Based on in-depth interviews we conducted with more than 30 student-veterans enrolled in higher education institutions, in this paper we examine the methodological challenges of collecting qualitative interview data from this population. Situated within the larger interdisciplinary literature of doing qualitative research with vulnerable groups, we explore the implications of student-veterans being labeled as vulnerable by ethics review boards and institutional agents such as veteran’s organizations. Based on our research experience, we argue that framing student-veterans as vulnerable can lead to further stereotyping of this group and to difficulties in accessing an already under-researched population. In addition, our inability to hear the voices and experiences of student veterans can impact the kind of services and support that higher educational institutions can provide them.


Student-Veterans, Vulnerable Groups, Qualitative Interviews, Research Ethics

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Erica Morales is an Assistant Professor of Sociology whose research examines issues of equity and inclusion for underrepresented groups, including students of color and student-veterans in higher education. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: emmorales@cpp.edu.

Dr. Anjana Narayan is an Associate Professor of Sociology at Cal Poly Pomona whose research examines the experiences and identity construction of religious and ethnic groups in South Asia and the South Asian diaspora. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: anarayan@cpp.edu.

William Atienza is a graduate student at the University of Washington whose research examines issues of educational access and gentrification in urban communities. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: wr.atienza@gmail.com.


The authors wish to thank the Cal Poly Pomona Kellogg Legacy Endowment for their support of this research. They would also like to thank Dr. Anthony Ocampo for his helpful feedback on this manuscript.

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