2009). Reflections on a therapeutic horseback riding experience for a group of aging veterans. Reflections: Narratives of Professional Helping, 15, 15-19. Bina, R., Hall, D., Mollette, A., Smith-Osborne, A., Yum, J., Sowbel, L., & Jani, J. (2008). Substance abuse training and perceived knowledge: Predictors of preparedness to work in substance abuse. Journal of Social Work Education, 44 (3), 7-20. Smith-Osborne, A. (2008). Mental health risk factors and protective mechanisms for post-secondary educational attainment among young adult veterans. Proceedings of the 20th National Symposium on Doctoral Research in Social Work. Columbus: Ohio State University. Retrievable at Smith-Osborne, A. (2007). Life span and resiliency theory: A critical review. Advances in Social Work, 8, 162-178. Smith-Osborne, A. (2005). Antecedents to post-secondary educational attainment for individuals with psychiatric disorders: A meta-analysis. Best Practices in Mental Health: An International Journal, 1, 15-30. Synergistic Activities (selected) Dec., 2009 Supported Employment and Supported Education Work Hand in Hand for Veterans. National Veterans Administration Local Recovery Coordinators Journal Club Webinar. July, 2009 Steering committee, the Provost’s Forum on Student Veterans 2009-present Developed graduate tutorial in military social Work 2008-present Developed and taught continuing education Workshop in military social work for community Practitioners; post-graduate certificate program now in development 2008-present Founder and faculty advisor, the UT Arlington Veterans Alliance, a student organization 2007-present Co-founder and faculty representative, the Student Veteran Advisory Council, a university committee now reporting to the Provost’s Office 2007-present Developed curriculum modules within an online platform (continuously updated)in evidence-based social work practice with veterans, for field instruction of students placed with the Veterans Administration facilities and the Student Veteran Project (funded by UT Arlington Research Enhancement Grant)