2015 Tillman Scholar
Erik took a leave of absence from the Air Force Academy to volunteer with non-profit organization based in North Africa, first providing relief to Sub-Saharan refugees and later helping rebuild homes following an earthquake. Joined by his younger brother Alex, they decided to set out on a backpacking expedition from South Africa to Egypt. During their last stop in Cairo they were caught in a suicide bombing while walking through a marketplace. Erik was severely injured. Alex was killed.
After several months and over 30 surgeries, Erik eventually regained the ability to walk. Eventually, Erik resolved to honor his brother’s memory by taking a stand against those who propagated the violent extremism that took Alex’s life and that had mired his country in war. Erik returned to the Air Force Academy, commissioned, and spent the next six years leading counterintelligence teams in Afghanistan, Korea, Indonesia, Japan and the United States. Serving his country as an intelligence operator allowed Erik to meet with and experience the perspectives of the local population, opening his eyes to the complex social and economic challenges that lead to extremism and conflict.
Erik looks to apply innovation to solve global challenges facing conflict stricken regions. During his two years at MIT, Erik will pursue an MBA with a focus in entrepreneurship and innovation, specifically studying early-stage business development, and the application of technological advancements to tackle real problems in meaningful ways. Following MIT, Erik’s goal is to build a community of entrepreneurs in the form of a startup incubator and venture fund. In turn, Erik will use this as a platform to find and partner with entrepreneurs in historically conflict stricken regions in the hopes of providing them with new tools to impact longstanding problems.