2015 Tillman Scholar

Benjamin Kohlman

Stanford University

“There is immense, untapped ability residing within many of our warriors.”

Inspired by his mentor and great uncle USAF BGen David Winn, who spent five years as a POW in Vietnam, Ben joined the U.S. Navy to devote his life to a community with deep, enduring relationships. He credits his uncle with showing him that, while military life brings occasional heartache and difficulty, the crucible of service is where growth occurs.

In the Navy, Ben’s experiences have since reinforced his belief that there is immense, untapped potential residing within the veteran community. He has led the Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell, cultivating ideas from junior personnel, pitching them to the highest ranking officer in the Navy, and bringing them to life — from ship-board 3D printers and Google Glass, to tabletop tactical wargames and new talent management techniques.

Now, while pursuing his MBA and MPP at Stanford University, Ben wants to help make government more effective and innovative. He sees an immense disconnect between our Industrial Age governmental processes and the rapidly evolving Information Age private sector economy, which he believes is leading to sub-optimal public policy outcomes that are out of step with the public’s daily lives. In response, he recently co-founded the Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEF) to actively bridge the gap between civilian and military entrepreneurs, and unite national security practitioners via nationally distributed TED-style events. While overseeing further expansion of DEF in the years ahead, Ben hopes to continue his service in a position at the White House or Department of Defense, working to solve our nation’s greatest policy challenges.