2020 Tillman Scholar

Peter Kiernan

Marine Corps
Harvard University
M.P.P, M.B.A.

I feel an obligation to give back to a country and society that has given me so much, by serving my community and safeguarding our democracy for future generations.

Peter James Kiernan is a lifelong New Yorker who, after his community was intimately affected by the events of 9/11, enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps after his 18th birthday. Peter excelled, becoming the youngest Marine Raider in the history of the Marine Special Operations Command (MARSOC). He also served as a scout sniper, became fluent in Pashto and free-fall qualified, and conducted more than 40 combat missions in Afghanistan.

After nearly six years of service, Peter attended Columbia University, where he studied International Relations in an effort to better understand the war in which he fought. In 2017, he received a Mitchell Scholarship to pursue a master’s in Conflict Resolution at Trinity College-Dublin. While studying the peace process in Northern Ireland, he explored fundamental aspects of conflict such as justice, trust, and victimhood, in order to better understand why human nature often makes hostilities intractable. During this time, Peter continued his service working on nonprofits and later in the New York State Governor’s Office.

Through the first wave of the pandemic, Peter served as the deputy director for response operations for New York State’s COVID-19 Task Force. Peter received an MBA from Harvard Business School and is pursuing a path in the private sector to complement his public sector knowledge. Peter looks forward to addressing the long-term challenges of a globalized world throughout his career.