2021 Tillman Scholar

Katherine O’Connell

Seattle Pacific University

“May my military lessons—purpose never dulled by failure, regret never accompanies selfless service, bonds between warriors never severed—guide me in reducing veteran suicide as a clinical psychologist.”

Even as a youth, Kat enthusiastically embraced adventure and education. She embarked on a college degree younger than most and graduated at 17, aware of how little she knew of “real life.” Like her father before her, she enlisted in the Army and received training as an intelligence analyst. Three years later, Kat was painfully jarred into real life when onsite for the Pentagon attacks of 9/11.

With renewed purpose, Kat deployed to Guantanamo Naval Base for six months, serving as a collection manager for detention operations. Afterwards, she sought opportunities leading to multiple deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, augmenting special operations task forces as a counter-terrorism analyst. Kat separated from the Army after ten years but continued her service. Kat was a civilian intelligence analyst for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group for three more years.

Kat’s most challenging times were seeing loved ones cope with the impact of their military service. She became motivated to complete a master of science degree in psychology. She is now enrolled in Seattle Pacific University as a doctoral student in the Clinical Research in Self-Injury and Suicide Laboratory. She hopes to become a clinical psychologist specializing in unique research techniques honed from her analysis career to optimize veteran suicide prevention efforts while administering evidence-based therapies for treating veterans endorsing suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as well as other mental health disorders and illnesses.