Tillman Scholars in the News

Blog | 06/04/2021

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.

Kristi Pelzel, 2019 Tillman Scholar

Kristi Pelzel became a fully accredited White House Correspondent at Today News Africa, which she adds alongside her United Nations and State Department press credentials.

Months after her son was born, her husband deployed. During this time, they discovered their son had a debilitating illness. Along the way, Kristi found a passion for visual communications and journalism, which have enabled her to support community and volunteer projects parallel to building a career. Her desire for growth in this field led her to earn a B.A. in Digital Technologies from Academy of Art University and an M.A. from Georgetown University in Communication, Culture, Technology.

The thematic purpose of her life of service and education followed her at every stop along the way, leading her into international journalism, enabling her to travel abroad and report from the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, and The White House in Washington, D.C.

Sadia Ali Heil, 2020 Tillman Scholar

Sadia Ali Heil authored a piece on The Warhorse called “Remembering the Service and Sacrifice of Muslim Veterans Among the Crescents and Stars of Arlington National Cemetery.”

Sadia’s passion for advocacy has inspired her to pursue a master’s in special education. The mental and emotional grit required to support and champion for her own child has increased Sadia’s desire to work in the field of early childhood special education in school, home, and community settings. Her vision is that of an inclusive world—one that sees people for their strengths and values their differences.

Dr. Maggie Smith, 2011 Tillman Scholar

Dr. Maggie Smith published an editorial piece titled “The Colonial Pipeline Hack Shows We Need a Better Federal Cybersecurity Ecosystem” for Modern War Institute.

Maggie originally enlisted in the Army in 2004 to complete her undergraduate education but serving quickly became a passion and turned into a career. She is a trained senior watch officer, cyberspace operations planner and offensive cyberspace operations mission commander. Maggie is also a volunteer and advocate for previvors – women and men who inherit the BRCA 1 or 2 genetic mutation putting them at extremely high risk for developing breast, ovarian, or prostate cancer during their lifetimes. Sharing her personal experiences with preventive surgery, as a result of being BRCA 2 positive, with others facing a similar choice is a huge part of her life and personal healing process.