2018 Tillman Scholar

Laura Johnson

Air Force
University of West Florida

“Education and employment equal empowerment. I want to help our struggling communities get this assistance.”

Laura enlisted in the Air Force after two years in college, determined to leave Los Angeles and see the world. After four years of security police work, she knew the military life was the right choice for her and worked hard to finish her undergraduate degree while on active duty through the USAF’s “Bootstrap” commissioning program. After transitioning into the Intelligence field, Laura merged her Anti-Terrorism and Force Protection background with twenty years of deployments around the world and joint assignments in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Korea, England, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

Motivated by the role of education in building stable societies, Laura participated in many interagency endeavors to counter violence, poverty, and terrorism. She deployed in support of stability operations by bolstering educational endeavors in austere environments, working in Africa and the Middle East. In Central Asia she helped build curriculum in the early years of the National Military Academy of Afghanistan in Kabul. She also taught at the Air Force Special Operations School and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

After retirement, Laura turned her attention to struggling communities in Northwest Florida. She earned a K-6 grade teaching certificate and began an Ed.D. program in curriculum and assessment programs. She now works with nonprofit organizations committed to improving the quality of life for citizens, especially children in at-risk environments. She is a proponent of the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model. Her dissertation is titled: “Public-Private Partnerships and their role in Education, Employment and Empowerment.”