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IST Research news Trauth researches: Do veterans with disabilities have interest in IT careers?

Trauth researches: Do veterans with disabilities have interest in IT careers?

Dr. Eileen Trauth, a professor at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) has focused her research on the role of diversity and social inclusion in information technology (IT) and the IT professions throughout her career. She is now expanding her research into an area that has previously received little attention—the perceptions about careers in the IT field held by military veterans with disability.

by Stephanie Koons, writer/editor for the College of IST

Dr. Eileen Trauth, a professor at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology (IST) has focused her research on the role of diversity and social inclusion in information technology (IT) and the IT professions throughout her career.  She is now expanding her research into an area that has previously received little attention—the perceptions about careers in the IT field held by military veterans with disability.

Trauth has received a grant of $277,794 to support her project, “Modeling IT Career Choices of Persons with Disabilities: The Case of Military Personnel and Veterans." The grant is from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Directorate for Education and Human Resources, Division of Human Resource Development, Research in Disabilities Education Program. The three-year project, in collaboration with Trauth’s colleagues at Washington State University, will involve about 500 to 600 veterans with disability who attend Penn State University, Washington State University, San Diego State University,  Columbia College in Missouri, and other academic and veteran’s institutions.

“[The project] is broadening the scope of my research focus about underrepresented groups’ attitudes regarding IT skills and knowledge, technical self-confidence, and perceptions of the IT field,” Trauth said.

Trauth has lectured about and investigated gender underrepresentation in the information technology professions in several European countries, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. In 2008, she held the Universität Klagenfurt (Austria) – Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Gender Studies. Trauth has published over 70 papers on the topic of gender and barriers to social inclusion in the information technology field. She is also editor of the two-volume Encyclopedia of Gender and Information Technology and co-author of “iDream,” a play about underrepresented groups in the IT field.

Over the next three years, Trauth will be working with several military and disability consultants on the project, including Dr. Kimberly Graham, a retired Marine Corps officer who lives in the State College, Pa. area. Trauth and her colleagues will develop and administer a survey to veterans with disability, which inquires about their attitudes towards the IT field and their interest in exploring technology-related careers.

While there has been little previous research on veterans with disability in the IT field, Trauth said, the topic of soldiers who are forced to embark on a new lifestyle and/or career after being wounded in the line of duty is poignant for many people. These veterans must not only re-adjust to civilian life, she added, but also forge a new identity after leaving a profession that is defined, in large part, by physicality and strength.

“The timing of this research is very appropriate,” she said, “because the plight of veterans with disability is currently so present in the consciousness of our country.”

A potential benefit of Trauth’s research project, she said, could be that taking the survey sparks IT career interest among the veterans at the participating universities. Schools’ information technology programs could “recruit students who might never have thought of an IT career.”

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