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Tapping Innovation in Scholarship, Leadership and the Workplace

Tapping Innovation in Scholarship, Leadership and the Workplace


Etter award (3)By Thomas Rasbach, Alumnus, American Public University

In late April, I was informed that American Public University (APU) planned to present me with one of its James P. Etter Awards for Creativity and Innovation during its recent 2014 Commencement. I had no idea that I was even nominated. I did not realize at the time the magnitude of what this would mean for me or my career, or that I was the first student to receive the prestigious award.

I was selected based mainly on my contributions to the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS), an honor society that exists to recognize and elevate high achievers. It stands on three pillars—scholarship, leadership and service. I became the chapter president shortly after it was chartered and took the chapter from its development stage into an engagement phase, focusing on student interaction.. We ultimately set the bar for future chapter development and growth.

Trying to engage chapter members living around the world while focusing on service, is a little different in the virtual world. So it’s my mission to find innovative ways to succeed.

Our first project was a book drive for USO’s United Through Reading Military Program (PDF), which enables deployed troops to read bedtime books to their children from afar using online technology. Initially, we collected more than 200 books to send to our troops, but the logistics were complicated. So, we suggested that our members use Amazon and Walmart’s Site to Store service, both of which offer free shipping. We also raised money for USO, Feeding America, NSCS Scholarship Fund and many more projects.

I believe there is never a problem without a solution. Some solutions are harder to see through virtual pathways, but they are there. This is where creativity and innovation intersect—and where we’re laying the groundwork for future chapter leaders to follow.

The other reason why I was nominated for this award was my job with Walmart in the Store Planning Division, where I work to set up new stores, remodel old stores, and lead other projects that add value to the company. This job often requires creative problem solving to ensure the safety of employees and customers. No project goes perfectly, but I strive to make the decisions that are best for the business.

Receiving the Etter award, and realizing the magnitude and respect that goes with it, is something that I have yet to fully grasp. I did a video interview at my APU graduation; a brief phone interview with CNN; and provided input for the August edition of Walmart World Magazine. All of these opportunities, combined with receiving this award at commencement, add up to an amazing year that I will always cherish.

I am usually one who flies under the radar, but this is no longer an option as the spotlight is now on. I am looking forward to returning to APU this fall to pursue my MBA. My career has taken off at Walmart, and I am looking forward to my future and seeing just how far I can go.


Thomas Rasbach works for Walmart Stores Inc. as a Store Planning Field Project Supervisor. He received his bachelor’s degree in business administration from American Public University. He is an active member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars (NSCS) and serves as a student ambassador.

Wally Boston Dr. Wallace E. Boston was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of American Public University System (APUS) and its parent company, American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) in July 2004. He joined APUS as its Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer in 2002. In September 2019, Dr. Boston retired as CEO of APEI and retired as APUS President in August 2020. Dr. Boston guided APUS through its successful initial accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006 and ten-year reaccreditation in 2011. In November 2007, he led APEI to an initial public offering on the NASDAQ Exchange. For four years from 2009 through 2012, APEI was ranked in Forbes' Top 10 list of America's Best Small Public Companies. During his tenure as president, APUS grew to over 85,000 students, 200 degree and certificate programs, and approximately 100,000 alumni. While serving as APEI CEO and APUS President, Dr. Boston was a board member of APEI, APUS, Hondros College of Nursing, and Fidelis, Inc. Dr. Boston continues to serve as a member of the Board of Advisors of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment (NILOA) and as a member and chair of the board of New Horizons Worldwide. He has authored and co-authored papers on the topic of online post-secondary student retention, and is a frequent speaker on the impact of technology on higher education. Dr. Boston is a past Treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the McDonogh School, a private K-12 school in Baltimore. In his career prior to APEI and APUS, Dr. Boston served as either CFO, COO, or CEO of Meridian Healthcare, Manor Healthcare, Neighborcare Pharmacies, and Sun Healthcare Group. Dr. Boston is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, and Chartered Global Management Accountant. He earned an A.B. degree in History from Duke University, an MBA in Marketing and Accounting from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business Administration, and a Doctorate in Higher Education Management from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education. In 2008, the Board of Trustees of APUS awarded him a Doctorate in Business Administration, honoris causa, and, in April 2017, also bestowed him with the title President Emeritus. In August 2020, the Board of Trustees of APUS appointed him Trustee Emeritus. In November 2020, the Board of Trustees announced that the APUS School of Business would be renamed the Dr. Wallace E Boston School of Business in recognition of Dr. Boston's service to the university. Dr. Boston lives with his family in Austin, Texas.


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