Tillman Scholars in the News

Blog, Tillman Scholars in the News | 06/16/2023

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.

Natasha Ryan, 2018 Tillman Scholar

Natasha Ryan was selected to the Assistant SECARMY Women’s Initiatives Team, which is composed of representatives from across the Army who will advocate for Army policy, programs and resource changes.

Natasha joined the Army in July 1999 as an Administrative Specialist and Postal Clerk. Early in her career, she deployed to Bosnia, Kuwait and Pakistan, where she supported humanitarian aid efforts through the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. But a chance meeting with two female Big Windy pilots motivated Natasha to pursue a new path in Army aviation.

In 2007, Natasha submitted her flight packet and started training. In her first assignment after flight school, she served with the 4th Infantry Division and deployed with A Co. 2-4 to Regional Command-North for a year in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Immediately following the deployment, the unit was moved to Fort Bliss, TX and stood up 1AD CAB. There, Natasha served in C Co. 2-4 and deployed back to Regional Command-North for nine months where she evacuated injured service members.

Still actively serving, Natasha’s experiences as an aviation safety officer and as a military pilot have inspired her to do more to ensure service members have safe passage to accomplish their mission. With a graduate degree in Occupational Safety Management, she hopes to influence organizations such as the FAA and NTSB to research and lobby for safer protocols in civil and military aviation standards.

Seth Kastle, 2016 Tillman Scholar

Seth Kastle was selected for the George W. Bush Stand-To Veterans Leadership Program.

After returning home from his second deployment in 2004, Seth struggled greatly and admits he was in denial for several years that the problems he was facing were related to PTSD.  Finally, in 2011, he sought help for himself and his family, realizing he had to make a change or lose everything. His personal struggles, both as a veteran and parent to daughters who only knew a “post-war” father, led him to write the children’s book Why Is Dad So Mad? A Book About PTSD And Military Families.  The book – which explains PTSD to children – has made its way into a great deal of military family households. Though he retired in 2014, this sense of service above self was without question the most important lesson that Seth took from his military career. The Army taught him to follow his passion and that in doing this there are no limits to what can be accomplished.

Now, as a faculty member in the Department of Leadership Studies at Fort Hays State University, he has had the opportunity to pass along his passion for civic engagement through both academic discipline and classroom interaction. As he pursues his Ed.D. in Leadership in Higher Education from Baker University, he is focusing his teaching as much as possible on service learning activities; he strives to create a citizenry educated in the importance of civic engagement. After completing his doctorate, Seth plans to pursue appointment on the Veterans Claims Assistance Program (VCAP) Advisory Board through the Kansas Commission of Veterans Affairs. Through this office, he wants to have higher levels of influence regarding policy and benefits for Kansas’ veterans.

Lindsey Erdmann, 2021 Tillman Scholar

Lindsey Erdmann started a new position as the Budget and Evaluation Analyst for Policy and Engagement at the the City of Minneapolis. 

After uniformed service, Lindsey transitioned to serving her community. Following earning a bachelor’s in social work from the University of St. Thomas, she served with organizations focused on youth mentorship, criminal justice, housing, and mental health. A common thread throughout this work is the foundational need for safe, stable housing to allow people to live with dignity, self-determination, and prosperity. These experiences have inspired Lindsey to work towards dismantling structural inequities within the housing system that hold people captive rather than providing an avenue for true freedom.

Drawing parallels between the marginalization of women in the military and other oppressed communities, Lindsey knows that intersectional policies and systems are vital components for creating environments for all people and communities to thrive. Lindsey will pursue a master’s of public policy and a minor in integrative leadership at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. Her goal is to continue making an impact with a career in public service by better understanding the social, political, and economic systems that drive housing inequality in order to develop sustainable, community-centered housing solutions to end housing insecurity in her community.

Chris Bellaire, 2021 Tillman Scholar

Chris Bellaire received the Mount Sinai Alumni Student Leadership Award.

Chris is a Marine Corps veteran and medical student at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Chris graduated from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs in 2011. He served as an intelligence officer in the Marine Corps for four years, with deployments to Japan and the southern Philippines. During his deployment to the southern Philippines in 2017, an ISIS-aligned terrorist group attacked and took over the city of Marawi, killing hundreds of people and creating a humanitarian crisis of 300,000 internally displaced persons. Chris was part of the Special Operations task force that spearheaded the U.S. mission: to advise and assist host-nation partners on counterterrorism operations against the ISIS threat.

From this experience, Chris took to heart the human consequences of war and poverty and the disparities in global healthcare access. Following his service in the Marines, Chris attended Columbia University’s post-baccalaureate pre-medical program before starting medical school at Mount Sinai. Chris is committed to advocating for veterans’ health in his medical training and future career as a physician, and he hopes to increase awareness within the medical community about how military service can affect veterans’ physical and mental health later in life. Chris volunteers with the educational non-profit Service to School to encourage veterans to pursue careers in medicine, and he is the leader of the military medicine and veterans healthcare group at Mount Sinai.