Transition Classes for Veterans: Analyzing Outcome Data for Evidence-based Approaches

By Krysta Kurzynski and Seth Hayden

The National Career Development Association (NCDA) has been an active proponent of supporting the career development of military service men and women. The NCDA Veterans Committee as well as recent programs at the annual conference and publications such as the Winter 2014 edition of Career Developments demonstrates the association's commitment to addressing the needs of this population. A more specific area of focus is the transitional experience of student veterans both to higher educational settings and eventually life after graduation. Several colleges and universities have created transition classes to support service members and veterans in this process. Our presentation at the 2015 NCDA Global Career Development Conference entitled “Transition classes for veterans: analyzing outcome data for evidence-based approaches” will focus on the current status of these courses as well as methods for evaluating effectiveness via commonly utilized career assessments.  


Relevance of the Topic

With the continued drawdown of the military fighting force abroad, there appears to be significant attention on methods for successfully transitioning veterans to civilian life. A key area of this focus is on their career development. The U.S. government, private and public organizations, and career practitioners are considering ways in which to positively impact the military-to-civilian career transition for veterans. Hiring initiatives, military transition programs, and other career-related supports are examples of this effort. Given the resources and time allocated to this effort, it appears important to examine their impact on veterans’ career development both in the short and long-term.


As veterans transition out of the military, post-9/11 education benefits have contributed to a large number of veterans seeking post-secondary degrees with it being estimated that 800,000 veterans are now attending U.S. colleges (Briggs, 2012; Sander, 2012). A transition class designed to assist veterans with the adjustment to civilian life is an emerging trend in universities (Hamrick, 2013). These courses often vary in content and structure, but share the goal of supporting veterans with their transition to civilian life. Since the benefits of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill are limited to 36 months, or exactly eight semesters (in most cases), deciding upon a major and career path early on is important.


Career practitioners working in the college setting sometimes struggle to connect with the student veteran population on their campus. One way to bridge this gap is to work with the school’s Veteran Resource Center (VRC) to co-teach a transition class. By incorporating veteran-specific tools and assessments, career counselors can provide resources and support that is often desired by the VRC, develop rapport with the student veteran population, and assist veterans in career discernment early in their education. In assessing the impact of the courses, it is possible to utilize existing career assessments. The Self-Directed Search (Holland & Messer, 2013) and Career Thoughts Inventory (Sampson, Peterson, Lenz, Reardon, & Saunders, 1996, 1998) are two commonly utilized assessments that can be integrated into the career development element of these courses to provide a structure in which to examine the needs of student veterans. Given the attention devoted to the success of student veterans’ transition to civilian employment, accessing the information offered as a result of completing these assessments can provide a road map in which to inform future steps. Though small in scope, preliminary assessment outcomes related to the integration of these assessments in a student veterans transition class offers some promising results.


This presentation will provide information on the broader landscape of these transition courses with a specific focus on their attention to elements of career. The presentation will also involve a discussion on the use of career assessments to determine the impact on student veterans’ career development. A pilot study on the use of career assessments to determine the efficacy of a course at a post-secondary institution will be discussed in detail at the conference presentation.


Implications for Practice

Participants in the conference will learn about the current professional literature on student veteran transition needs, particularly as it pertains to their career development. We will focus on one specific intervention: the use of transition classes that include vocational discernment and career-related supports. In addition to outlining examples of courses offered at a variety of institutions, we will also review two assessment measures that can be used to provide outcome data on the effectiveness of these classes, and discuss their findings. A final point of discussion will be the expansion of evidence-based approaches and future research in this area.  




Briggs, B. (2012, July 2). Thousands of veterans failing in latest battlefield: college. Retrieved from http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/02/1 2509343-thousands-of-veterans-failing-in-latestbattlefield-college?lite    


Hamrick, F. A., Rumann, C. B. & Associates. (2013). Called to serve: A handbook on student veterans and higher education. San Francisco, CA: Wiley & Sons.


Holland, J. L., & Messer, M. (2013). Self-directed search. Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.


Sampson, J., Jr., Peterson, G., Lenz, J., Reardon, R., & Saunders, D. (1996). Career Thoughts Inventory. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources, Inc.


Sampson Jr, J. P., Peterson, G. W., Lenz, J. G., Reardon, R. C., & Saunders, D. E. (1998). The design and use of a measure of dysfunctional career thoughts among adults, college students, and high school students: The Career Thoughts Inventory. Journal of Career Assessment, 6, 115-134. doi: 10.1177/106907279800600201


Sander, L. (2012, July). Colleges expand services for veterans, but lag in educating faculty on veterans’ needs. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://chronicle.com/article/Veterans-LoungeCheck/133161/?cid=at&utm_source=at&utm_medium=en




Krysta KurzynskiKrysta Kurzynski, LPC-CR, is the Assistant Director of Veterans Affairs and Student Veteran Transition Advisor at John Carroll University near Cleveland, OH. She has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and has experience with career counseling and military transitions. She holds a Certificate in Veterans Behavioral Health Care through the Center for Deployment Psychology and is a member of NCDA’s Veterans Committee, ACA’s Military and Veteran Counseling Association, and APA’s Division of Military Psychology. She can be reached at kkurzynski@jcu.edu


Seth HaydenSeth Hayden, Ph.D. NCC, LPC (VA), ACS, is an Assistant Professor of Counseling at Wake Forest University. Dr. Hayden has provided career and personal counseling in community agencies, secondary school, and university settings. Dr. Hayden’s research focuses on the career and personal development of military service members, veterans, and their families. In addition, he explores the connection between career and mental health issues and integrated models of clinical supervision designed to facilitate positive growth in counselors’ ability to formulate interventions. Dr. Hayden is the past-president of the Association for Counselors and Educators in Government (ACEG), a division of the American Counseling Association. He can be reached at haydensc@wfu.edu



Join Krysta and Seth for their Conference presentation, Wednesday July 1, 2015, 2:30-3:40pm

#503 Transition Classes for Veterans: Analyzing Outcome Data from Career Assessments
With the growing attention on supporting veterans in their career development, a question looms as to whether various interventions are effective. This presentation will discuss a specific example of using career-related assessments to determine the impact of a transition class for veterans in a post-secondary higher education setting.
Krysta Kurzynski, John Carroll University; Seth Hayden, Wake Forest University

Printer-Friendly Version

1 Comment

Charles Lehman   on Saturday 04/04/2015 at 05:24 PM

Krysta, Seth Good advertisement for an important and useful session

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.