2022 Tillman Scholar

Desaree Edwards

Wesleyan University
Bachelor's of Neuroscience and Behavior; Human Rights Advocacy

“It is the responsibility of those that can place themselves in the shoes of others to work to change the perception of those who cannot.”

Desaree Edwards is a submarine veteran from Carthage, Mississippi. She joined the Navy in 2013 as a Nuclear Machinist’s Mate, and after completing Nuclear Power School she was selected to be an instructor at the Nuclear Power Training Unit in Charleston, SC. After two years as an instructor she was handpicked for the Enlisted Women in Submarines Program and transferred to the USS FLORIDA (SSGN 728), becoming the first female nuclear-trained enlisted submariner in the Atlantic Fleet. As her division’s leading petty officer she managed three deployments in various Combatant Commands. Additionally, she served as crisis support for sexual assault victims.

The challenges she and the other female crewmembers faced during the integration motivated her to separate from the navy and pursue advocacy from a different perspective. Desaree is a Neuroscience major at Wesleyan University set on a career in the law field. Since beginning school, she has worked to develop a strong and supportive veteran community on campus and volunteers at the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants providing legal case work assistance to asylum seekers, refugees, and trafficked persons. She believes the best avenues for advocacy are addressing the system itself rather than individual issues.

Her ultimate goal is to work to stop sex trafficking in the U.S. by developing community outreach programs to reduce the human trafficking risk in vulnerable communities and rooting out supply chains that prey on those communities. Ultimately, she plans to work in a program that provides legal representation and rehabilitation for survivors of sex trafficking. Desaree is a lifelong learner with a passion for advocacy and developing strong communities.