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WGU Grad Winnie Obilor knows that no matter where one lives in the world, education has a transformative power. And Winnie plans to use her capstone project to provide underprivileged women in her home country DRC Congo with the education and skills they need to improve their lives. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
No matter where you live in the world, education has a transformative power to improve lives. That is the belief held by recent graduate Winnie Obilor, who completed her bachelor’s degree in business IT management.
Originally from DRC Congo, Winnie has seen her fair share of tragic events. Her family was forced to flee to the United States as refugees after her father, who was an activist was fighting for change and had to leave when the new president came into power.
Winnie wasn’t allowed to return to the Congo until she became a U.S. citizen.
Since becoming U.S. citizens, the entire family has been working toward their education to better themselves, learning as much as they can and developing skills they plan to eventually take back to the Congo. Since pursuing her degree at WGU, Winnie has worked full time while being a wife and mother to four young children, the youngest of which was born as she enrolled. Winnie has been a dedicated student, continuing to inspire others as she perseveres through numerous challenges, all in an effort to help her family and help her country that she deeply loves. In February, she re-enrolled at WGU, this time in the MBA degree program.
WGU College of IT Graduate Rashaan Green has overcome a lot of adversity to earn not one, but two college degrees from WGU. From high school dropout to IT leader, today Rashaan works at Microsoft as a Principal Security Service Engineering Manager in the nation’s capital. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Rashaan grew up in Charleston, South Carolina. Suffering from ADHD, he struggled in school and eventually dropped out of high school in the 9th grade. Throughout his childhood, he was often told by family members and even teachers that he wouldn’t amount to anything. When he was 17 years old, he was working as a dishwasher at a restaurant when the head dishwasher, who was about 50 years old, told him “You’re pretty good at this. One day maybe you can be head dishwasher.” Rashaan realized he wanted more out of his life. He found Job Corps, which is a program that helps young men and women earn their GED and learn a job trade. He enrolled and 5 months later completed his GED and a trade in computer repair.
Rashaan earned his B.S. Business, IT Management in 2014 from WGU while suffering from the loss of two friends and his father as well as an eviction during that time. After graduation, he immediately re-enrolled for his master’s degree at WGU and was offered a job with the NSA (beating out others from NYU and Columbia) only to turn it down because he was offered more money with at his current employer. Rashaan currently works at Microsoft as a Principal Security Service Engineering Manager in Washington D.C.
In 2018, Rashaan was named the CAEL Learner of the Year.
Two-time WGU graduate Marqus Hutchinson joins the podcast to discuss his career success in the IT field as well why he's referred so many to WGU, including his mother, his brother, several friends, and many professional colleagues. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
The Harlem-native, who was raised in foster care, graduated high school early back in 1999. But earning a college degree? It took him a few times, before he found a model that would work for him. Marqus earned not one but two degrees WGU. In 2005, Marqus earned his bachelor’s in information technology, and then a year later earned an MBA in IT Management. Prior to his WGU degrees, he spent four years in the United States Navy.
Currently, he is the chief technology officer at Intelligent Waves, a defense and national security IT consulting firm in Washington, D.C. A proactive thought leader and technology innovator in the federal government sector, Hutchinson responds to the nation’s complex security needs as a consultant for the Department of Defense and the Intelligence community.
A WGU believer from the beginning, Marqus has referred more than 10 individuals to the university, including two family members his mother, who earned her degree bachelor’s in human resources and MBA, and a brother who earned his MBA in Information Technology Management.
WGU alumna and continuing grad Christine Granado joins the alumni podcast to share her extraordinary journey of completing her bachelor's degree while battling cancer. Leaning on her support system, Christine adopted the mantra "to do or die trying." Not only did she complete her degree and start a new job, she recently re-enrolled at WGU in pursuit of master's degree. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
What do you want your legacy to be? This question stared Christine Granado squarely in the face, after not one, but two, bouts with cancer. Christine, who at the time of her stage 4 diagnosis was a student at WGU, began wondering about her legacy.
Two years earlier, doctors shared the grim news that the disease was incurable. A nurse, wife, and mother, Christine went into a deep depression. Strengthened by the support of her family, medical professionals, as well as from her WGU mentor, Christine was able to develop the mindset of "acceptance is everything."
This period of introspection had her wanting to complete important life goals, things she felt were realistic with an end date in sight. One of those lifelong goals was to finish what she started at WGU. Christine made a pact with herself that she would do or simply die trying.
With this amazing vision into the future—Christine completed her bachelor’s degree in July 2020, walked in WGU’s virtual commencement in August, and then started a new job in September as a Clinical Manager at a pediatrics group in Newark, New Jersey. A few months later, Christine, never done learning, enrolled in the Master’s of Health Leadership degree program her at WGU.
Aimee Edwards, WGU’s Director of Community Affairs, joins the Alumni Podcast to share details about WGU’s commitment to increase access to education by making it possible for individuals to improve their lives. Aimee discusses the looming digital divide and how WGU alumni can get involved to make a difference. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Accomplished health care executive and WGU MBA alum Robert Cross joins the podcast to share insights into his work at the renowned University of Texas at Austin, Dell Medical School. The Texas native reflects on the Value Institute of Health and Care as well as sharing his experience of being named to the Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Robert Cross is an accomplished health care executive, a WGU MBA alum, and current WGU Master of Health Leadership student. He is the Assistant Director of Operations for the Value Institute for Health and Care at University of Texas at Austin/Dell Med, which is a renowned organization in healthcare transformation.
