Home Editor's Pick 2020 Student, Alumni and Student Organization Award Winners
2020 Student, Alumni and Student Organization Award Winners

2020 Student, Alumni and Student Organization Award Winners


By Amy Everson, Senior Manager, Student and Alumni Affairs and Janet Athanasiou, Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison, APUS

Congratulations to our 2020 student organization, academic scholar, alumni, Dr. Wallace E. Boston Leadership and President’s Award winners! We are proud of you for your significant contributions to your community and 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.

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Related link: Faculty Award winners

Outstanding Campus Leader Award: Sarah Alden and Jacob Nixon

The 2020 recipients of the Outstanding Student Organization Leadership Award are Sarah Alden and Jacob Nixon. This award recognizes student leaders who have contributed significantly to an organization, going above and beyond to engage members.

Sarah Alden

Sarah Alden will graduate in June 2020 from American Public University with a GPA of 3.94, a master’s degree in information technology and a concentration in project management. Sarah served as the secretary and the administrative cornerstone for the APUS chapter of CompTIA Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) for two years.

Throughout this time, Sarah gave her full spirit and support to the leadership team and kept 119 members abreast of career opportunities. Sarah also assisted AITP members in setting goals, developing contacts, identifying resources and presenting webinars. Her industrious manner, foresight, and planning abilities resulted in AITP receiving gold medal status in 2018 and 2019.

Jacob “Jake” Nixon

Jake is a member of numerous student organizations on campus, including his service as the past president of the Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity. Currently holding a 3.8 GPA, he has held a spot on the Dean’s Honors List for 2017, 2018 and 2019.

As a supportive and outstanding leadership team member for Phi Alpha Delta, Jake has worked diligently to ensure that the chapter continues to build upon its past success. He also ensures Phi Alpha Delta’s leadership is cohesive and connected, as well as operating smoothly.

In 2019, he was recognized by Phi Alpha Delta as a recipient of the Frank McCown Outstanding Pre-Law Chapter President Award. Jake also received the Outstanding Communications Award for the AMU/APU Chapter.

Chapter Advisor of the Year Award: Allison G.S. Knox

 This university 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.

Allison G. S. Knox has served as the chapter sponsor and faculty advisor for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu and faculty advisor for Political Science Scholars. In addition to helping to manage the multiple projects and programs Pi Gamma Mu offers, Allison facilitates monthly meetings for the West Virginia Iota Chapter officers and oversees their elections and votes.

Just in the past year alone, Pi Gamma Mu was awarded the Roll of Distinction. It was named a Star Chapter and in the top 10 ranking for membership in 2019 from the national organization of Pi Gamma Mu.

Allison currently teaches fire science and emergency management courses and also serves as a contributor to the EDM Digest blog. Passionate about the policy issues affecting emergency medical services and emergency management, Alison often writes articles about these policy initiatives.

Her work has appeared in the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Bulletin, the International Social Science Review and Domestic Preparedness Journal. In addition, Allison was elected in 2014 to the Board of Trustees as Chancellor of the Southeast Region for Pi Gamma Mu. She is currently the chair of the leadership development program during Pi Gamma Mu’s triennial convention.

Chapter of the Year Award: Newman Center

The Chapter of the Year Award recognizes an organization that has exemplified outstanding achievements in leadership, engagement, service and commemoration. The Newman Center chapter advisors are Dr. Wallace Burns and Dr. Cynthia Nolan.

Newman Centers are Catholic ministry centers at non-Catholic universities throughout the world. They provide pastoral services and ministries to their Catholic communities and to the Roman Catholic student population within universities. The AMU & APU Newman Center launched in April 2017 as the first online-only Newman Center.

Highlights of AMU & APU Newman Center include:

  • Publishing “A Companion for the Journey: Prayers and Devotions” prayer book. Archbishop William Lori provided the Imprimatur (permission to print). The book is available online through the Newman Center website and Lulu Press.
  • Establishing a formal collaboration with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, to benefit the military members of the group and the university.
  • Launching a cross-chapter initiative to combat human trafficking. Members of over 30 APUS student organizations participate in the efforts.
  • Hosting an initiative to raise awareness of Christians suffering persecution across the globe.
  • Creating a “Respect Life” focus, including an annual Virtual Baby Shower, 40 Days for Life campaigns and an anti-pornography campaign.
  • Connecting with members through regular emails, quarterly newsletters, Facebook, Twitter and the Newman Center website. The Newman Center newsletters are housed on APUS ePress.
  • Collaborating with the Saber and Scroll Historical Society, the Society for Collegiate Leadership & Achievement, and the Historical Studies Honor Society in order to host an ongoing virtual blood drive.
  • Participating in the Wreaths Across America and Thanking Those Who Serve events on an annual basis.
  • Achieving Chapter Standards Gold status in 2017 and 2018, and Platinum for 2019.
  • Hosting regular theological education based on Pope Saint John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” on the Facebook site and through emails.
  • Creating and publishing Rosary brochures on the Newman Center website to provide members with scriptural-based aids for praying the Rosary.
  • Committing a significant portion of its operating budget to give items of value to chapter members. In 2020, this student organization offered members a choice of a Newman Center t-shirt, a copy of a Newman Center Prayer book and a rosary, or a copy of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s book “Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life” as a gift.

Alumni Service Award: Adam Grohman

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.

Adam has a lifelong passion for service to others, which started in his youth as a Boy Scout and his certification as a lifeguard. While pursuing his education, Adam served his country by enlisting in the Coast Guard Reserve, providing service to both the Reserves and on active duty. He attained his master’s degree in American history and a second master’s in military studies with a concentration in naval warfare from American Military University.

