2020 Tillman Scholar

Tanner Zumwalt

Columbia University

“As a soldier, I saw how much the rule of law truly matters. As a lawyer, I want to use the law to help transform communities and change lives.”

After graduating from college at the young age of 18 years, Tanner Zumwalt felt called to military service in determination to repay the country that had lifted him from Section 8 housing to unprecedented opportunity. In March 2013, he shipped off to basic training, and later became one of the youngest officer candidates to graduate from the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School. During the next four years, Tanner had the opportunity to lead dynamic, diverse teams throughout the Middle East, South Korea and the United States.

During his military service, Tanner was struck by the power of the law to strengthen organizations and communities. In particular, he saw how the loss of trust in legal institutions was often accompanied by extrajudicial violence and the disintegration of civic society. This realization, coupled with his studious nature, led Tanner to transition out of active duty to pursue legal studies.

As a rising third-year student at Columbia Law School, Tanner is preparing himself to become an effective change advocate within the legal profession, focusing on healthcare rights and the challenges faced by rural communities. He serves on the boards of numerous organizations, such as the Columbia Health Law Association and the Columbia Law School Military Association, and represents more than 2,000 of his classmates on the Columbia University Senate. After graduation, Tanner hopes to run for local elected office and help lead rural communities through the challenges of the new era.