2018 Tillman Scholar

Nicholas O’Neill

University of Chicago
Ph.D., History

“I believe that higher education has the power to transform students’ lives and build a better world.”

Nicholas enlisted shortly after Sept. 11, at the age of seventeen. During deployments to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and as an infantryman in Afghanistan, Nicholas witnessed the persistent problems of poverty at home and abroad. While working closely with soldiers of the Afghan National Army, he was also inspired by their unexpected fascination with history as a place to find solutions for the present and hope for the future.

Combining these two lessons, Nicholas studies the history of economic development, turning to the past for lessons about how countries can draw on their unique cultures to build their economies and raise standards of living. Having completed his B.A. at Southern Oregon University and his M.A. at the University of Oregon, Nicholas is now a Ph.D. candidate in History at the University of Chicago. His research has received funding from the Fulbright Commission and been hosted by the École Normale Supérieure and the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.

Nicholas uses his research to find practical answers to complex questions about economic development, wealth inequality, and the challenges of globalization. Nicholas is also dedicated to teaching the next generation of students. He is particularly passionate about serving as a mentor for veteran, first-generation and other non-traditional students, helping them develop the practical skills necessary to succeed at a university. Nicholas believes that with his research and his teaching he can help shape policies that open up greater opportunities and give individuals the tools and support they need to seize them.