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More than 600 Degrees Awarded at Winter Commencement
"Develop controversial strategies, but make sure they are correct." This was the advice given to graduates by Sun Microsystems Chairman and Co-founder Scott McNealy during his WGU Winter 2009 Commencement address. "Having a unique strategy and concept is more important than ever in tough economic times like these," McNealy explained to the audience, which included more than 80 new grads, plus WGU faculty, friends, and family. In addition, more than 340 graduates participated in commencement remotely via live streaming video.
"Distance and online education used to be viewed as the wave of the future, but the success of the WGU graduates proves that the future is now," said McNealy. "Eliminating the digital divide has long been our cause at Sun, as has eliminating the educational divide through Curriki (an online education community offering open-source instructional materials), and WGU's unique approach embodies the power of technology for making higher education more affordable and accessible for people from all walks of life. Its demanding and highly respected curriculum ensures that graduates are well prepared to thrive in today's dynamic and challenging workplace."
In one of his first public appearances since returning to Utah, Michael Leavitt, departing
Health and Human Services Secretary, former Utah Governor, and one of the original founders of WGU, introduced McNealy and give a brief address. Leavitt emphasized the power of mentorship, using both McNealy's record for mentoring some of the leaders in information technology and WGU's mentor-guided academic approach as examples.
As part of each commencement program, graduates are selected to speak and share their WGU experiences. In many cases, their stories are inspirational as they relate the challenges and obstacles they've overcome to earn their degrees. Scott Saunders, IT graduate from Rancho Cordova, CA; Joanna Goslin, business graduate from North Bend, OR; Leila Crouse, health education graduate from Camarillo, CA; and Shari Davis, education graduate from Las Vegas, NV were the featured speakers. (Read more about Shari Davis.)
With rising unemployment and a weak economy, the demand for higher education is growing. Displaced workers often decide to earn their degrees to make themselves more competitive in the tight job market, and many individuals who are still employed find that increasing their education helps increase their job security. But while the demand is growing, public colleges and universities throughout the U.S. are being forced to limit enrollment, and in many cases, raise tuition, just when students can least afford it.
In states like Arizona, California, Washington, and Georgia, caps on enrollment are either being proposed or are already in place. And, in an effort to reduce costs, a number of state colleges and universities are also being forced to eliminate courses and majors. While the options are dwindling, the costs are growing; the president of the American Council of Education predicts that students could face double-digit tuition increases next year. These caps and higher tuition will hit the underserved and unemployed the hardest.
While public colleges and universities are struggling to make ends meet, WGU is meeting the demand for accessible, affordable education for adults. Enrollment, which has increased 30% over the past year to 13,000, continues to be open to all qualified students. WGU has more than 50 degree programs and has added 10 new degree programs in the past year alone. Tuition, which is comparable to that of a state college at about $6,000 per year, has only increased $100 per term since 2005. WGU's mentor-guided, competency-based academic model allows students to utilize relevant prior education and experience and to accelerate completion of their degrees based on the time they have to commit to their studies, which also enables them to save on tuition.
Shari Davis had three goals when she enrolled in Western Governors University about 2 years ago: to finish her degree, have a classroom of her own, and improve her physical condition. Born with cerebral palsy, Shari's health and mobility had declined over the years, and she was often in severe pain.
"I have wanted to be a teacher since I was in the third grade, but always let others discourage me," said Shari. "I spent some time in a friend's classroom who teaches second grade, and after that experience, I knew I needed to pursue my dream. I wanted to help children overcome obstacles."
Shari enrolled in WGU's Teachers College and began working toward her degree. She chose WGU because it allowed her to work at her own pace and on her own schedule. She began working as a substitute teacher and did her best to balance work, family, and school. It wasn't easy, and Shari sought the support of her husband and her WGU mentor to help her meet the goal of not only earning her degree, but walking across the stage at WGU commencement.
In January of 2009, Shari met that goal and took it a step further—she was one of four graduates chosen to speak at Winter Commencement. When she walked across the stage to accept her diploma from WGU President Robert Mendenhall, Shari had lost 61 pounds and increased her mobility from barely walking to walking more than 1,200 feet without stopping. Today, she has her own classroom and is teaching fifth grade in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"As an educator, I teach students to ask for help when they need it. I had to learn to practice what I teach," says Shari. "I realized that I could not expect my students to always do their best if I wasn't always doing mine. With determination, I knew I could make my dreams come true while inspiring my students to discover and pursue theirs."
Linda Gunn joined Western Governors University in 2005 as a mentor for the College of Business and is currently a Program Coordinator for the College of Health Professions. She has worked in various areas of education for almost 20 years, including online education and workshop development, as well as serving as an adjunct professor for Indiana University Northwest and Central Michigan University. She has taught a variety of subjects, including organizational development, diversity, strategy, and management to both undergraduate and graduate students.
