2020 Tillman Scholar

Heather Seminelli

Vanderbilt University

“Having faced challenging problems in the military, I want to prepare our next generation of leaders to think critically and learn continuously to move their organizations forward successfully.”

Coming from a small town in Oregon, Heather wanted to be a part of something bigger than herself and chose the Army. After graduation from West Point, she commissioned as an aviation officer flying UH-60 Blackhawks in Iraq and working to develop Afghan security forces in Afghanistan. 

During her deployments, Heather saw Baghdad from the air and spent time on the ground visiting remote outposts of the Afghan Border Police. She supported her soldiers taking online classes and practicing for promotion boards while deployed. She saw how proud the Afghan security forces were when they graduated from military training. Heather also interacted with local Afghan women and was deeply impacted by one young woman’s desire to learn how to read. These varied experiences impressed on her the importance of equity and inclusion in society, especially with educational opportunities. 

After getting out of the Army, Heather earned a degree in library and information science and returned to West Point to work in the U.S. Military Academy Library. Working with cadets cemented her desire to continue in the education field. Heather is currently enrolled in the doctor of education in leadership and learning in organizations at Vanderbilt University. In the future, she wants to use this degree to influence how future military leaders develop skills related to critical thinking, communication, inclusion and character.