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Veteran leads by example at WVU

After spending most of his adult life as a U.S. Marine, Colorado native Nicholas Ailport is applying his leadership skills in new ways as a West Virginia University student.

Nicholas Ailport
Nicholas Ailport

“The worldview I have gained from the U.S. Marine Corps has shaped me into the person I am today,” Ailport said. “Half of my Marine Corps career was spent with the Anti-Terrorism Battalion, whose sole purpose was to the detect, defend and deter terrorism worldwide. Having spent many years in countries across the world has allowed me to open my mind and step outside my own opinions. This experience has helped me become a successful student at WVU.”  

The Regents Bachelor of Arts in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, coupled with support from the Post-9/11 GI Bill, has given him the flexibility to achieve this goal as a nontraditional student.  

“After eight years serving as a Marine, I felt it was time to return to civilian life. It took me another five years to figure out what I want to be when I grow up,” Ailport said. “I am projected to obtain my bachelor’s degree at 36 years old. The RBA makes the process of being a full-time or part-time student possible while supporting yourself and your family.”

In addition to earning his RBA, Ailport has found a home in WVU’s Leadership Studies minor.

“Since my time as a Marine, leadership has become a passion of mine,” Ailport said. “When I discovered that WVU offered leadership courses, it took less than a second for me to enroll.”

He credits the faculty in the Leadership Studies Program for a smooth transition to college and helping him focus on his career goals.

“My favorite memory of studying at WVU has been learning from the Leadership Studies faculty. The program itself has helped me take a critical view of my leadership and focus on ways to become a better leader,” Ailport said. “Professors Cheyenne Luyznski, Lisa DeFrank-Cole and Amena Anderson have all made understanding leadership enjoyable. They have also helped me take a close look at myself and find what it means to me to be a leader.”

This fall, Ailport will work in the program as a service learning teaching assistant.

“He has rich life experiences and adds diverse perspectives in the classroom,” Luzynski said. “He is someone we are grateful to have in both the Leadership Studies and Regents Bachelor of Arts programs.”

Ailport expects to graduate from WVU next spring. Through the Regents Bachelor of Arts, he has applied some of his military experience and training toward academic credit in military science and other disciplines, shortening his time to graduation and allowing for more of his GI Bill benefits to apply to courses like his leadership studies minor, for example. While he is still exploring career pathways, he is set on one thing – helping others.  

“A leader who leads followers will be successful, but a leader who creates leaders will leave a legacy,” Ailport said. “Ultimately, I want to make a difference in the lives of others. I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say because of you, I didn’t give up.”