Tillman Scholars Halli Stewart, left, and Rae Anne Frey were recognized before a September UWM soccer match on the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. (UWM Photo/Mike Gryniewicz)
For Halli Stewart, it’s all about service.
First, it was service to her country through the military, and now it’s service to the education profession as she works on her doctorate in urban education at SOE.
So, it’s fitting that Stewart was UWM and Wisconsin’s second recipient of the Pat Tillman scholarship. Stewart a Racine native who served for five years as a combat medic in the U.S. Army after joining the reserves at age 17, came to UWM to earn her master’s in administrative leadership. She was named a Tillman Scholar for 2015 in June.
The scholarship is named for the late Pat Tillman, who put a pro football career on hold to serve in the military and died in Afghanistan.
Stewart says she is awed by the work that the national network of Tillman Scholars are doing, and proud to be part of it.
“It’s a very, very cool thing. It’s a very interesting group of people working together to make the world a better place and give back.”
Idealism led her to the military. “When I was ten, I went to visit my sister and brother-in-law in California where he was stationed in the army. It was just like I knew in a moment that was what I wanted to do because it was so intriguing to me.” After enlisting at age 17, she served as a combat medic for five years.
After her son, now 15, was born she decided to leave the military because she found it too difficult to be away from him. She decided to become a teacher, though, because of her experiences in the army. “I was an instructor and realized I really liked teaching and presenting.”
She earned her bachelor’s in communication and teacher education at UW-Parkside, began working for the Racine Unified School District and went on to get a master’s in reading at Alverno.
She decided she wanted to learn more about administration and leadership so she came to UWM for a master’s degree, also earning licenses as a principal, director of instruction and director of special education and pupil services – all the while working full-time and raising her son.
“About halfway through, I decided I wanted to keep going and applied for the urban education doctoral program. It’s been a little bit of a challenge parenting and going to school full-time and working full-time. But I like to stay busy.”
Stewart finished her master’s degree in August, and started the doctoral program in September.
She was attracted to UWM because of its strong focus on urban education, an area where she was already working. She liked the fact that the campus was veteran-friendly. In fact, she heard about the Tillman scholarship through a mailing from the campus veteran’s center. (UWM serves more veterans than any four-year institution in the six-state surrounding area).
The Tillman scholarship, designed for active duty service members, veterans and their spouses, is a great help financially She also has the support of her son and her partner, who is currently working on a master’s degree in social work.
“I think my son really understands the bigger picture – that education is important. He was fairly small when I went for my undergrad, and nine when I got my (first) master’s. He might be conditioned that I’m always going to be in school.”
In addition to the financial support of the Tillman scholarship, however, she appreciates the networking and examples of the other scholars. Over the summer, for example, the group met in Chicago to work on service projects and she ended up helping build a fishing deck and bench in an urban park.
“I think Pat Tillman’s legacy as someone who wanted to serve and keep giving back is a great legacy. Everyone involved in the organization has that in common – they are involved in causes and want to do bigger things – not because they have to, but that’s where their passion is.”
Her own passion is in education. Eventually, she says, she’d like to become an administrator in an urban school district and, perhaps, an adjunct faculty member at a university like UWM.
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