Tarleton Doctoral Candidate Wins First AWF Legacy Scholarship


STEPHENVILLE — Nicole Burkett joined the Army so her little brother could go to college. Now she’s finishing her doctorate at Tarleton State with a $2,500 boost from the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation Legacy Scholarship Program. 

She was honored in March as the inaugural recipient of the foundation’s 6888th Scholarship in a ceremony at the U.S. Army National Museum in Fort Belvoir, Va.

Burkett is completing her EdD in educational leadership with an emphasis on higher education. Her dissertation focus — challenges Black female veterans face as they transition to civilian life — caught the attention of the AWF’s scholarship committee.

“It’s an honor to be chosen, and the fact that I am the first winner of the 6888th Scholarship is amazing,” she said in her speech accepting the award. “The 6888th has a rich history of determination and perseverance.”

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, nicknamed the “Six Triple Eight,” was a Women’s Army Corps (WAC) regiment composed of 855 women, primarily Black but some Hispanic, who deployed during WWII with the crucial mission of sorting and routing millions of pieces of unprocessed mail the Army could not get to troops on the front lines. The 6888th was the only all-female unit in Army history. In March 2022 the 6888th received the Congressional Gold Medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor, officially recognizing the brave women of this battalion.

Burkett’s research traces the trajectory of Black women in the armed services, from slaves working for the military to executive leaders working in the military. She wants to use her platform to advocate for those unheard voices and share stories of the vulnerable and underrepresented.

“Nicole is one of my (s)heroes,” said Dr. Sherri Benn, Tarleton’s Vice President for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and International Programs. “Her research is groundbreaking and important in giving voice to and honoring the experiences of Black female veterans. She is helping to dispel the idea that military experiences are universal.

“I am so very proud of her courage, tenacity, intellectual commitment and service to our country.”

Burkett’s dissertation topic was inspired by her own experience.

“As women veterans, sometimes we are not considered ‘real veterans’ because it is a mostly male-dominated organization. Additionally, as a Black woman in the military, you are sometimes seen as a commodity because of what you can do and not as a person because of who you are. Combat exposure has a way of changing your mindset to survive and also detach you from those you love.

“There is a preponderance of research about male veterans and some about women veterans; however, there is limited research about Black women veterans and even less about combat Black women veterans. In a growing culture of diversity, equity and inclusion, these stories have to be shared. The goal is to help more understand and see them as real people, not commodities.”

Burkett’s educational journey started at Texas A&M, but two years in she found herself reevaluating her college decision around the same time her brother got a music scholarship to a school in Oklahoma. Worried that her parents couldn’t afford two children in college, Burkett opted to join the Army and take advantage of travel and educational opportunities. 

She stayed 24 years, stationed across the country from Washington to Maryland, and around the globe in Korea, Japan and Afghanistan. She completed three degrees, including healthcare administration and public administration with an emphasis on human resources. She specialized in supply chain management operations.

Nicole Burkett

Before her retirement, she was able to transfer some of her education benefits to her son for his college education, and use the rest to begin her studies at Tarleton in 2021; she earned an associate degree in supply chain logistics before starting her doctorate. Proximity to home, flexibility during the pandemic and caring faculty and staff influenced her to continue at Tarleton.

“Tarleton offered a hybrid program that appealed to my schedule,” she said. “When I interviewed with doctoral committee members as part of the admissions process, they were caring and down to earth.”

When she needed assistance with registration, she said the Tarleton Office of Veteran Services was ready to help. To learn about veteran services at Tarleton, go to tarleton.edu/veterans.

About the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation

The U.S. Army Women’s Foundation (formerly the U.S. Women’s Army Corps Museum Foundation), founded in 1969, is the oldest woman veteran’s organization in the United States. Its Legacy Scholarship supports education for Army women and their children through tuition assistance for certificate programs, community college coursework, and undergraduate and graduate degrees. Over the past 14 years, the foundation has awarded more than $600,000 through the Legacy Scholarship program.

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  1. Army Veteran and Doctoral Student Named Inaugural Winner of the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation’s 6888th Scholarship – Recruitology Careers Blog
  2. Army Veteran and Doctoral Student Named Inaugural Winner of the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation’s 6888th Scholarship – University Rating
  3. Army Veteran and Doctoral Student Named Inaugural Winner of the U.S. Army Women’s Foundation’s 6888th Scholarship – MS Graduate

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