2020 Tillman Scholar

Laura Buys

Air Force
Syracuse University

“I plan to use my personal and military experiences to revolutionize the field of social work by providing a deeper and more nuanced approach toward caring for America’s service members.”

Laura Buys of Saint Paul, Minnesota, enlisted in the Air Force and became an operations intelligence analyst in 2012. In 2014, she deployed to Qatar in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve. She later joined the prestigious Cobra Ball in Alaska and Japan while supporting international treaty verification.

During her military career, Laura delivered more than 600 intelligence briefings to Air Force leadership, aircrew and government officials around the world. She also supported 160 CENTCOM combat missions, leading to more than 11,000 signals intelligence reports and eight relief airdrops to displaced Yazidi civilians. As a result of her exemplary service, Laura was awarded a medal for Meritorious Service Achievement and recognized as Senior Airman Below the Zone.

After honorably separating in 2017, she fully immersed herself into a career in human services. Since then, Laura has graduated summa cum laude with a degree in women’s and gender studies from Syracuse University. She later became her school’s disability services liaison for student veterans and is currently pursuing her master of social work degree. Laura has also been a powerful force in her community, working and volunteering with a wide array of populations including veterans, homeless families, young adults with developmental disabilities, at-risk youth, refugees and the elderly. Her goal is to continue making a positive impact by dismantling forms of social injustice and helping others overcome trauma. Laura’s story is currently being featured in the National Veteran’s Museum and Memorial in Columbus, Ohio.