2016 Tillman Scholar

Ashley Nicolas

Georgetown University

“The Army awakened within me a heart of service that will lead me for the rest of my life.”

Following graduation from West Point, Ashley branched Army Intelligence and served the majority of her five active-duty years in the 4th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division (4-2 SBCT).  During that time, she deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where she worked both as a Female Engagement Team Leader and a Brigade Assistant Intelligence Officer, supporting infantry units in a very hostile and kinetic region of southern Afghanistan.

Although deployment was a difficult time of personal sacrifice, the lessons she learned and the perspective she gained on the ground proved invaluable. In intelligence, she worked with many soldiers who, due to the quality of their high school education, struggled to conduct the high-level analysis and critical thinking that was necessary for their jobs. Further, she witnessed the plight of Afghan women who, based solely on gender, had been denied any form of formal education. As a result, they were completely eliminated from official positions of influence in the country and lacked a voice in the discussion of their nation’s future. Together, these experiences eventually drew Ashley to continue her service with Teach for America. As a mathematics and computer science teacher in San Jose, she continued to witness institutionalized barriers for success that have been constructed for many females and minority students in underprivileged communities.

Her experiences, both in combat and in the classroom, have pushed her to pursue a new path as an attorney. With insight into bureaucratic and policy inefficiencies that cause and further institutional injustice, she hopes to fuse her interests in human rights and national security to find a meaningful way to continue her service to be a driver of change, to question the status quo, and to push for systemic reform.