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Hannah is researching military vets who attend uni—and she’s one of them

This article appears in:
Student Stories, Research and Opinion, HDR

At first, Australian Air Force veteran Hannah Taino-Spick didn’t think she was eligible to do a research degree. Thanks to a supportive professor at Charles Darwin University, however, Hannah is now pursuing a PhD via a Higher Degree by Research (HDR). Her focus is on Australian Defence Force veterans who pursue higher education post-discharge. And she’s found that for former members of the military like her, studying can bring optimism and a new path post-military.

What led you to CDU?

It was a chance opportunity with an inspiring lady, Professor Sue Shore, who is now my principal supervisor.

I had thought about pursuing a HDR but I didn’t get honours in my undergraduate degree and I incorrectly assumed that I had zero chance of applying, with success, for any level of HDR. Turns out I was wrong.

Professor Shore told me my previous coursework demonstrated my potential to pursue an HDR and she encouraged me to apply at CDU. To my pleasant surprise, I was accepted into a research master’s at the College of Education, with Professor Shore as my principal supervisor.

It’s humbling to know that my study and work have been highlighted in the Parliament of Australia

What are you studying?

My research study focuses on the post-discharge journeys of Australian Defence Force (ADF) veterans from the global War on Terror era, 2001 onwards. I’m focussing on those veterans who choose to pursue higher education at university post-discharge. My study aims to investigate the period following contemporary military service, to identify the issues, experiences and pathways that manifest for each veteran, and to uncover impacts and influences on self-narrative and personal identity post-discharge. The study further aims to investigate how participants lived experiences in the ADF, during the War on Terror, have influenced them in creating an optimistic post-discharge life through the higher education pathway.

How would you describe your experience of being a HDR student at CDU?

It’s been empowering and highly rewarding. As a military veteran and a university student, I find myself in a unique position personally and professionally, with links between two highly influential institutions – the military, and the academy. I know that I’m creating my own post-discharge narrative, self-authoring and forging that narrative on my own terms. CDU has made that possible by the community it fosters – both academic and non-academic.

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What has been one highlight so far of being a HDR student at CDU?

Being recognised for the work I am already doing. It’s humbling to know that my study and work have been highlighted in the Parliament of Australia, with special mentions by my local federal member, and to be invited by government ministers to make contributions because of my ongoing work. I have also been given the opportunity to contribute back to both the NT military community, and to CDU, on a national project aiming to develop and promote CDU as a military-friendly university.

Professionally, what do you plan do to when you complete your HDR?

I would love to transform my thesis into a user-friendly handbook. I would love to be able to add to it over the years, to align with the changing sphere of veterans’ studies and veterans’ affairs in Australia. This would be written for a wide audience: veterans, their families, government, universities, practitioners working with veterans and more.

What advice do you have for someone considering completing their HDR through CDU?

Go for it, because you have nothing to lose. There are lots of bright people at CDU and they want to help you. Find someone in the academy who believes in you and is a good match for you and your project.

Find out more about studying a Higher Degree by Research at CDU by downloading an application pack. Join our research community delivering real results in northern Australia and the Asia Pacific and be supported by supervisors who are committed to helping you reach your goals.

This article appears in:
Student Stories, Research and Opinion, HDR

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