He is a Guardsman, a historical researcher, a published columnist, a published author, an award-winning researcher and an educator in higher education. Adam also champions the value and importance of challenging others in their own educational pursuits. He serves as a dedicated administrator to students who aspire to continue their own personal and professional goals.

Distinguished Graduate Award: Christopher Parks

Christopher Parks has served in the diplomatic 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, Iraq.

Before working in the private sector, Christopher served as an active-duty Marine from 2004 to 2012, where he was deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan. Throughout his active duty, he served as an infantry Marine, martial arts instructor and a combat instructor in Quantico, Virginia.

Christopher completed his bachelor’s degree in homeland security with a 4.0 GPA from American Military University. He has also received an AMU master’s degree in emergency and disaster management, again with a 4.0 GPA.

Christopher was the recipient of the APUS President’s Award in 2019, and he is currently working on his Ph.D. in criminal justice. Christopher is a member of several student organizations, such as the Society for Collegiate Leadership & Achievement, Golden Key, Pi Gamma Mu, Order of the Sword and Shield, Broken Shield Society, Student Veterans of America and the Homeland Security Network.

Academic Scholar Awards

Nine graduates from the class of 2020 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 programs.

This year’s award winners are:

  • Victoria Hershman, Undergraduate, School of Arts and Humanities
  • Ashley Patterson, Undergraduate, School of Business
  • Gerrick Hoffman, Undergraduate, School of Education
  • Kaitlyn Gelsinger, Undergraduate, School of Health Sciences
  • Avryana Richardson, Undergraduate, School of Security and Global Studies
  • Richard Laton, Undergraduate, School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math
  • Steven Reinhold, Graduate, School of Health Sciences
  • Ted Burgwald, Graduate, School of Security and Global Studies
  • Sarah Alden, Graduate, School of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Dr. Wallace E. Boston Leadership Award

Established in 2016, the Dr. Wallace E. Boston Leadership Award is presented annually by the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees. It recognizes a member of the APUS community for their outstanding leadership and their significant impact on their community, industry, or the world around us.

William Porter is a native of Myrtle Beach, South Caroline. A 13-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he served as a Security Forces Member and Air Force Office of Special Investigations Special Agent.

William has fulfilled numerous duties throughout his military career, including distinguished positions as the Antiterrorism/Force Protection Officer for U.S. Air Forces in Europe/NATO Air Forces North and Protective Services Detail for the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Commander and distinguished visitors from around the world. He has also served as a Program Security Officer for U.S. Special Operations Command and U.S. Department of Justice assets.

During his career, William has been deployed across the globe to protect Department of Defense (DoD) assets and personnel and to conduct complex criminal and counterintelligence investigations. His work includes a deployment to Iraq with a special task force, supporting U.S. Special Operations Command and the DoD Criminal Investigations Task Force.

William graduated from American Military University with a bachelor’s in intelligence studies in May 2013. Prior to his graduation, William joined Team Rubicon, an international non-profit that conducts disaster response in 2012.

Since that time, William has served in numerous incident command positions as an Incident Commander and Planning Section Chief on domestic and international operations. William previously served as a consultant for Team Rubicon, synthesizing all-source information activities. He has also been the Senior Manager of Operations Support at Team Rubicon’s National Operations Center.

William currently serves as the Deputy Director of Operations Support, where he oversees all of Team Rubicon’s domestic and international operations and manages Team Rubicon’s information analysis platforms. He builds high-performing teams so Team Rubicon can continue to go “farther, faster” to alleviate suffering due to disaster.

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.

David Agata (graduate award) and Jeremy Cunningham (undergraduate award) are the winners of this year’s President’s Award.

David Agata

David Agata is a career law enforcement officer (LEO) and trainer in Florida since 1989. David’s philosophy of servant leadership and always seeking to be a true student of his craft has equipped him with a distinctive perspective for training others.

Because of his passion and commitment to excellence, he has had the opportunity to teach, train, and mentor LEOs and special operations personnel, both nationally and internationally. David has provided training for the United States Coast Guard Special Operations Community and the Department of State’s Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program.

While working full time, David pursued his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Keiser University and most recently completed his master’s degree in criminal justice from American Military University. His master’s thesis focused on the “pipeline from school to prison,” reveling a correlation between incarceration, illiteracy and dyslexia.

David’s research also revealed that he has dyslexia, a learning disorder. Despite this condition, David was able to overcome it and complete his education. After his graduation, he was able to utilize scientifically proven methods and learned to read more effectively. Today, David is a school resource deputy and works to integrate reading interventions and improvement for first-time offenders and at-risk children.

Jeremy J. Cunningham

Technical Sergeant Jeremy J. Cunningham is an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Craftsman assigned to the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) at Nellis Airforce Base as the Targets Branch Flight Chief. He has led a number of teams executing missions across 20 functional areas and mentors peers, subordinates, and supervisors.

Jeremy’s leadership ability and transformational leadership philosophy allowed him to revitalize a resiliency program that led to more resilient personnel and also solidified his unit’s dedication to the program. He has served as the NTTR Booster Club President, through which he put in 1,000 hours of volunteer support and participated in over 20 fundraisers.

Jeremy was awarded a degree in explosive ordnance disposal in 2013 from the Community College of the Air Force. In addition, he completed a bachelor’s degree in management at American Military University while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Jeremy has been accepted into a master’s program focusing on homeland security and expects to begin his studies in July 2020.



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