2017 Tillman Scholar

Ryan Gross

Syracuse University

“Officials signing a policy must understand the impact from the strategic level to the front lines.”


Ryan’s grandfathers ignited the spirit of public service detailing their duties leading tank units through the Battle of the Bulge and serving on a Navy destroyer in the Pacific during WWII. Their military service instilled the horror of war, the necessity of strategic thinking, and the honor of public service, which continues to inspire Ryan’s career with the Department of Defense.

As an Army officer, Ryan prepared an infantry platoon and intelligence analysts for combat operations following the 9/11 attacks. After his deployment with an Infantry Battalion in Baghdad, he transitioned from the Army to the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), where for over a decade he has led intelligence analysis lauded by Ambassadors, DoD policymakers, and Commanding Generals. Through his experiences in Baghdad, Washington D.C., U.S. Central Command, and three civilian deployments to Afghanistan, Ryan witnessed how “one size fits all” policies developed at the national-level do not always translate effectively to the tactical environment, requiring commanders on the ground to determine how to tailor the policy to fit their battlespace. Ryan aspires to innovate defense policy to eliminate these policy-to-action complications.

DIA selected Ryan to pursue a Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. There, Ryan will build upon the leadership and decision-making skills he gained throughout his career and hone his policy-development expertise, providing him with the tools he needs to drive defense policy that provides commanders the flexibility to implement policy according to their operational needs.