Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
At WGU, our goal is to create an environment where students, faculty, and staff all feel comfortable and safe to be their best selves while having opportunities for educational development. We are passionate about the recruitment and retention of diversity in students and employees. We believe that by bridging the gap between access and opportunity, we can help students and employees pursue personal and professional growth.
Equity has been part of WGU since its inception. The concept of equity was written into the original WGU mission statement:“to improve quality and expand access to post-secondary educational opportunities by providing a means for individuals to learn independent of time or place and to earn competency-based degrees and other credentials...” When we expand access to education, we create equity for all.
WGU is committed to promoting inclusion, respect for differences, equal opportunity, and diversity in our institution. We believe in the power of education and the value of expanding access and opportunity to all individuals.
In 2020, WGU launched its Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) program with the vision of explicitly committing to equity as part of our mission to create pathways to opportunity and focusing on the recruitment and retention of a diversity of students and employees.
At WGU, we have the courage to act on bold thinking, we understand the need for urgency in responding to major challenges, we have strive to offer innovative solutions, we hope to inspire and develop through our actions, and we can deliver results. Most importantly, we are student obsessed.
WGU Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Mission:
"We are committed to promoting inclusion, respect for differences, equal opportunity, and diversity in our institution. We believe in the power of education and the value of expanding access and opportunity to all individuals."
-Jason Thompson, WGU's Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
WGU joins the nation in recognizing National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDAEM) in October. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), landmark civil rights legislation aimed at creating a more inclusive America where every person can participate in all aspects of society, including education and employment.
The NDEAM’s 2020 theme, Increasing Access and Opportunity, aligns well with WGU’s mission and promise: to create pathways to opportunity by endeavoring to make opportunity work for everyone. Striving to eliminate barriers for individuals with disabilities to working and learning makes it possible for each individual to realize their potential. This provides the opportunity for all individuals to experience and contribute to a better world. We are committed to continuous improvement in accessibility for our students and our employees as we continue to build a culture that advances equity and achieves together.
The ADA was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush, an individual who would later spend time in a wheelchair himself. This is further evidence that the ADA creates access for all of us—we never know how a disability may impact our lives or the lives of those we love. During this month, please take a moment to reflect on how each of us can make WGU fully accessible to everyone.
Meet Jason Thompson.
Jason Thompson is WGU's Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Jason has more than 20 years of experience specializing in diversity, equity and inclusion, community outreach, strategic planning, and more. Jason earned his bachelor's and master's degree in sociology from the University of Wyoming, and has worked at large global organizations leading diversity and equity, including Techstars, INTERGIS, and the United States Olympic Committee. Jason brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to WGU and is focused on helping the university in develop and accomplish diversity and equity initiatives and goals.
- People and Student Obsessed: We are passionate about our employee and student experience—their success serves the university.
- Diversity and Inclusion: We care deeply about the worth, contribution, and diversity of each individual. We are committed to a university that is inclusive and expands access to post-secondary educational opportunities for students and a diversity of professionals.
- Equity: We are committed to creating pathways to opportunity by actively identifying and eliminating barriers that prevent the full participation of any group.
- Stewardship: We are fiscally responsible, accountable, and strive for optimal ROI. We recognize all funding comes from student tuition. We keep confidential information confidential.
- Innovate: We are forward-thinking and our solutions support growth and expand access to educational opportunities. We design for the future to create a better experience for employees and students.
- Agile: We rapidly deliver solutions. We accept the challenges and risks that come from urgency, learn from our mistakes, and make meaningful adjustments.
- Evidence-based: We are data-driven and evidence-based in our work, particularly as it relates to creating educational experiences for underserved and underrepresented groups.
- PUSH (Persistent Until Something Happens): We are committed to the ideals of PUSH and understand that this commitment requires us to sometimes be uncomfortable, challenge views, perceptions, assumptions, and disrupt the status quo.
WGU Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Terms
Diversity focuses on reflecting the mixture of differences and similarities found in the world and acknowledging the related tensions as we strive to develop more inclusive and high-performing environments.
Equity is the explicit commitment to access, opportunity, and advancement for all people. It is the active identification of and elimination of barriers that prevent the full participation of any group.
Inclusion is about creating, embracing, and maintaining an environment in which an individual's uniqueness, contributions, and strengths are welcomed and valued.
Underrepresented groups are composed of but not limited to:
- People of color
- Gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- People with disabilities
- Historically marginalized communities
- Indigenous people
- Military veterans
- First generation
- Rural and low-income individuals
Underserved communities are composed of groups of people who have limited access to basic necessities or resources commonly found in other communities.
The principal mission of WGU is to improve quality and expand access to post-secondary educational opportunities. We firmly believe that talent can be found anywhere, and we recognize that access to education means access to opportunity. Our goal is to ensure more students have access to higher education that can in turn give them opportunities to change their lives. Learn more about our story.
We are committed to equity by ensuring underrepresented groups and underserved communities have access to higher education. We do this by providing flexible, online educational models that are designed for busy, working adults. Learn more about our students.
Three themes form the basis of how we fulfill our mission. One, we use a competency-based approach to prepare every student for professional success. Two, we provide accessible and affordable academic programs through the use of technology that allows students to complete their program independent of time or place. And three, we provide programs to prepare traditionally underserved students for thriving careers in demand in the 21st-century workplace.
Western Governors University (WGU, or “the university”) is committed to providing a workplace and educational environment, as well as other benefits, programs, and activities, that are free from discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. To ensure compliance with federal and state civil rights laws and regulations, and to affirm its commitment to promoting the goals of fairness and equity in all aspects of the educational program or activity, WGU has developed internal policies and procedures that provide a prompt, fair, and impartial process for those involved in an allegation of discrimination or harassment on the basis of protected class status, and for allegations of retaliation. WGU values and upholds the equal dignity of all members of its community and strives to balance the rights of the parties in the grievance process during what is often a difficult time for all those involved.
Consistent with state and federal law, reasonable accommodation will be provided to persons with disabilities.
It is important that members of the University community understand that the law does not just prohibit discrimination and harassment of employees by employers. The law also prohibits discrimination and harassment between members of the University community more generally: for example, between faculty or staff and a student, between two students, or between a student and an applicant or visitor/guest. The policy applies in all University programs and activities, including, but not limited to, discrimination in instruction, grading, and university employment. In addition, the law prohibits retaliation against an individual for opposing any practices forbidden under this policy, for bringing a complaint of discrimination or harassment, for assisting someone with such a complaint, for attempting to stop such discrimination or harassment, or for participating in any manner in an investigation or resolution of a complaint of discrimination or harassment. It is central to WGU values that any individual who believes they may have been the target of unlawful discrimination or harassment feel free to report their concerns for appropriate investigation and response, without fear of retaliation or retribution.
All complaints or any concerns about conduct that may violate this policy and retaliation should be filed with the WGU Title IX Coordinator utilizing the Speak Up WGUTM reporting system.
Upon receiving a complaint, the Title IX Coordinator will follow the grievance processes described in the Equal Opportunity, Harassment, and Nondiscrimination Policy and Grievance Processes.