2017 Tillman Scholar

Tara Heidger

Columbia University
M.A., International Urban Planning | M.A., International Affairs

“As an urban planner and policy expert, I want to lead efforts to address the issues of shelter.”

As an undergraduate student struggling to find purpose and direction, Tara decided to enlisted in the U.S. Army. Over her twelve years of service as an intelligence analyst and psychological operations specialist, Tara has been exposed to rich and diverse cultures and ideas, while also witnessing the existential struggles that many people face around the globe.

Tara’s time in Baghdad analyzing the city’s people and neighborhoods left a lasting impact. She saw first-hand the devastating effects war has on a city and its inhabitants. Continued military service focusing on Europe and Africa led to the realization that her passion resides in aiding urban populations who live within the informal sector. Over the years, Tara’s cumulative experiences in war-torn Baghdad, the favelas in Brazil and even volunteering with homeless populations in the United States, has led Tara to realize the significance that inadequate shelter has on a population. With this, Tara began focusing her studies on gaining a better understanding of global urban housing issues.

Currently pursuing a dual degree in Urban Planning at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation and International Affairs with Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), Tara aims to round out her experiences abroad by focusing her studies on informal settlements, urban policy and specifically the issues of housing and shelter. Professionally, Tara strives to become a leader in an organization where she can take her experiences, coupled with her sense of duty and service, to address the world’s most complex housing challenges.