2022 Tillman Scholar

Nicole Leon

Military Spouse
University of California - Berkeley
Juris Doctor

“As a daughter of immigrants, I experienced the impact of potentially having your parents removed from their home. As an attorney, I hope to support communities of color as they race against a ticking clock to save their families’ livelihoods.”

Nicole grew up on the south side of Chicago and was raised by her Mexican father and Honduran mother. After witnessing the struggles her parents faced as immigrants, Nicole determined herself to be the first person in her family to pursue a college degree. After graduating from her Oklahoma high school, Nicole was afforded the opportunity to attend Columbia University in the city of New York with a full-ride from the Gates Millennium Scholarship.

While at Columbia, Nicole continued pursuing her passion of theater, and was involved in a total of 12 productions on campus. However, her work within theater was not limited to the stage. As a Latina who understood how theatrical spaces had historically excluded people of color, she explored theater from an academic lens as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow researching plays written by Latina playwrights who had re-imagined the theatrical canon and created a space for themselves within it.

Along with her upbringing, Nicole’s theatrical background pointed to law as being the ideal avenue to enact change via a deep understanding of social apparatuses, the humans within them, and the cultures they create. Theater fueled her passions and skills for empathy, storytelling, and discourse, all of which are paralleled in law. With her legal education, Nicole hopes to impact the immigration and criminal justice system, and advocate for communities of color. Nicole is a proud military spouse to a U.S. Navy Nuclear Electronics Technician, and a dog mom to her corgi, Obi Wan Corgnobi.