Skip to content Skip to Live Chat

September 22-23

Commencement Weekend in Chicago

Master's Ceremony
10:30 am EST /9:30 am CST / 8:30 am MST / 7:30 am PST

Bachelor's Ceremony
2:30 pm EST / 1:30 pm CST / 12:30 pm MST / 11:30 am PST

Chicago Commencement Details:   

Keynote Speaker

KimArie Yowell
Chief Diversity of Rocket Companies and Chief Learning Officer of Rocket Central 

KimArie Yowell is Chief Diversity of Rocket Companies and Chief Learning Officer of Rocket Central – the centralized hub for the Rocket Companies FinTech platform.

In these roles, she is responsible for team member development programs along with the diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies for the businesses that are part of Rocket Companies. This includes the learning and development initiatives, post-secondary education programs, career development, diversity and inclusion programming and organizational effectiveness.  

KimArie has more than 25 years of experience in client service, sales, and corporate education. She has an intense passion for team member growth and helping organizations thrive. She also firmly believes that one’s ability to create a dynamic and high performing team rests on their ability to be inclusive. 

Rocket was in the top 10 on Forbes magazine’s list of America’s Best Employers for Diversity in 2022. The company has also ranked #1 on Essence magazine’s 10 Best Workplaces for African Americans and has been included on Fortune magazine’s list of Best Workplaces for Diversity since the list’s inception in 2015.

KimArie has received several awards and accolades, including being named one of Michigan Chronicle’s Women of Excellence (2020), Savoy Magazine’s “Most Influential Women in Corporate America” (2019) and “40 Under 40” by the Michigan Chronicle for her exceptional achievements and community service (2018). In addition to her roles at Rocket Companies, she serves on Siena Heights University’s Board of Trustees.

KimArie earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Wayne State University.  She also earned a Master 

of Arts in Adult Education and Training, a Master of Business Administration, Master of Management and Administrative Sciences from the University of Texas at Dallas. Most recently, she completed her Doctorate in Education at the University of Pennsylvania

Bachelor's Ceremony Student Speakers

Michael Cooper

Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, Michael Cooper served in the United States Army from 1988 through 1991 as a Motor Transport Operator, where he developed a passion for transportation. 

Following his military service, he began a career as a truck driver and has held various positions including his current role as Field Supervisor for Intracity Public Transit in Hot Springs, Arkansas. With his bachelor’s in business management from WGU, Michael looks forward to making a 

bigger impact in the public transit industry.  

Michael and his wife, Marolyn, have been married for 30 years and are the proud parents of six children and five grandchildren. He is a member of Living Waters Church of God In Christ where he serves as a Youth Sunday School teacher and as a Deacon. He enjoys encouraging others, especially the youth, most notably as a football coach. During football season, you can catch Michael rooting for his favorite teams – the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Chicago Bears.

Jessica Kiesling

Midwestern native, Jessica Kiesling, earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from WGU and is currently pursuing her master’s in elementary education (mathematics) also at WGU. She is a Special Education in the Rochelle Elementary School District. Prior to her time in pursuing degrees in education, she earned a degree in psychology and she’s excited to leverage her understanding of behavior and 

education in order to be an advocate for students in both general and special education. 

She married her high school sweetheart, and they are the proud parents of three children. When she’s not in the classroom, Jessica enjoys getting pedicures with her daughters, sharing funny memes with her son, and going grocery shopping with her husband on date nights. 

“Mrs. K,” is easily spotted in a crowd at school as the one with different hair colors and wide variety of fun and crazy earrings.

Master's Ceremony Student Speakers

Leonard Kalimasi

Leonard Kalimasi is a Data Engineer based in Salt Lake City, with a track record of more than 8 years in roles encompassing data analysis, data quality, business intelligence, and machine learning. 

He holds a bachelor’s in information systems and recently completed his master’s degree in data analytics from WGU.  

Recognized for his commitment that 

extends beyond technical proficiency, Leonard is driven by a passion for assisting others in realizing their potential across professional and social dimensions. This fervor, combined with a strong grasp of data-related disciplines, underscores his dedication to crafting solutions that are both technically adept and human-centered. With an unyielding enthusiasm for continuous growth, Leonard strives to remain at the forefront of the dynamic data sciences field, channeling expertise to drive innovation and create impactful outcomes.

Sahar Hassan

WGU MBA graduate Sahar Hassan has significant leadership experience and is known for driving change that increases stakeholder value. She has more than 13 years of experience transforming the productivity of public, private, and nonprofit organizations and has served in various senior roles at Aon PLC, Equilar, and Barnett Capital.

Sahar is currently a Senior ESG Consultant at Aon PLC where she provides strategic direction, financial planning, and operations management to senior level executives and board members located around the globe and within the own company – Chicago, New York, Washington DC, London, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Reporting to and working closely with the Firm’s Senior Partners, she is responsible for developing and executing Aon’s Human Capital Services team’s strategy and creating a best-in-class operational infrastructure. 

