2016 Tillman Scholar

Karthik Venkatraj

University of Colorado

“Our soldiers are the best the nation has to offer, and they deserve only the best our nation can give.”

The son of Indian immigrants who came to the States with only a hundred dollars to pursue the American dream, Karthik was constantly reminded in his youth that his family’s narrative could not have happened anywhere else because of the values that define our nation. Initially, he planned to follow in his parents’ footsteps and pursue a career in science. But, as it did for so many, 9/11 changed his life’s ambitions. The attacks were a wakeup call to take action. He saw service as a way to honor the American dream, and what the dream represented for his family and the nation. So in 2007, Karthik enlisted in the Army National Guard. Though he was motivated to join the Army to protect and defend our nation’s values, when he actually enlisted, the individuals he served with became his passion and reason to serve. He had the unique opportunity to serve with soldiers from small rural towns and inner-city neighborhoods; each and all helped define his service.

Since returning from a tour in Iraq with his National Guard unit, Karthik’s focus has shifted to exploring how he can best serve this veteran community as a lawyer. The combination of his legal background and military experience has allowed him to understand the severity of the legal challenges veterans face when they return home, a challenge that the U.S. judicial system has just begun to address with the creation of Veterans Trauma Courts (VTC). Karthik was Managing Editor of the University of Colorado Review, is currently publishing his comment on VTC, which received the 2016 Gamm Justice Award and won the 2016 National Law Review Law Student Writing Competition. Through his Presidency of Military Law Society, clerking for the Colorado Attorney General, and, most recently, as the newly elected President of the Student Bar Association(Student Body President) of CU Law, Karthik is channeling his efforts to build community partnerships that empower returning veterans. After graduation, he hopes to work in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) through the Presidential Management Fellowship (PMF), supporting the establishment of many more VTCs across the nation.