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ASU army vet researching concussions in student veterans

Karen Gallagher (Charlie Leight/ASU)

A Gulf War veteran studying at Arizona State University has made it her mission to help other veterans make a successful leap from military life to campus life. She also wants to know how brain injuries like concussions affect student veterans making that transition.

Doctoral student and ASU associate professor Karen Gallagher was a paratrooper, serving in Operation Desert Storm in the early 1990s. She was in Saudi Arabia and served near the Kuwait border. After she returned to the United States to go to college, it was tough.

“My world experience was so different than these 18-year-olds,” Gallagher said. “I felt like I couldn’t connect and that I was somewhat isolated.”

Things got better for Gallagher, but she said for other veterans trying to go from the military to college, it can be stressful.

With some vets suffering brain injuries during their time in the military, her research is focused on how those injuries might affect a veteran’s ability to learn in a classroom or how they deal with stress.

Gallagher recently received a Pat Tillman scholarship to further her research in this field. She said studying how those injuries affect vets can be complex because there are many layers.

“It isn’t mild traumatic brain injury, it isn’t PTSD, it isn’t a cultural transitional issue. It’s probably a mixed bag of all of those things,” Gallagher said.

Her goal is to set the standard for how veterans are transitioned into college programs, enabling them to be successful.

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