2024 Tillman Scholar

Kelly Sauter

University of Connecticut
BS, Marine Sciences

“Through environmental advocacy, I aim to protect our oceans and coastal communities. Together, we can ensure a sustainable future for generations to come.”

Kelly Sauter is a submarine veteran from the suburbs of Chicago. She joined the Navy in 2013 as a Nuclear Machinist’s Mate. After completing a rigorous training program, she was selected to instruct at the Nuclear Power Training Unit in Ballston Spa, NY. She was then specially selected for the Enlisted Women in Submarines Program and transferred to the USS Florida (SSGN 728). This forward deployed vessel afforded Kelly the opportunity to experience parts of the world in ecological turmoil, something she found difficult to ignore. 

Upon returning to the U.S., she recognized that our coasts at home were also suffering from the effects of anthropogenic negligence, specifically those related to climate change. This realization influenced Kelly to separate from the Navy and pursue a career in environmental advocacy. She is currently a Marine Sciences major at the University of Connecticut and plans to continue her graduate studies in public policy. 

On campus, she advises the student government on veteran student affairs and serves as the president of an environmentally-minded club working to raise awareness and educate the community on sustainability. She also volunteers at Mystic Aquarium working with a colony of endangered African Penguins. Kelly’s goal is to bridge the gap between climate science and policy. She intends to work towards building a transdisciplinary approach to combating climate change, combining the experience of a variety of scientific disciplines, policymakers, and those with lived experiences. Additionally, she plans to increase transparency of climate issues through improved education and awareness.