Home Online Learning Announcing the 2019 Student, Alumni and Student Organization Award Winners
Announcing the 2019 Student, Alumni and Student Organization Award Winners

Announcing the 2019 Student, Alumni and Student Organization Award Winners


By Melanie Conner, American Public University System Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison, and David E. Hubler, Quality Assurance Editor

Congratulations to our 2019 student organization, academic scholar, alumni, James P. Etter and President’s award winners! We are proud of you for your significant contributions to your community and to our university. It’s with great pride that we honor each of these organizations and individuals for their distinguished service, their merit, and their commitment to going the extra mile.

Related link: Faculty Award winners

Outstanding Campus Leader Award: April Cuthbertson Carter, James Rippy and Jacob Nixon

The 2019 recipients of the Outstanding Student Organization Leadership Award are April Cuthbertson, James Rippy and Jacob Nixon. This award recognizes student leaders who have contributed significantly to an organization, going above and beyond to engage members.

April Cuthbertson Carter

In 2018, April Cuthbertson Carter was president of Phi Alpha Delta, Interim President of the Criminology Club, Secretary of the Psychology Club and Webmaster of the Model UN Club, all of which achieved Gold Status in 2018.

She was a member of the 2018 Mock Trial team placing eighth at the P.A.D. Pre-Law Conference and was Head delegate at the 2018 National Model UN Delegate Conference in D.C., earning an honorable mention for her position paper alongside partner Henry Bukurson.

April is a member of Active Minds, Alpha Phi Sigma, Political Science Scholars, Golden Key International Honour Society, Saber and Scroll Historical Society, and the Society for Collegiate Leadership and Achievement.

James Rippy

James is the President of the APUS Sigma Iota Rho chapter. He is also a member of the Model UN Club, Golden Key International Honour Society, Broken Shield-Wounded Veterans Society, Order of the Sword and Shield, Pi Gamma Mu and Student Veterans of America.

After retiring from the U.S. Air Force as a Master Sergeant, he became a full-time student where his campus organization interests grew. He eventually helped the Model UN Club earn Honorable Mention Delegation, Best Position Paper at the club’s first conference, and APUS’s outstanding new student organization.

Jacob “Jake” Nixon

Jake is a member of numerous student organizations, including serving as president of the Pre-Law Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, Golden Key International Honour Society, The Society for Collegiate Leadership & Achievement, Delta Mu Delta, and Sigma Beta Delta.

As a supportive and outstanding leadership team member for the Pre-Law Chapter of Phi Alpha Delta, Jake has worked diligently to ensure that the chapter continues to build upon its past success and that its leadership is cohesive, connected and operates smoothly.

Jake also served as chapter secretary and has demonstrated that he is more than just a fine writer and communicator. Through his efforts, hard work and dedication, he has been able to reintegrate members who had lost touch with the chapter.

Chapter Advisor of the Year Award: Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone

This award is presented to an individual who sets a high standard and provides exemplary service to the organization he or she serves and its leadership team.

Dr. Novadean Watson-Stone has served as chapter advisor for the CompTIA Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) organization since its establishment in 2014.

She is program director for the undergraduate and graduate information technology programs at AMU and APU. She has over 18 years of experience in the IT field. Dr. Watson-Stone recently published blog posts, Why Effective Soft Skills Matter in All Organizations and How Much Do Your Electronic Devices Talk to Strangers?

She has also presented research on Collective Intelligence, which is a cross-chapter networking effort used to inform the CompTIA APUS Chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP), the Epsilon Pi Tau (EPT), and the International Honor Society for Technology Professionals members on developments in collective intelligence.

Chapter of the Year Award: Active Minds

The Chapter of the Year Award recognizes an organization that has exemplified outstanding achievements in leadership, engagement, service and commemoration. The Active Minds chapter advisors are Dr. Kimberlee Ratliff, Janet Athanasiou and Dr. Mary Ellen Cooper.

Active Minds’ goal is to empower students to speak openly about mental health to educate others and encourage seeking help when needed; to increase awareness of issues surrounding mental health and symptoms of mental health disorders; and to provide mental health resources for university community members.

The chapter was involved in many service-oriented events during 2018. One of the highlights of the year was engaging with students, faculty and staff in the inaugural Suicide Prevention Awareness Week Symposium. Sessions taught how to recognize warning signs, engage in self-care for personal wellness, support survivors of suicide, use the VAR method (validate, appreciate, refer) to talk to a friend and explore suicide from a military perspective. Active Minds also helped sponsor Rise against Hunger, National Day of Service, Involvement in the Giving Tuesday Campaign and Stress Less Week.

Outstanding New Student Organization Award: Model UN

The Model United Nations is the 2019 recipient of the Outstanding New Student Organization Award. This award recognizes a recently established student organization that exhibits initiative in organizational development and a strong potential to contribute to the quality of campus life. The Model UN chapter advisors are James Barney, Mily Kao and Paula Wylie.

The purpose of this organization is to give its members opportunities to learn about the bodies, functions and methods of the United Nations through first-hand experiences. In the short time since being chartered, the Model UN has been a part of several initiatives such as the National Model UN Delegate Conference in Washington, D.C., Wreaths across America and Thanking Those Who Serve.

2019 Alumni Service Award: Hwal Lee

This award recognizes an alumnus who dedicates personal time and energy to the community and uses the education and experiences gained at APUS to promote public service causes.

Hwal Lee is an APUS University Ambassador and a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. He earned his Bachelor of Science in Sports and Health Sciences from APU in 2017 with a 4.0 GPA. He was the recipient of the Undergraduate President’s Award. He is currently pursuing a Master of Science in Physician Assistants at Jefferson College of Health Sciences.

