Political science professor awarded summer research fellowship to study female veterans

“What a great way to start a Monday!” said Dr. Christina Gregory, associate professor of political science.

When she first heard the news that she was awarded a Lamar University College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s 2022 Summer Research Fellowship, she let out an ecstatic “Yes!”

“I’m pretty sure I startled my colleagues in the department,” Gregory joked.

Her project studies the effects military service has on women veterans. While she is currently researching the topic in the U.S., she is beginning to expand this internationally as she is a comparativist by training.

It all started when Gregory was building a dataset for a friend a few years ago and observed there were decades of studies done on the long-term benefits of service for men in America, but less than a handful of studies on women.

With a colleague, they are conducting a quantitative or statistical analysis on the long-term impacts service has for women veterans.

“We know that male veterans have both experienced long-term gains from their service — higher paying jobs, higher educational attainment — as well as faced challenges after service, including reacclimating to civilian life, accessing benefits and mental health concerns. There are literally decades of studies that have studied this for male veterans,” Gregory said. “What the women’s veteran experience is like, however, is largely unexplored.”

With women enlisting at much higher rates than ever before in our history, she intends to fill this gap of knowledge and answer the question: how is service impacting women in their life after they serve?

Gregory said she is hoping to be able to break down the differences for women of different races and ethnicities.

“Our initial findings show service does lead to higher wage earnings and more likely to get some college education compared to civilian women. This is important work because in the United States women are enlisting at unprecedented rates, especially Black women. What I want to know is: how is it that different women from different cultural backgrounds and different races are having this same experience of being in the military going through training and deployment but but it's impacting them differently?” she said. “And we have a lot of needed discussion about the challenges that women are facing while they serve. And I think all that is all very important.”

Gregory explained that she hopes to become a better political scientist after this study as it is an important subject that will benefit veterans.

“If you are a female veteran, I’d love to interview you. This summer, I will be putting together the plan for conducting focus group interviews and one-on-one interviews for women. I would love to be able to do it across the country across all the different branches, which is going to take some time, but going to be starting that this summer,” she said, noting that she believes the discipline of political science will benefit from her research. “I think it will really help me and us as political scientists as a whole. We need to understand what their life is like when they leave the military so that we can better serve our veterans.”

To hear more from Dr. Christina Gregory about her journey to LU and research, listen to this week’s LU Moment.