2018 Tillman Scholar
While studying international conflict issues at Stanford University in 2005, John felt an intense calling to work on the ground with people in need. He left his schooling behind to work with FORGE, an agency serving refugees of the recent civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DCR). For sixteen months he lived in refugee camps along the DRC border, setting up solar powered computer education centers and training Congolese staff.
John’s life path took a turn as he learned firsthand about the role of natural resources in creating the conditions for conflict in the DRC. Understanding how the consumption of materials in one part of the world can so drastically impact lives in another became the driving motivation behind his studies, career and everyday life. Dedicated to aligning societal and environmental goals, John has moved from international climate policy to management of recycling programs to leading an urban food tech nonprofit in his hometown of Chicago; a career path with increasingly local focus, motivated by global ecological concern.
In order to investigate cutting-edge environmental solutions, John decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He simultaneously followed a lifelong calling to military service, enlisting in the Illinois Army National Guard in 2015 as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Specialist. He served for two years in a Chicago-based unit and is now pursuing officer candidacy. John feels his civilian and military work share an all-important mission: build local resilience through global understanding.