"Being a mentor is more than helping students through their programs. I get to know these people and what is going on in their lives," says Linda. "I not only get to share in their accomplishments, I am often aware of the personal trials and challenges they have to overcome to stay in school and finish their degrees. Their commitment to completing their education can be truly inspirational.
"Recently, I had the good fortune to work with a very determined MBA student. He completed his degree while juggling a full-time job, helping care for his wife who is legally blind, and raising a child who was losing his sight due to a degenerative disease. When that student walked across the stage to get his diploma, I felt overjoyed knowing how much this meant to him. I am privileged to be a part of those moments.
"When I was first hired at WGU, I felt valued for the information and expertise that I brought with me. And that continues to be one of the reasons I enjoy being a mentor. I can share my experiences with students and help them bring what they are learning to life," says Linda.
Linda earned a Bachelor's Degree in Operations Management from Indiana University, an MBA in Finance from the University of Notre Dame, and a Doctorate in Organizational Development from Union Institute and University. She has also earned the CPHRM (Certified
Professional in Healthcare Risk Management) from the American Hospital Association. Linda currently lives in Indiana with her husband and three children.
In the past several months, WGU's Teachers College and the College of Information Technology introduced new degree programs, bringing the total number of degrees offered by WGU to more than 50.
The B.A. in Early Childhood Education is an initial licensure program that teaches the content knowledge and skills necessary to become a certified instructor ready to work with infants, toddlers, and young children from birth through age eight. This program is built in alignment with the standards of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).The B.A. in ECE is an ideal program for unlicensed child care workers, unlicensed substitute teachers, career changers, retired military personnel, school paraprofessionals, and others who feel the call to teach.
The M.S. in Information Security and Assurance is the first graduate degree in the College of Information Technology. This program focuses on the skills needed for the protection of networks, communication, and data, as well as the knowledge base for planning, implementing, and managing enterprise level security and system integrity to
become an expert IT security and assurance manager.
98 Percent of Employers Rate WGU Grads as "Excellent" or "Good"
Employees who have earned their degrees from WGU are performing as well as or better than graduates of other colleges, according to a recent survey of employers. Of the 80 employers polled last fall by an independent research company, 95% rated their WGU grads equal to or better than employees who have graduated from other colleges or universities. Additional results from the survey confirm that WGU grads are making the grade with employers:
Lighthouse Research and Development conducted the survey for Western Governors University in November, polling employers in 29 states. WGU commissions this survey annually to assess employers' perceptions of the university's graduates and their preparation for the workforce.
Despite a nationwide shortage of registered nurses, more than 50,000 applicants to nursing schools were turned away last year. To help address this crisis in U.S. healthcare, WGU began a collaborative effort aimed at developing the first national, accredited, online, and competency-based bachelor's degree program for initial licensure of registered nurses. The program, which is called MAP-RN (Multi-State Approach to Preparing Registered Nurses), is being developed by WGU with support from the following partners:
The new program will combine online learning and clinical simulations with in-hospital clinical experiences and mentor support. Clinical rotations will take place at participating hospitals; the staff nurses from these hospitals will serve as clinical coaches for the program.
The MAP-RN partners have assembled a national advisory board comprised of leaders in the nursing profession:
Pilot programs will begin in California (July 2009) and Texas (September 2009). Program rollout in additional locations will begin in January 2010.
WGU's nursing bachelor's and master's degree programs have been accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE). An autonomous accrediting agency supported by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, CCNE's mission is to ensure the quality and integrity of U.S. baccalaureate and graduate programs that educate nurses.
CCNE accreditation is a nongovernmental peer review process that operates in accordance with nationally recognized standards established for the practice of accreditation in the United States. The CCNE accreditation evaluation consists of a review of the program's mission, goals, and expected outcomes; and an assessment of the performance of the program in achieving the mission and goals through the most effective utilization of available resources, programs, and administration. The evaluation process also calls for a review of evidence concerning the application of these resources in assisting the students in attaining their educational goals.
"CCNE accreditation represents a major milestone for WGU's nursing education programs," said WGU's Director of Nursing Programs Mary Anne Rea-Ramirez. "It demonstrates that our approach, which combines competencybased learning with comprehensive clinical experience, will produce graduates who are well prepared to fulfill their roles in patient care, nurse education, and leadership."
After months of research and development, WGU has launched an all-new website. In addition to its updated look, the new site includes a number of new features designed to enrich the visitor's experience and accurately depict the benefits of WGU:
If you haven't done so already, be sure to go to www.wgu.edu to see for yourself!
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