Tillman Scholars in the News

Blog, Tillman Scholars in the News | 12/01/2022

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.

Jonathan Lu, 2020 Tillman Scholar

Jonathan LuJonathan Lu was featured in The Chronicle for his speech at Adna High School for Veterans’ Day.

Encouraged by a Green Beret, Jonathan qualified as a Special Forces medical sergeant and subsequently deployed several times to Southeast Asia and Afghanistan. During this time, Jonathan first hypothesized that certain biopsychosocial factors predisposed the Army Special Forces population to worsening health outcomes more severely than previously held. In his master of public health capstone project, Jonathan conceptualized a framework that described two distinct, yet interrelated pathways toward worsening health and behavior outcomes among Special Forces soldiers. He remains committed toward advancing behavioral health advocacy for all service members.

Now a Special Forces team sergeant, Jonathan continues to lead through humble service to others His highest calling is to inspire those he leads to live up to their potential—to include seeking care and developing skills to better manage the impacts of invisible and often repetitive traumas. He is pursuing a doctorate in behavioral health from Arizona State University. Jonathan continues to work toward improving health integration in the military as well as for nurses and firefighters within his own community.

Maya Herzog, 2017 Tillman Scholar

Maya Herzog was featured in an article from Mirage News discussing her journey from military veteran to Maverick biologist.

During her undergraduate studies, Maya joined a project as a research assistant working closely with Marines that sustained a traumatic brain injury from blast exposure during their deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. One day, on her way to the field to evaluate service members, Maya was introduced to the biology Ph.D. program at UTA and the potential to do behavior research on the broad-horned flour beetle in the Demuth Lab. While studying this model organism, she made an exciting connection.

The male flour-beetles exhibit a highly-stereotyped behavior where losers of traumatic encounters demonstrate behavior that parallels symptoms related to PTSD, in a very fundamental way. Her research aims to elucidate the genetic foundations of these behaviors and determine the molecular basis of what causes the “switch to flip” between normal behavior and this PTSD-like “shut down.” Maya chose to study animal behavior because of the impact her research can make on a global scale. As a woman of color and a military veteran studying the molecular basis of behavior, Maya represent a minority demographic and can be instrumental in bringing diversity to the STEM field.

Safi Rauf, 2020 Tillman Scholar

Safi Rauf was a guest on the podcast The Problem with Jon Stewart discussing being kidnapped by the Taliban and his efforts to rescue Afghan Allies.

Safi is a humanitarian, a 2021 Washingtonian of the Year, a TED fellow, and the founder of Human First Coalition–an organization dedicated to providing critically needed aid to Afghanistan. For the past year, Safi has led a team of hundreds to provide food, medical care, and resettlement services to over 15,000 Afghans in need and evacuated over 7,000, including 1,400 US Nationals. In December 2021, Safi was unlawfully detained and held by the Taliban for 105 days and was subsequently released in early April 2022.

An Afghan refugee, Safi immigrated to the US as a teenager and graduated high school in Omaha, Nebraska. Thereafter, he deployed to Afghanistan as a linguist and cultural advisor embedded with Special Operations and later graduated as a Tillman Scholar from Georgetown University. Simultaneously, Safi enlisted in the US Navy Reserves as a corpsman and was activated in April 2020 to serve as a frontline worker during the pandemic. Following his detention in Afghanistan, Safi has renewed his commitment to aid work in Afghanistan and worldwide and is, in particular, working towards the passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act.

Phillip Jones, 2020 Tillman Scholar

Phillip Jones has declared victory in Newport mayoral race, featured in Newport News.

As the son of two Air Force pilots, Phillip uniquely grew up around the globe. He was blessed to develop friendships that extended across cultures, religions and creeds, defining an ever-evolving worldview. However, his heart always counted Hampton Roads, Virginia as its home; the place where his parents retired from active duty and where Phillip learned the true meaning of duty and sacrifice.

After 9/11, Phillip resolved to follow in the footsteps of his family and attended the U.S. Naval Academy where he served as the brigade sergeant major and graduated as a Burke Scholar with a bachelor of science in history. Upon graduation, Philip was honored to be designated an infantry officer in the Marine Corps and led his Marines on deployments on multiple continents.

Returning home from his deployments, Phillip witnessed a widening economic disparity between his hometown and the rest of Virginia. He believes that the importance of local city governance cannot be understated and that critical economic issues must first be solved at the municipal level.

Kate Kozain, 2022 Tillman Scholar

Kate Kozain was feature by Proctor Academy for her service to others, her education, and her future career pursuits.

Kate began her military career as a Medical Service Corps Officer in the Army where she intended to serve veterans with post traumatic stress as a physician. However, her focus shifted from medicine and working with combat veterans to law and working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence.

Kate first became aware of these issues when friends, family members, and strangers confided in her about their own abuse, starting when she was fourteen years old. Her Army sponsored service trip to Burundi and her deployment to Afghanistan were other eye-opening experiences that exposed her to the complexities and prevalence of gender and sexual violence globally. Her experiences overseas influenced her career change to pursuing a proactive career in combating sexual and domestic violence here in the United States.

While serving, Kate volunteered as a Victim Advocate for the Army’s Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Prevention Program. She served in the position since 2017 and advocated for survivors of sexual harassment and assault. Kate left active-duty to pursue her law degree at the University of North Carolina School of Law. She aspires to become a criminal prosecutor for a District Attorney’s Office or for the Department of Justice. Kate’s ultimate goal is to bring justice to perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence and to help shift our culture surrounding these issues.