Tillman Scholars in the News

Blog | 07/23/2021

We’re proud of these Tillman Scholars for continuing to make an impact on their communities. Read on to see how they continue to lead through action.

Tara Heidger, 2017 Tillman Scholar

Tara Heidger has been selected as a term member for the Council for Foreign Relations.

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. She 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.

Today, with her 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.

Maisha Rounds, 2018 Tillman Scholar 

Maisha RoundsMaisha Rounds contributed to the publication Caring in Crisis: Stories to Inspire and Guide School Leaders. Her excerpt, Speak Life, discusses the trials and tribulations of navigating COVID and racial justice in schools as a veteran educator.

Maisha taught in an urban Title I school that went through four principals in one year, destabilizing the school’s equilibrium. Maisha committed to providing a safe space for her students despite the upheaval around them. She transformed challenges into triumphs, modeling for students that they could survive and thrive in spite of unsteady circumstances. During this time, her reach extended beyond her classroom of fifteen to over 40,000 students as the Charleston County Teacher of the Year and State Teacher of the Year Nominee. She catalyzed a cadre of 3,500 teachers and 100 principals to close achievement gaps in the second largest district in South Carolina.

Passionate about school turnaround, Maisha aspires to convert corridors of shame into oases of opportunity for marginalized and disenfranchised students in the American Pre-K – 12 sector as a Principal and Superintendent. Ms. Rounds is National Board Certified, holds two degrees in education from Winthrop University and her Ed.M. in School Leadership from Harvard Graduate School of Education. She recently completed her doctorate in Educational Leadership at Vanderbilt University.

Hye Jung Park, 2020 Tillman Scholar

Hye Jung Park was named a Hometown Hero Honoree by the Phoenix Suns, sponsored by Directors Mortgage.

Hye Jung enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserves via a Military Accessions Vital to National Interest enlistment program which helped her earn her U.S. citizenship. She aspires to a research psychologist commission to promote understanding of physiological, psychological and social variables that maintain the readiness of our military personnel and their families. Through her doctoral studies in developmental psychology, she examines promotive and protective factors that buffer life stressors while fostering growth among marginalized youth (e.g., adolescents residing in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, crime and other disadvantages, racial and ethnic minority youth).

Hye Jung strongly believes in the power of community action. She aspires to be a collaborator/developer of empirically-supported legislation to promote resilient development for at-risk and marginalized youth. She hopes to be an effective liaison between the developmental research community and Congress, to inform public policy development, implementation and evaluation.

Thomas Baker, 2018 Tillman Scholar

Thomas Baker participated in the law enforcement panel at the Veterans for Peace Conference for his work on the Fatal Encounters project analyzing police-related deaths.

Tom feels that the use of force by law enforcement officers is one of the most pressing public issues of our time. In recent years, several cities across the United States have experienced civil unrest and violence in the aftermath of controversial police shootings. As the public and policy makers grapple with this issue, high quality research will be necessary for them to make informed decisions. Tom is dedicated to contributing to this body of research as both a Ph.D. student and, eventually, as a university professor.

Tom also wants to help bridge the civil-military divide he has observed on campus, noting that in his six years of undergraduate and graduate education, he has never met a tenure-track professor who has served in the military. After nearly seventeen years at war, he finds this unacceptable and hopes to contribute to addressing this gap by stepping into this role himself. He believes that when veterans enter our institutions of higher learning they deserve the opportunity to see their unique American experience reflected in their faculty.