Sahar holds a bachelor's degree in English and a master’s degree in political science from DePaul University. She lives in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago with her husband and her four-month-old daughter. In her spare time, Sahar enjoys traveling, hiking, and reading books by her favorite author Adam Grant. 


National Anthem Singers

Marly Alvarez

Anthem singer Marly Alvarez, from Wichita Falls, Texas, is earning her BSN degree from WGU and has been in the nursing field since 2020. 

Starting in the profession near the beginning of the pandemic was quite a shock for Marly, but she was committed to helping others. Since then, she’s settled into the hospice space, which is where her heart has been prior to even beginning nursing

school, and currently serves as the Lead Admissions RN for Hospice of Wichita Falls. 

She has been married to her high school sweetheart for 17 years and they are the proud parents of three sons. 

Nathalie Alcime

Nathalie Alcime is a native New Yorker, raised in Spring Valley, NY and of Haitian descent. 

She is a classical trained musician and has performed all over the world including Haiti, Japan, Italy, and the Dominican Republic. 

Nathalie, who is earning her master’s degree in elementary education from WGU, is passionate about teaching and volunteer work as a worship leader. She previously earned a 

bachelor’s degree at Nyack College and mastery credits at Lee University, both in Vocal Performance. She is a versatile artist who has the ability to engage her audience to experience music in a deeper way. And she uses her passion in her teaching, helping her tailor instruction to meet the learning needs of her students. As an educator, she has found ways to help students realize their own potential and merge academic content with real life experiences. 

Her musical journey and diverse background has afforded her opportunities to grow in the areas of compassion, empathy, and awareness. She is a devout Christian and lives in a way that exemplifies her faith and the values to extend love to others. Her vision statement is this: “I will use my voice to empower, engage, and inspire diverse audiences”. 

Parking & Bag Policies

Information Coming Soon!


Hotel Discounts

Information Coming Soon!


Alumni Celebration in Chicago

Friday, September 22

Information Coming Soon!

Keynote Speaker

Information Coming Soon!

Bachelor's Ceremony Graduate Speakers

Information Coming Soon!

Master's Ceremony Graduate Speakers

Information Coming Soon!

National Anthem Singers

Information Coming Soon!

Frequently Asked Questions

Ceremony FAQs

A commencement guidebook will be loaded onto the commencement app and emailed to each graduate with check-in details, parking, maps, and much more. 

Graduates are recommended to bring up to 8 guests, but tickets are not required to enter the commencement ceremony. Please feel free to bring your extra guests. Graduates do not need to update their initial guest count with the Commencement Office.  

Tickets are not required for WGU commencement weekend events.  

Only the names of graduates who physically attend an in-person commencement or submit a video to a virtual commencement will have their names read.

Policies vary by location and venue. Please consult the commencement app for further details three weeks prior to the ceremony date.  

Please arrive dressed in your cap and gown for the commencement ceremony. Due to the number of graduates and schedule, it is not practical to change into regalia at the venue.

You can watch the commencement ceremony at the WGU YouTube channel at any point after the start of the ceremony.

The commencement photos are usually available 2-3 weeks after commencement. Those photos will be available for viewing at

Did you know that WGU Alumni have access to hundreds of discounts? Log in to BenefitHub to search for deals on flights, hotels, car rentals, and more.

Ceremony Participation & RSVP FAQs

There is not a time limit on when a graduate may walk in a commencement. Graduates may only participate in one commencement ceremony per degree program completed.

Tickets are not required for commencement weekend events.  

Generally, the commencement ceremony lasts 2 hours.

Yes, it is possible for a commencement ceremony to reach capacity. We suggest that you submit an RSVP to your desired ceremony as soon as you are eligible.

Please review the commencement participation guidelines located in the student handbook, which outlines the eligibility for commencements.

Graduates who wish to participate in an in-person or virtual commencement ceremony must complete two steps. 

  1. Submit either your Graduation Application or be enrolled in and only have your final course remaining, such as capstone, final certification, or student teaching.  

  1. Submit an RSVP via the commencement web site (available at  

To RSVP, you must have either your Graduation Application submitted to the Student Records department or be enrolled in your final course, such as capstone, final certification, or student teaching. If you don’t currently meet this requirement, wait to RSVP until the requirement is met. 

Students who are enrolled in their final course may submit an email to with "Final Course" in subject line along with desired commencement ceremony.

No, the graduation application process is separate from commencement. If the Commencement Office has granted a final course exemption, you do not have to have your graduation application submitted to walk at commencement. 

Yes, the ceremony RSVP form is a separate process from the graduation application. The completion of the ceremony RSVP form reserves your seat at commencement and generates your name card for the announcer. 

After a graduate submits the ceremony RSVP form, a confirmation email is sent to the email address listed on the completed RSVP form. Please check your junk inbox. If you do not see a confirmation email for your ceremony RSVP. Please contact us at with additional questions.

