By Guy Williams
Alumnus and Ambassador, American Public University System
How many of you think you understand the breadth and scope of our school? As an alumnus and ambassador for American Public University System (APUS), I believed I enjoyed a better-than-average understanding of APUS.
After I attended the grand opening of the APUS Veterans Center in Charles Town, West Virginia, however, I quickly realized how much our school grew in the past five years. The APUS campus in Charles Town gets bigger each year. APUS owns 14 buildings in Charles Town and also has facilities in Manassas, Virginia. It’s apparent that APUS has been a welcome addition because of their dedication to restoring historic structures and being a part of such a remarkable small community.
The campus in Charles Town does not consist of sterile stainless steel and glass buildings. Many APUS buildings are repurposed historic structures and new buildings that employ green technologies.
Event attendees toured the Financial Center and the Academic Center on Friday. The attention to architectural details complemented the many green initiatives throughout the buildings.
To power the Financial Center, APUS had over 16,000 solar panels (the largest array in West Virginia) built over the parking lot behind the Financial Center. Inside the Financial Center, builders laid over 40 miles of electrical and Category V cabling.
In the Academic Center, the builders used different-sized windows to create APUS in Morse code. Binary code etched in the glass of the foyer area spells out “APUS.”
The school also uses LED lights to reduce the consumption of electricity. The heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems dwarf the capacity of many small cities.
While the attention to detail displayed by the architect caused me to nod in appreciation, the observatory above the building definitely raised my eyebrows. At over 800 pounds, the five-inch and 24-inch telescopes displayed a commitment to student education that goes well beyond the asynchronous classroom. Students access the telescopes from around the world, and the school plans to post the images online later.
In another nod to the architects, a blue ring surrounds the floor of the main corridor intersection. It contains numbers, symbols and dollar signs that look like a stream of data from the scene of a science-fiction movie.
Despite the overwhelming scale of the campus and the obvious efforts to implement green technologies, my main reason for visiting the school centered on the efforts of George Vukovich and the Student Veterans Association (SVA). April 29, 2016 marked the grand opening of the Veterans Center and the culmination of APUS efforts to support our veterans and reach out to the local community.
George proved an eloquent and passionate speaker as he introduced prominent figures. They included the Mayor of Charles Town, representatives from Senator Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito’s office, and our own university president Dr. Wallace Boston. All of the speakers commented on the importance of supporting our veterans and how the university began with the concept of providing higher education for servicemembers and veterans.
Of course, no community event is complete without the presence of our incomparable Cindy Aitken, APUS senior manager of community engagement, as well as other staff and faculty members such as Amanda Wilson. I enjoyed meeting the current president of the SVA, Charles Palocy, and the opportunity to talk with the first president of the SVA, Matt Peeling. I even managed to meet fellow University Ambassador and veteran Katie Ebner, sharing with her some war and sea stories from our service days.
Throughout the ceremony and tour, the commitment to veterans by the university staff and faculty members was apparent. George and his team demonstrated unflagging dedication to finding, garnering support and building the Veterans Center in Charles Town. George’s support to veterans is sincere and not a matter of expediency. He is a genuine advocate for the welfare and education of veterans.
Regardless of your status as student, veteran or alumni, I urge you to take the opportunity and visit your campus. Our university is growing exponentially. It’s not only in the virtual constructs of online education, but also with the physical reality of an incredible campus built to support the legion of people that comprise our student and alumni body.
About the Author
Guy Williams is an alumnus at American Public University and earned a master’s in history with a concentration in ancient and classical history. Guy retired from the Army with over 21 years of service as an Airborne Ranger and currently works for the Department of Defense as a contractor in the position of Deputy Program Manager.