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Tillman Scholars celebrate, remember Pat's legacy

April 14, 2011

Michael Mokwa, a marketing professor at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, is dedicated to helping his students “become more confident, competent and comfortable people.”

“No matter what situations my students are going to confront, I want to know that they can collaborate with others to create needed changes,” he said. He does this everyday as the Pat Tillman Foundation Distinguished Professor for the Tillman Scholars-ASU Leadership Through Action program at Arizona State University.

The Tillman Scholars-ASU program was established in 2005 after the Pat Tillman Foundation pledged $1.25 million to ASU, Tillman’s alma mater, to create and endow the program. It celebrates Tillman’s legacy and his leadership and motivational skills on and off the field. The program provides an educational experience that brings students, faculty and community leaders together in discussions and exercises. It seeks to inspire and support exceptional students who strive to promote positive change in themselves and the world. Pat’s Run on Saturday in Tempe also celebrates Tillman’s life and legacy.

“Pat was the most intriguing undergraduate college student I’ve ever met,” Mokwa said. “And part of it is that he just had this amazing sense of intellectual and practical curiosity. He wanted to learn about everything. And, he was always a ‘step-up’ guy.  When no one was talking in class, and it was an important discussion, Pat would initiate the discussion. When the team on the football field wasn’t very inspired or motivated, Pat would step in and inspire and motivate his fellow players.”

“He was an everyday, everywhere leader.”

About 14 students are selected each year for the program that is open to current ASU freshman and sophomores who are W. P. Carey School of Business majors, Barrett, the Honors College students, student athletes or student veterans. Once accepted into the program, students begin an intense experience that centers around personal development and community action. They read Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer and discuss materials about personal development, social entrepreneurship, becoming change agents and transformative leaders. “They discuss dealing with incredibly challenging issues to which there might be no answers, but that we need to confront,” Mokwa said.

The Tillman Scholars-ASU also participate in community service projects such as volunteering at Ronald McDonald houses, interacting with veterans and helping out during “Haircut Day” at Saint Vincent de Paul. Each student also creates a proposal for a service project that they will put into action, ranging from planning events to founding non-profit organizations.

One of this year’s students, Gabriella Kissinger, is a sophomore majoring in kinesiology and psychology. Her project focuses on sexual assault, informing students about how to prevent sexual assault and providing resources for survivors. She organized an event called “I ALWAYS Get Consent” to raise awareness for her cause.

“Being a Tillman Scholar has had a tremendous impact on my personal experience and goals. Our different class assignments, presentations and discussions with the rest of the class have really pushed me to look internally,” she explained.

Another Tillman Scholar-ASU, Yu Hin “Jeffrey” Lam, is currently a sophomore majoring in accounting and minoring in Mandarin-Chinese. “After graduating and passing the CPA exam, I hope to take my skills and experiences to pursue a career at one of the big four accounting firms, especially to align with their growth in Asia,” Lam said.

Throughout his experience emigrating to America as a child from Hong Kong, Lam has faced struggles as an immigrant, English learner, first-generation college student and developing Asian professional. His project as a Tillman Scholar-ASU seeks to address these issues by starting a chapter of a national organization called Ascend at ASU. The organization will serve as a resource for Asian immigrants and their families.

“The Tillman Scholars-ASU program has become a family to me. Through this program, I have developed some of the most amazing friendships; these are people who I can trust and we are always there to help each other out,” Lam said.

“Whenever I am in a hardship or troubling situation, I think of Pat Tillman’s values of dedication with his team and country, and his perseverance as a source of inspiration and motivation to overcome those obstacles no matter what.”