2023 Tillman Scholar

Shelby Tibuni

Air Force
University of Colorado - Colorado Springs
M.A., Applied Geography

“As a citizen of this planet, I hope to bring new knowledge into the world that helps the impoverished fight hunger and climate change.”

As one of six siblings, Shelby grew up in an underprivileged neighborhood in Sacramento, Calif., before relocating to rural Colorado. She followed in the footsteps of her grandfather and enlisted in the U.S. Air Force at the age of 17. During her tenure in the Air Force, Shelby was fortunate to visit and meet people from all walks of life. Shelby witnessed the disparities between the opportunities she was given as a child on government assistance and the plight of children and the working class in developing countries. She was inspired by friends made in the Middle East and Southeast Asia to cater her academic pursuits to sustainable food systems for impoverished communities.

As the first person to go to college in her family, Shelby completed two bachelor’s degrees, one in horticulture and one in sustainability in May 2021 from Oregon State University. She is now pursuing a master’s in applied geography at the University of Colorado–Colorado Springs, where she is developing her research skills as she assesses the relationship between food deserts in the historically redlined districts of Colorado. Shelby hopes to develop agricultural programs to address food literacy issues in underprivileged neighborhoods.