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Meet our experienced academic leaders.

From our provost to our deans to our faculty in the field, you’ll find dedicated professionals ready to serve you.


 Dr. Vernon C. Smith

Dr. Vernon C. Smith


Dr. Vernon C. Smith has more than 25 years experience in higher education. He has an extensive background in online learning issues and practices, including effective quality, assessment, and retention strategies in higher education, and was an early adopter of using big data for predictive modeling and teaching excellence to promote student success. He joined APUS from the University of the Pacific where he led digital and adult learning initiatives including oversight of the Center for Professional and Continuing Education, the Center for Teaching and Learning, Academic Technology, and support for graduate hybrid and in-person programs on the Sacramento and San Francisco campuses.

Dr. Smith was recently elected to the Executive Council of WCET (WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies) a division of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. He currently serves as Chair of the Advisory Board for ELI (EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative) and served on the EDUCAUSE Board of Directors. His research interests include high-quality, cost-effective production models for online courses, the unbundling and re-bundling of the faculty role, adjunct faculty issues, academic integrity, and teaching and learning. Dr. Smith earned his Bachelor of Arts degrees in Latin American Studies and Spanish at Brigham Young University, graduating Magna Cum Laude. He has a Master of Organizational Behavior from the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University and earned a Doctor of Philosophy in Organization and Administration of Higher Education from the Center for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Arizona.

 Dr. Jennifer Douglas

Dr. Jennifer Douglas

Dean of Graduate Studies and Research

Dr. Jennifer Douglas joined APUS in 2015 as an associate dean in the School of Graduate Studies, and was promoted to dean of the school in August of 2017. She has been instrumental in the creation of the school’s first doctoral level programs, and has created new academic support resources for graduate students to advance persistence and retention efforts at the graduate level.

Dr. Douglas has served in graduate education leadership roles since 2009 at West Virginia University, where she expanded opportunities for student success, such as professional development programming, curricular innovation, and faculty development. She engages in the national conversation and literature around graduate education, and she seeks new ways to keep APUS at the forefront for high quality, affordable education for adult learners. Dr. Douglas earned her Ph.D. in English from the University of Rochester and continues to pursue scholarship opportunities around 20th century drama.

Dr. Brian Freeland

Dr. Brian Freeland

Dean, School of Health Sciences

Dr. Brian Freeland was recently named dean for the School of Health Sciences after 7 years as the university's program director of the Sports and Health Sciences and Sports Management programs. With more than 16 years in coaching, athletic training, exercise science and wellness, and sports management, Dr. Freeland was well suited to develop the university's new B.S. in Sports Management along with 4 new concentrations for the B.S. and M.S. degrees in Sports and Health Sciences. Dr. Freeland also cultivated educational partnerships with the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American Sport Education Program (ASEP), and the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA).

Dr. Freeland has presented at a variety of academic conferences on the topics of: The Development of an Online Tool Think Tank; Harnessing the Power of Alumni in Leading a Sport Management Program; Innovative Sport Marketing Strategies for Globalized Communication; International Aspects of Positions in Sport Management; and, Creative Ways to Attract and Engage Online Learners. In 2006, he was voted the Valley District Coach of the Year for leading Rockbridge High School to their first winning season in the history of the school. Dr. Freeland completed his Ed.D. in Sports Leadership and Management from Northcentral University, M.S. in Sports Management at the United States Sports Academy, and B.S. in Health and Physical Education at Radford University.

Dr. Grace Glass

Dr. Grace Glass

Dean, School of Arts, Humanities & Education

Dr. Grace Glass joined the university in 2015 and is responsible for ongoing management and development of the school’s liberal arts and social sciences programs. She brings 15 years of higher education experience, most recently as associate dean of general studies for Northcentral Technical College in Wausau, Wisc., where she led the launch of a new Academic Resource Center. She previously served as associate dean of liberal arts and sciences for DeVry University, where her group initiatives helped significantly increase student persistence and success across the department. Dr. Glass received her Ph.D. and M.A. in English Literature from the University of Michigan, her Master Teaching Certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), and her A.B. with high honors from Smith College.

Previously, Dr. Glass was the director of composition and assistant professor for East-West University, where she transformed a traditional lecture-based composition program into an individualized program integrated with online resources. She also served on the English faculty for the Chicago Academy for Advanced Technology, Illinois Math and Science Academy and the Miami Valley School. She was also an adjunct faculty member at Governor’s State University, Antioch University McGregor School, University of Cincinnati, and the University of Dayton.

 Dr. Marie Harper

Dr. Marie Harper

Dean, Dr. Wallace E. Boston School of Business

Prior to joining APUS, Dr. Marie Gould Harper was the Faculty Chair, Business Administration at Peirce College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was hired as Program Director of Management at APUS in 2010. As Program Director, Dr. Harper has been instrumental in the Program maintaining recognition as a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) approved educational institution as well as specialty accreditation from Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP).

She also led the development of concentrations in Entrepreneurship in the Bachelors of Arts in Management and Masters of Arts in Management program. Additionally, Dr. Harper implemented two graduate certificate programs (Human Capital Leadership and Neuroleadership) and two undergraduate certificate programs (Employee Relations & Engagement and Strategic Leadership). In 2019, she was promoted to Dean of the School of Business.

Dr. Harper is a progressive Coach, Facilitator, Writer, Strategist, and Human Resources/Organizational Development professional with more than 30 years leadership, project management, and administrative experience, and has worked in both corporate and academia. In addition, she has served on many boards (Delaware End of Life Coalition, Berks County Human Relations Council) in the community, and presented at national conferences on topics such as human resources, organizational development and leadership.

Dr. Harper holds a B.A. degree in Psychology from Wellesley College, a M.S. degree in Instructional Systems from Pennsylvania State University, and a Ph.D. degree in Business from Capella University.

 Dr. Mark Riccardi

Dr. Mark Riccardi

Dean, School of Security & Global Studies

Dr. Mark Riccardi joined the university in 2011 and has held a series of progressively advancing positions starting with faculty member in the Intelligence Studies program, faculty director for the School of Security and Global Studies, program director for the Homeland Security programs, and in late 2014, assuming the responsibilities as dean of the School of Security and Global Studies.

Dr. Riccardi has presented at conferences around the world on topics that include Social Media use During Disaster Operations, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Emergency Response Operations. He retired from the United States Army after 21 years of active service spent in intelligence, military support to civilian authorities, and special operations. Dr. Riccardi holds a B.A. in English from the College of Staten Island – City University of New York, a Master of Education from Colorado State University, a Master of Criminal Justice from Boston University, a Master of Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College, and a Ph.D. in Education from Colorado State University.

Dr. Danny Welsch

Dr. Daniel (Danny) Welsch

Interim Dean, School of Science, Technology, Engineering & Math

Dr. Danny Welsch has been serving the students of American Public University System since 2007 as a part-time faculty member, full-time faculty member, program director, associate dean, and interim dean for the School of STEM. Dr. Welsch is an environmental scientist with an emphasis in hydrology and biogeochemistry. Previously, Dr. Welsch served as the Director of Research for the Cannan Valley Institute, and as Assistant Professor at Frostburg State University. Dr. Welsch studies the flux of water, carbon, and energy between terrestrial and atmospheric systems, and more recently, has worked to develop and enhance the laboratory experience for online higher education.

Dr. Welsch received his B.S. degree from Frostburg State University, a M.S. from the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, and his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia.

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