Engineering doctoral student named 2022 Tillman Scholar
Brandi Wooten wanted to be a Tillman Scholar so badly that she applied to the program twice. After her first application was rejected, she reached out to former scholars for their input on her application.
“They told me, ‘This is what you have to think about: Who do you want to serve in the future? What community do you want to serve? How do you link that to your past? How are you the best person for that job?’” she said. “It really got me thinking and then out of that came my essays, and I guess I did a good job.”
Wooten, a doctoral student at The Ohio State University on track to complete a PhD in materials science and engineering in December of 2023, is one of 60 U.S. service members, veterans and military spouses chosen as 2022 Tillman Scholars. She enlisted in the National Guard in 2008 as a way to receive financial support for her bachelor’s degree. A North Carolina native, Wooten was deployed to California as a military police officer. She also served in Afghanistan, training Afghan police from 2010-2011. She spent six years in the National Guard.
The Tillman Scholars Program supports the nation’s active-duty service members, veterans and military spouses by investing in them through education, lifelong leadership development and a global community of high-performing peers and mentors to help them develop as leaders and make an impact at both a local and global scale. Scholars receive funding to pursue higher education and to continue their service in the fields of health care, business, law, public service, STEM, education and the humanities.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Brandi Wooten as one of the 60 veterans and military spouses as part of our global Tillman Scholar community,” said Dan Futrell, Pat Tillman Foundation chief executive officer and a 2011 Tillman Scholar. “We believe that veterans and military spouses like Brandi are uniquely positioned to fill the leadership gap that our society faces. It’s our honor to support Brandi in making an impact at The Ohio State University as they grow as leaders and enter their next chapter.”
Wooten has relocated to Maryland for an internship with the Department of Defense. The scholarship funds will make a difference in her cost-of-living adjustment, allowing her to focus on her work.
“When I was an undergrad, I worked as a server and a grader, so undergrad was really stressful,” she said. “Having those extra funds is great.”
In addition to supporting her academic work, Wooten sees the Tillman Scholarship Program as a way to become a better leader when the time comes. She hopes to embody many of the values for which Pat Tillman became famous. Tillman played football for Arizona State University and the Arizona Cardinals before enlisting in the United States Army after the September 11th terrorist attack. He was killed in action in 2004.
“I’m not in a position of power right now,” she said, “but once I graduate, I will have some influence. I can change the way the places I’m working at are run. I can change the atmosphere because I’ll have a ‘PhD’ behind my name.”
Bettering her community was important to Wooten during her time in Columbus. She is a member of the Major Lawrence Miller Military Community Advocate Program, serving as an advocate for female veterans.
“Basically, I’m their first point of contact,” Wooten said. “If they want to be in touch with someone, if they’re having problems with the GI Bill, I hook them up with resources. The MCA program is amazing.”
Marie Tillman, board chair and co-founder of the foundation, said she gets to know each new class of Tillman Scholars.
“It means so much to see them continue to carry Pat’s legacy and values forward, in fields as diverse as medicine, music, architecture and geoscience,” she said. “Brandi exemplifies the values and leadership that Pat lived by, and we can’t wait to see what they do at Ohio State University.”
In 2014, mechanical engineering alumnus Greg Freisinger became Ohio State's first Tillman Scholar. He earned his PhD in 2015 and is currently an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy.
Nine Ohio State students have been named Tillman Scholars since 2014. Learn more about them here.
by Franny Lazarus, Ohio State News