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U.S. Navy Service Member Wins Prestigious Tillman Scholarship

November 9, 2018 Sean Cooke (SFS’21), who is part of the U.S. Navy Seaman to Admiral 21 Program, is one of two Georgetown student veterans awarded the competitive 2018 Tillman Scholarship for strength in character and academic excellence.

Major: Regional studies

Hometown: York, Pennsylvania

Military experience: Cooke served in the U.S. Navy for a decade as a member of the Naval Special Warfare community. He spent a year-and-a-half in Afghanistan conducting contingency operations and two years working with interagency partners in Central America.

Languages spoken: Persian and Spanish; minoring in Persian at Georgetown.

Path to the military: Cooke began his college career in 2004 as a political science major at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, but after learning he was going to be a new father, he transferred to York College to be closer to home.

“Working full-time and studying at York, I found myself distracted, lacking discipline and struggling to excel in an academic environment,” he recalls. “A trusted friend who recently had become a Navy SEAL confronted me regarding my failure to live up to my potential.”

The friend recommended Cooke consider joining the Navy. With his new family in mind, he enlisted in 2007.

Why he chose Georgetown: The student says he was motivated to pursue a degree in Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service after encountering complex international problems during his service in the military.

“I was attracted to Georgetown because of its reputation as a diverse and prestigious university,” he says. “I felt that I owed it to my community to pursue a high-caliber education, since I only get one shot at an impactful bachelor’s degree.”

Returning to college: Cooke had concerns about returning to academic life.  

“Georgetown can be a pretty intimidating place to pursue studies, academically and financially,” he adds. “But all through the admission process and my experience as a student, I have felt like the staff and faculty not only want me here, but want to make sure I succeed while I’m here.”

Now a married father of a daughter and two sons, Cooke still finds time to be active on campus.

Campus activities: Cooke is a member of the Capital Battalion Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC), and volunteers as a leadership mentor for the Georgetown football team and the sports performance department.

“I talk to student athletes and coaches about building positive habits, team building and discipline,” Cooke explains. “It’s an opportunity for me to share with the student-athletes what I have learned through my military career and life experiences.”  

Student veteran and military community: Cooke works with Georgetown’s Veterans Office to help engage the university’s nearly 1,200 military-connected students.

“I believe it was Sean’s talent, perseverance and dedication that not only got him to Georgetown, but also got him the Tillman Scholarship,” says LeNaya Hazel, director of the veterans office at Georgetown. “He is eager to encourage and empower service members and veterans to apply to rigorous institutions of higher education.”