No. Once registration has closed, no late additions, including day of (walk-up) will be permitted.

Graduates may walk in one commencement ceremony per degree. As of January 2022, a graduate may participate in one ceremony per degree, either a virtual or in-person ceremony.

Photos from each commencement ceremony will be available for purchase through our photography partner The Grad Team in the week following each commencement. All photos can be viewed on their website here.

Regalia FAQs

Oak Hall Cap and Gown is the official regalia vendor (caps, gowns, and hoods) for WGU. You can place your order via the website or call 1-800-456-7623 and ask for the Web Department. The official regalia color for graduates is navy.  For visual reference, please see our bachelor’s regalia video and our master’s regalia video. 

For bachelor’s degree, post-baccalaureate teacher programs, or endorsement preparation program (English Language Learning), you should order a cap, bachelor's gown, and tassel. For those earning a master's degree or endorsement preparation program (Educational Leadership), you should order a cap, master's gown, tassel, and a master's hood.

The following master’s hoods are available for purchase at the WGU-Oak Hall Cap and Gown website:

Education - blue 
Business (all MBAs) - drab 
Information Technology - gold 
Nursing – apricot 
Integrated Healthcare Management - salmon 
Master of Health Leadership - sage green

You can order a tassel at the WGU-Oak Hall Cap and Gown website, or by calling 1-800-456-7623 and ask for the Web Department.

Yes, WGU graduates affiliated with an honor society may wear society pins or honor cords/sashes on their gowns. Teacher graduates affiliated with the WGU chapter of the international honor society of Kappa Delta Pi (KDP) may order honor cords at    

Prior to the conferral of degrees, bachelor's degree graduates wear the tassel on the right while master's degree graduates wear their tassel on the left for the entire commencement ceremony.

A graduate should wear academic attire appropriate to the awarded degree. The master's gown differs from a bachelor's gown. If you already have a cap and tassel, you can order a master's gown as an individual item on the WGU-Oak Hall Cap and Gown website. Please note that the academic attire for a master's graduate includes a cap, tassel, master's gown, and hood.

WGU graduates who are veterans or active-duty military will be provided with a military honor cord. For virtual commencements, cords will be shipped to the address provided on their RSVP. For in-person commencements, cords will be picked up at graduate check-in. On your RSVP form, please mark that you are a veteran or on active duty.

Graduates are permitted to decorate their caps and wear sashes with their regalia. Take into consideration the following if decorating your cap or wearing a sash for commencement: 

WGU does not allow content on caps or sashes that is considered, in WGU’s sole discretion, obscene, vulgar, defamatory, hateful, inappropriate, profane or that might disregard another’s copyright or third-party rights. All decorations must lie flat on the cap. 

Philanthropy Cords FAQs

The Philanthropy Cord is a blue and gold cord that WGU graduates often wear with their cap and gown at commencement. The Philanthropy cord is not only a symbol of their commitment to WGU, but also an opportunity for them to “pay it forward” and help current and future WGU students.

Graduates can receive a Philanthropy Cord by making a gift of $25 or more to WGU’s Fellow Night Owl Scholarship, a fund established to help current WGU students facing financial hardship cross the finish line to graduation. To donate, graduates can text “WGUCord” to 41-444 or visit this link.

All proceeds from the Philanthropy Cord sales support our Fellow Night Owl Scholarship Fund, which helps current students experiencing financial hardships with need-based scholarships. Your donation is put to immediate use and provides help when it is needed the most. To learn more, click here.

For in-person commencements: If a donation is made more than four weeks prior to commencement weekend, the Philanthropy Cord will be mailed to the graduate. The cord may also be picked up by visiting the WGU Advancement table at the Alumni Celebration or during graduate check-in before commencement.

For virtual commencements: Philanthropy Cords will be mailed to the graduate prior to the ceremony date.

WGU Advancement, founded in 2018, is the official fundraising arm of Western Governors University (WGU). We are committed to supporting our students, faculty, and staff through our fundraising program to advance the mission of WGU. Your gifts help us to attract and retain talented students, provide student scholarships, and help our students “cross the finish line” to graduation!

No problem. You can donate to the Fellow Night Owl Scholarship Fund by clicking on this link or texting “WGUGrad” to 41-444. Every gift, big or small, makes a difference. Thank you in advance for your support.

Letter of Invitation for Abroad & Commencement Announcements FAQs

Yes, students may send an email to with the family member's full name, relationship to the student, and foreign address. Once provided, the Records Department will prepare documents containing information about the commencement and student's earned degree. These prepared letters will then be sent to the student to forward them to the correct parties. It may take 5-10 business days for the letters to be mailed to the student.

Jostens is the current provider for commencement announcements.

Graduation Application & Diploma FAQs

Visit the graduation application page in the student handbook for the most current information on how to apply for graduation.

Visit the graduation application page in the student handbook for the most current information on how to receive your diploma.