Hwal was awarded the Physicians Assistant Foundation’s inaugural Mental Health Outreach Fellowship in February 2018, becoming a nationally certified Mental Health First Aid instructor. To date, he has delivered pro bono training sessions for over 200 community members who learned how to recognize risk factors and early warning signs and symptoms of mental and substance use disorders.

As a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholar,  Hwal will be working with communities that have limited access to healthcare in an NHSC-approved Health Professional Shortage Area upon graduation.

Distinguished Graduate Award: Ernest “Tony” Gonzales

 Master Chief Petty Officer Ernest “Tony” Gonzales is the recipient of the 2019 Distinguished Graduate Award, which recognizes graduates who have made extraordinary contributions to the nation and their community. It honors character, accomplishment and service that represent the university’s mission of service and leadership in a diverse global society.

In 2018, Tony was selected as a National Security Fellow for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), a nonprofit, nonpartisan institute in Washington, D.C. focused on foreign policy and national security. The same year, he was elected Community Representative for the City of San Antonio’s Head Start Policy Council, overseeing a budget of over $28.6 million for early childhood education.

Tony recently founded the Tony Gonzales Foundation. The nonprofit focuses on empowering and encouraging growth and development in impoverished areas of San Antonio by uniting local businesses, schools, and families. He previously served on Capitol Hill as a Department of Defense Legislative Fellow in the U.S. Senate, where he contributed to the defense, foreign policy and intelligence portfolios.

Academic Scholar Awards

Twelve graduates from the class of 2019 received the Academic Scholar Award for their superior academic achievements in earning an AMU or APU degree. They exhibited high levels of engagement and rapport with instructors and peers, had consistent participation in discussion forums, showed leadership in the classroom, and maintained a high grade point average throughout their program:

  • Matthew Pruitt, Undergraduate, School of Arts and Humanities
  • Dawn Warren, Undergraduate, School of Business
  • Alexandra Moore, Undergraduate, School of Education
  • Whitney Rice, Undergraduate, School of Health Sciences
  • Faris A., Undergraduate, School of Security and Global Studies
  • Julie Cheney, Undergraduate, School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
  • Adam McDermott, Graduate, School of Arts and Humanities
  • Leah Ritz, Graduate, School of Business
  • Jacob Henry, Graduate, School of Education
  • Mark Bramblett, Graduate, School of Health Sciences
  • Chancellor Leonard, Graduate, School of Security and Global Studies
  • Johnny Ferguson, Graduate, School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math

James. P. Etter Award

Established in 2004, this award is presented annually to a member of the university community in recognition of an innovative or creative contribution that has made a significant impact on their community, industry or the world around us.

Jason Bakas is this year’s recipient of the James P. Etter award. Jason’s work, both academically and professionally, has advanced the application of forensic violence risk assessment instruments in law enforcement. He has developed policies to use these tools as intelligence threat metrics in organized crime and counter-terrorism, specifically on lone-actor terrorist operations. These tools give law enforcement a better understanding of who is at an increased risk of engaging in violence. The tools also establish more effective targeting priorities.

Jason has also been awarded the International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysis’ (IALEIA) Jorge Espejel-Contreras Scholarship and the Mackenzie Institute’s Langley Hope Academic Excellence in Security and Defense Commentary Award. Further, he has presented at numerous academic and professional conferences on the topic. Jason is passionate about public safety and continues his work in developing this discipline.

President’s Award

The President’s Award recognizes two graduating students, one undergraduate and one graduate, who have distinguished themselves academically and made significant contributions to their nation and/or their community. The award recognizes their commitment to service, scholastic achievement, outstanding character and leadership.

Bryan Cutler (graduate award) and Christopher Parks (undergraduate award) are the winners of this year’s President’s Award.

Bryan Cutler is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society. He graduated with a 4.0 GPA and has been on the President’s Honors List from 2017 to 2019.

As a Deputy U.S. Marshal, Bryan has conducted investigations all over the country. In 2006, Bryan volunteered to assist with the development and implementation of a new sex offender investigations program at the United States Marshals Service (USMS). Bryan has recovered 12 critically missing children who were at an elevated risk of danger if not located as soon as possible and arrested their abductors.

In 2018, Bryan was promoted to Sex Offender Program Coordinator, responsible for the Florida/Caribbean region. Additionally, Bryan is a certified adjunct instructor. He has provided training and instruction to federal, state and local law enforcement and attorneys on sex offender investigations, and has represented the USMS as a guest speaker at national and international conferences and symposiums.

Christopher Parks has served in the security industry since 2012. He is an Agent-in-Charge for Constellis, where he oversees protective security operations at the United States Embassy in Baghdad. Before his private sector work, Christopher served as an active-duty Marine from 2004 to 2012. He was deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan and served as a martial arts and a combat instructor in Quantico, Virginia.

Christopher completed his Bachelor’s in Homeland Security at AMU with a 4.0 GPA and is currently working on his master’s in Emergency and Disaster Management at AMU. Christopher plans to begin working on a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice before the end of the year. Christopher is a member of Pi Gamma Mu, Order of the Sword and Shield, Broken Shield-Wounded Veterans Society, Student Veterans of America, and the Homeland Security Network.

Please join us in congratulating the recipients of the 2019 Chapter Standards and Alumni Awards. Their dedication to excellence and their selfless commitments are what we value in our students and in our alumni. We are proud of the APUS values that they demonstrate in their daily lives.



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