As an online university, WGU doesn’t get as many chances to gather with groups of students and grads as often as traditional colleges do—but when we do, it’s an event to remember.
One of those opportunities is coming up this weekend as WGU’s Winter 2012 commencement is celebrated in Atlanta. This commencement is historic for many reasons: It celebrates WGU’s largest graduating class yet—more than 2,600 students who have earned their bachelor’s or master’s degrees online through WGU’s more than 50 online degree programs. A record-setting 350 graduates will walk in the ceremony, joined by family and friends bringing to more than 2,200 the number of attendees.
And it’s the first WGU commencement to be held outside the university’s headquarters city of Salt Lake City. Winter Commencement 2012 is being held in Philips Arena, home of the Atlanta Hawks, on Saturday, February 11, with the processional starting at 9:45 a.m. ET.
The entire ceremony can be viewed via live-streaming video at http://www.wgu.edu/Winter2012.
The keynote address will be given by John M. Steele, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for HCA, the nation’s largest provider of healthcare services and a WGU partner. Nearly 300 HCA employees are currently enrolled at WGU.
Additionally, attendees and online viewers will hear the inspiring stories of four Winter 2012 graduates:
Carlisha Moore is from Dacula, Georgia, and is graduating with a B.S.in Business Management. A dedicated student who entered college at a young age, Carlisha faced financial challenges that postponed her college career. Returning to college a second time as a wife and mother, she was able to accelerate her coursework while working full time and welcomed a second child to her family in her last term. As a college graduate she hopes to move into a management position with her current employer, and plans to return to WGU in the near future for her MBA.
"I'm extremely nervous about my speech Saturday," Carlisha said. "However, it’s something I have to do for myself and my daughters. I want them to look back proudly on this day and say, ‘If Mommy had the courage to do it, the sky’s the limit!’"
Karen Marchand-Singleton is from Beaufort, South Carolina, and graduated with a B.S. in Nursing. A licensed nurse for nearly 30 years, she has worked her way up to several manager-level positions despite not having a bachelor’s degree. During her program, Karen was faced with many personal challenges, including the loss of her father and undergoing spinal surgery all while maintaining a full-time job. She credits WGU’s flexibility with her personal success and feels that she could not have pursued her dream without it. She currently works as a Medical Team Administrator for Beaufort County and plans to return for a master’s degree at WGU.
"As an older student, it was quite scary doing online education, but the patient folks at WGU worked with me to become a bit more technically saavy and get the job done," Karen said. "I've been toying with obtaining my BSN since 1985 but didn't because of the high cost of education and working full time, as well as being a wife, mother and grandmother. Although it was hard work, I have been so impressed with WGU that I will start working on my master's in nursing degree in March."
Keith Sosebee is from Lafayette, Georgia, and graduated with a B.S. in Information Technology—Networks Design and Management. After working for several years in the IT field with an associate’s degree, Keith was encouraged by management to pursue a bachelor’s degree to further his promising career. Because of prior IT experience and certifications, he was able to accelerate his studies while working full time as an IT technician. As a result of his acceleration, Keith finished his Capstone project just as he and his wife welcomed their first child.
"I have really enjoyed my experience with WGU and am looking forward to being one of the student speakers at the Atlanta commencement," he said.
Julie Laub is from Kaysville, Utah, and graduated from WGU with an M.A. in Teaching—Science. Having a passion for chemistry, she worked as a professional organic chemist for DataChem Laboratories before deciding to stay home to raise her family. Encouraged by her father, she decided to pursue a second career in education. One term into her master’s program, she was hired as an advanced chemistry teacher for Davis School District, where she teaches International Baccalaureate first- and second-year chemistry, Advanced Placement (AP) chemistry, and honors chemistry. Despite a busy schedule during the last three months of her program, Julie completed 15 CUs, worked full time as a first-year teacher, and continued to raise her five daughters with her husband Gregg.
"I feel very fortunate to be a student speaker, representing an institution that has been a great blessing in my life," Julie said. "Western Governors University afforded me the opportunity to receive an excellent education that was flexible with my schedule. I am looking forward to commencement. It will be a sparkling memory to cap off a wonderful educational journey."