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.
Nate Jester was accepted to LEAD Atlanta Class of 2024. LEAD Atlanta is an intensive eight-month leadership development and community education program targeted at promising young professionals in Metro Atlanta.
Nate had a few goals when he left Atlanta, Georgia at age 18: to see the world, to be a Marine like his father and to learn to lead. The first stop on his journey was the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated with honors and a B.S. in Political Science and Economics.Next, in the Marine Corps, where Nate served five years in the infantry, his goals evolved as he learned the value of selfless service, problem solving and teamwork.
Nearly a decade after his departure from Atlanta, Nate plans to return home and dedicate his life to serving the community that raised him using the tools he has picked up along the way.
With this goal in mind, Harvard Law School became the next stop on the journey. Law school has given Nate the words to describe the issues of education, crime and poverty he witnessed growing up and an understanding of the legal and political systems that perpetuate those issues.
Katherine O’Connell co-wrote an article, Moderating roles of grit and locus of control on rumination and suicidality, that was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.
Even as a youth, Kat enthusiastically embraced adventure and education. She embarked on a college degree younger than most and graduated at 17, aware of how little she knew of “real life.” Like her father before her, she enlisted in the Army and received training as an intelligence analyst. Three years later, Kat was painfully jarred into real life when onsite for the Pentagon attacks of 9/11.
With renewed purpose, 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.
While studying international conflict issues at Stanford University in 2005, John felt an intense calling to work on the ground with people in need. He left his schooling behind to work with FORGE, an agency serving refugees of the recent civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DCR). For sixteen months he lived in refugee camps along the DRC border, setting up solar powered computer education centers and training Congolese staff.
John’s life path took a turn as he learned firsthand about the role of natural resources in creating the conditions for conflict in the DRC. Understanding how the consumption of materials in one part of the world can so drastically impact lives in another became the driving motivation behind his studies, career and everyday life. Dedicated to aligning societal and environmental goals, John has moved from international climate policy to management of recycling programs to leading an urban food tech nonprofit in his hometown of Chicago; a career path with increasingly local focus, motivated by global ecological concern.
In order to investigate cutting-edge environmental solutions, John decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He simultaneously followed a lifelong calling to military service, enlisting in the Illinois Army National Guard in 2015 as a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) Specialist. He served for two years in a Chicago-based unit and is now pursuing officer candidacy. John feels his civilian and military work share an all-important mission: build local resilience through global understanding.
Jonathan Lu recently presented his research at the Special Operations Medical Scientific Assembly.
A first-generation immigrant with an American dream, Jonathan enlisted in the U.S. Army as a combat medic in 2003. During two deployments in Iraq, Jonathan lamented on his lack of training to identify and initially manage behavioral health concerns that his patients often presented in clinic. Frustrated with attempts to seek behavioral healthcare for his patients while deployed, Jonathan resolved to one day effect needed change and improve care for all soldiers.
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.