Six years running, second-year graduate student Will Alexander has never paid a dime of tuition to GW.
Alexander, who graduated in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, received four years of free tuition through a GW scholarship for D.C. high school students. Now, as a presidential administrative fellow, he’s earning an MBA – again, for free, save for a few credits worth of tuition.
The total value of his tuition, excluding room and board, is close to $170,000, but University administrators said he has earned his keep.
“He is one of those kids who will have a great career and we are delighted we made a bet on him,” University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg said.
A former GW cheerleader, 2002 Colonial Inauguration Cabinet member, bowling mechanic in the Hippodrome and fraternity member, Alexander said he’s always dreamed big.
With a stocky build, bulging biceps and an ever-present smile, Alexander is a ubiquitous spokesman for the University and coach for thecheerleading team,
“He is such a fun person to be around,” said Peter Konwerski, assistant to the vice president for Student and Academic Support Services. “He is always smiling and laughs as loud as anyone I know. He really is a remarkable person in the way he carries himself, as a professional, as a leader and as a role model to younger students.”
Even before his enrollment at GW, Alexander began making waves in Foggy Bottom at the School Without Walls high school on G Street. Alexander grew up in Southeast D.C., but it was his years on campus that helped shape his character, he said. Alexander served as class president in his sophomore, junior and senior years of high school and then stormed GW with the same level of dedication.
“My life is based on turning points, and when I started (high) school I wasn’t involved,” Alexander said. “But the School Without Walls presented me with the opportunity to do more.”
As a GW freshman, Alexander worked in the Smith Center at basketball games, and he decided to become a cheerleader. He was a member of the team for three years.
“If something interesting was going on, I found myself in the middle of it,” said Alexander, who served as the treasurer of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity in his senior year and has spent the last two summers training cheerleaders in Germany.
In 2004, Alexander decided to apply for the PAF program to pursue an education in small business and entrepreneurship. The University’s fellowship program requires a two-year commitment and awards each recipient with free tuition toward a master’s degree, stipends to pay for housing and a modest salary to work in a GW office.
Although most PAF positions require a suit and tie, Alexander works in a more flexible environment as a physical-conditioning trainer in the GW Spirit Office. In addition to his work in the Spirit Office, Alexander also helps coach the cheerleading team.
“This year, in his capacity as a coach, Will has made a smooth transition from team member to a coaching position,” said Josh Hartman, assistant program coordinator in the Spirit Office. “He drives and motivates the team to achieve success, and his positive outlook makes him an asset to the program.”
On top of his 20-hour workweek, coaching job and graduate classes, Alexander also developed GW’s Strongman group in spring 2004. He helps coordinate the annual contest in which students demonstrate their strength by flipping tractor tires, tossing kegs and pulling trucks. The event has been held three times so far, and was ranked 19th in the Sports Illustrated On-Campus list of the “Top 102 Things You Gotta Do Before You Graduate.”
“The idea he had to do the Strongman is just one example where he took things he was passionate about, including working out, school spirit and engineering, and he created a truly unique activity that was fun and also had a service (and) philanthropy component to help others less fortunate,” Konwerski said. “Will continues to give back to his alma mater, his school and the activities he was involved with as an undergraduate.”
Last month, Alexander pulled a 16,000-pound GW trolley 20 feet across Kogan Plaza for charity – but meeting his goal just wasn’t good enough for the weightlifting devotee.
Alexander asked 39 people to jump on board the trolley so he could pull it an extra 20 feet. Raising more than $1,000 in charity for hurricane relief efforts, the Nov. 19 competition exemplified the type of ambition that has marked Alexander’s time at GW.
“I’ve known him since high school and have followed his career as an undergraduate,” Trachtenberg said. “It’s one of those cases where his leadership abilities made him stand out among his peers. I have never had anyone say a bad word about him.”
Alexander, who is black, has been featured in GW literature promoting diversity on campus, and he appears in promotions for CI as well. He said he still finds time to work out three to four days a week.
Though unsure where life will take him when he graduates in May – he will leave Foggy Bottom after 10 years in the area – Alexander said he is interested in a job that will allow him to incorporate his MBA education with his technical knowledge. He said he still finds time to tool around in the School of Engineering and Applied Science machine shop, like he did as an undergraduate.
“I could end up in Arlington or half way around the world,” Alexander said. “I’m open to whatever happens. I have been in so many different directions.”