2017 Tillman Scholar

Michael Nelson

Marine Corps
Ohio State University
Ph.D., Educational Studies

“I hope to equip teachers and students with 21st-century skills that will enable them to succeed in a democratic society.”

The day after his 18th birthday and high school graduation in 2004, Mike boarded a plane for MCRD San Diego, where he would become a U.S. Marine. Mike was the first member of his immediate or extended family to serve in the military since the 1950s, but during his final year of high school he felt a call to serve his country, pushing him to enlist in the Marine Corps Reserves.

Upon graduating from recruit training, Mike began classes at the University of Michigan, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in education. After graduation, however, he delayed the job search as his unit deployed to Iraq. In Iraq, Mike served as a squad leader in a combat engineer platoon which completed tasks like conducting route reconnaissance and designing and building fighting positions. Mike enjoyed mentoring young Marines, but he also saw the damage wrought by war and the extent of the privilege which is afforded to citizens of the United States.

Mike’s experience as a deployed Marine taught him resilience, leadership skills, and an empathetic perspective that he carried with him as he completed a master’s degree while working as an English teacher, debate coach, and wrestling coach. Now, as a Ph.D. student focusing on learning technologies at The Ohio State University, Mike hopes to train the next generation of teachers and research ways to help them and their students build upon their digital literacy so today’s kids can become successful adults in the 21st century.