Tillman Scholars in the News

Blog, Tillman Scholars in the News | 03/08/2022

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.

Kanaan Goldstein, 2021 Tillman Scholar

Hadassah Magazine featured Kanaan in an essay about women in the rabbinate.

In the Navy, Kanaan learned that by promoting self-care, she set an example of healing and growth for those around her. She saw the deep need for human connection and now aims to translate her life experience into her chaplaincy to help others find a sense of purpose. Through conversation with people, she tapped into how Judaism plays a role in her life and how connection to others helps create her identity as a pastoral caregiver.

Kanaan graduated from the University of Oklahoma, with degrees in Psychology and Judaic Studies. She will begin her second year at Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia in Fall 2021. Before Rabbinical school, she worked as the Engagement Specialist at Syracuse University Hillel, where she built relationships with Jewish students and student veterans by creating programs that helped students explore their individuality and connections to each other. Becoming a rabbi is the best way for Kanaan to prepare herself for service. She is dedicated to spending her life as a chaplain in service of others by empowering people to express themselves. Kanaan’s mission will strengthen the future of the military by enhancing the lives of service members.

DJ Faldowski, 2017 Tillman Scholar

DJ participated in a Politico project on veterans’ transition and awareness, called A Renewed Sense of Purpose .

As a senior in high school, DJ watched our nation come under attack, and the tragedies of September 11, 2001 marked his call to serve in the U.S. Navy. On active duty, he had the privilege of leading some of our nation’s finest warriors, and his experiences have taught him the most important lesson in leadership—serve those who you lead. DJ credits his collective military experience with forging his leadership faculties and catalyzing his passion to live a life of service.

While serving, DJ knew many teammates who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country and recognized a troubling pattern for their families: Gold Star Families initially receive abundant support, but it wanes over the years. His commitment to honor these fallen heroes and serve their families called him to help start Legacies Alive, a non-profit organization, which is committed to serving these families forever.

Katherine O’Connell, 2021 Tillman Scholar

Kat co-authored for Shame-proneness and suicidal ideation: The roles of depressive and anger rumination in Journals of Affective Disorders Reports.

Kat deployed to Guantanamo Naval Base for six months, serving as a collection manager for detention operations. Afterwards, she sought opportunities leading to multiple deployments in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, augmenting special operations task forces as a counter-terrorism analyst. Kat separated from the Army after ten years but continued her service. Kat was a civilian intelligence analyst for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group for three more years.

Kat’s most challenging times were seeing loved ones cope with the impact of their military service. She became motivated to complete a master of science degree in psychology. She is now enrolled in Seattle Pacific University as a doctoral student in the Clinical Research in Self-Injury and Suicide Laboratory. She hopes to become a clinical psychologist specializing in unique research techniques honed from her analysis career to optimize veteran suicide prevention efforts while administering evidence-based therapies for treating veterans endorsing suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as well as other mental health disorders and illnesses.

Haliehana Stepetin, 2020 Tillman Scholar

KUCB highlighted Haliehana Stepetin’s work using traditional teaching methods when bringing Unangam Tunuu classes to the University of Alaska – Anchorage.

Haliehana’s story of service is different from most. Inspired by her experience in a military academy program for delinquent youth, Haliehana enlisted at 17 to stand among the ranks of those who serve this country. More importantly to her, Haliehana joined to serve her family and community in Alaska. Born and raised in the Aleutian Islands—a community which was not poor in culture, tradition or support—nevertheless Haliehana, like many Indigenous people, enlisted due to limited options for success. Haliehana knew this decision meant choosing to fight the odds against her as a homeless, high school dropout versus doing something honorable with her life, making her dad proud and providing a financial foundation to care for him one day.

Throughout Haliehana’s four years in the U.S. Navy, she developed strong leadership skills and a desire to never stop learning. The experience Haliehana gained as work center supervisor and a vital member of numerous shipboard teams ignited a yearning for a high-paced, intellectually challenging environment. Upon honorable discharge from the Navy, she found this environment while becoming her father’s legal guardian and pursuing higher education. Now, seven years after being discharged, her work has come full circle as she pursues a Ph.D. in Native American Studies at the University of California Davis. Haliehana is fulfilling her lifelong passion of perpetuating her Unangax culture while stepping into yet another role of service for the innovation of Indigenous knowledge with, by, and for Indigenous communities.