2023 Tillman Scholar

Nikki Rizzi

Duke University

“My work is dedicated to equipping our military with the most innovative technology to enable them to fight and win on the battlefields of the future and return home safely.”

Eager for adventure and fueled by patriotism, Nikki joined the Army ROTC program while attending the University of Georgia. Before commissioning and prior to the legislation opening combat arms roles to women, she received her branch assignment and was surprised to learn that she would serve in the field artillery, a combat arms position. 

After graduating from the field artillery course, Nikki was assigned to Ft. Bragg, where she served as a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) platoon leader. She first deployed to Afghanistan, providing long-range fires in support of the 75th Ranger Regiment. Upon returning to the States, Nikki attended assessment and selection for the Cultural Support Team program that placed women alongside Special Operations forces in Afghanistan to handle women and children encountered during operations. Nikki returned to Afghanistan and completed more than 40 missions with Rangers and SEAL teams, providing valuable information that led to the capture of high-value targets. 

Today, Nikki works for a defense technology startup, where she continues to serve her country by providing AI-enabled products and solutions to the U.S. military and its allies that will prepare them for the future of combat. Nikki also remains a steadfast advocate for the advancement of women. She founded her company’s Women’s Employee Resource Group and works closely with her executives on gender equity initiatives. Nikki is pursuing an MBA from Duke University because she believes that business leaders can make an impact beyond dollars and cents when they are empowered with the knowledge and experience that higher education provides.