A native Texan, the health value work Robert does is complimentary to the work done at WGU’s Accountable Care Learning Collaborative.
Robert is a member of the Texas Music Legends Hall of Fame and previous to his work in healthcare, he was CFO and helped build a top-ten public radio station in the country.
WGU Alumna and fifth-grade teacher Jillian Hernandez is a top five finalist for the 2021 Arizona Educational Foundation Teacher of the Year. Jillian joins the podcast to share her platform and reflect on her journey into the classroom and the changes she's made over the years. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
In September 2020, WGU alumna Jillian Hernandez was named a top five finalist for the 2021 Arizona Educational Foundation Teacher of the Year. As part of her platform, Hernandez focused on social justice and meeting the needs of diverse populations across Arizona.
“Education can and should be an act of social justice,” Hernandez said. “If education does not allow for empowerment and action, then we have missed the point.”
A 5th grade teacher from Arizona, Hernandez earned her Master of Arts in Teaching, Mathematics degree from WGU back in 2011.
Dr. Eric Weaver and Daniel Chipping from the Accountable Care Learning Collaborative, which is housed at WGU, join the podcast to share the mission of ACLC and how the organization is a healthcare industry leader focused on delivering value-based care. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Nearly five years ago, the Accountable Care Learning Collaborative was created to accelerate readiness of healthcare organizations to deliver value-based care. It was created by former HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt (one of the founding governors of WGU) and Dr. Mark McLellan. They had a vision of the need to adapt the payment model within healthcare, which mapped out competencies, and this collaborative is now housed at WGU. Leavitt and McLellan wanted to create a Collaborative rather than a think-tank or research organization.
Shayne Moore is a multi-certified IT professional who has led in the technology field for more than 20 years. In 2014, he earned his bachelor’s degree in information technology and discovered that with the degree and certifications he no longer had to find jobs, because the jobs found him! He’s currently leading in the role of Vice President of Information Technology at Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation. He’s a proud WGU grad, as well as a husband, father, a mentor, and a pastor.
WGU Course Instructor Dave Ammons and Program Faculty Manager Natalie Hoover join the alumni podcast to talk about their service in the U.S. military, the first-ever employee resource group at WGU dedicated to veterans, and WGU’s support for veteran students and graduates. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
WGU Course Instructor Dave Ammons is a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 with combat tours in Desert Storm and Iraq. He earned the Bronze Star Medal in Iraq. Natalie Hoover is an Air Force veteran and a WGU Program Faculty Manager. Dave and Natalie have started a Veteran Community Group at WGU and recently helped launch the Veteran Employee Resource Group for WGU employees. Natalie is a military spouse to an active-duty servicemember.
David Grow has spent more than 30 years serving as a financial executive in companies ranging from PricewaterhouseCoopers to WordPerfect and Novell. He joined Western Governors University as Chief Financial Officer in 2005, directing all financial and operational activities of the nonprofit organization. In 2019, Grow was promoted to Chief Operating Officer focusing on co-curricular services, including financial aid, marketing, regional and state operations, and alumni engagement, among other services.
Under Grow’s leadership, WGU has seen phenomenal growth—from a small institution still in its startup phase—sustained by investment and serving fewer than 4,000 students and just 400 graduates—to one of the nation’s largest universities, a self-sustaining nonprofit with nearly 120,000 students, more than 200,000 graduates, and 7,000 employees nationwide.
Grow is a Certified Public Account and received a B.S. in Accounting from the University of Utah.
WGU alumna Maureen Stover was recently named North Carolina Teacher of the Year. We are honored to have Maureen join the alumni podcast to share her successes as a teacher, her background as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Air Force, and how she’s drawing upon the WGU model in her own classroom. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
WGU alumna Maureen Stover was named the 2020 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year.
Prior to her selection as the NCTOY, she taught biology, earth and environmental science, and Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) at Cumberland International Early College High School in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Maureen has taught at the elementary, middle, and high school levels and worked as an educational consultant for the National Science Teaching Association.
She earned a B.S. in Biology from the United States Air Force Academy in 1997, an M.Ed. in STEM Curriculum and Instruction from Adams State University, and a M.A. in Secondary Science Teaching from WGU. Prior to becoming a teacher, Maureen served as an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force.
WGU's Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Jason Thompson is back on the podcast sharing more about his background as well as his important role at WGU. Hear Jason's struggle overcoming dyslexia, growing up in Japan, and winning a student body election in college which was plagued with controversy and contention due to race. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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 developing and accomplishing diversity and equity initiatives and goals.
HR professional and WGU alum Todd Good joins the podcast to talk about his career success with IBM. Good, who has been promoted six times in eight years, shares his secret to advancing his career. Also, WGU Course Instructor from the College of Business, Jim Jividen, imparts some timely wisdom for WGU students and graduates. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Learning is contagious. At the encouragement of his wife who was earning a master’s degree, HR professional Todd Good returned to school to earn an MBA from WGU. A short time after this, he encouraged a colleague to enroll at WGU to earn her master’s degree as well.
Todd joined IBM in 2012 in an entry-level role. Soon after earning his degree from WGU, was promoted to Program Manager in Talent Acquisition. He’s enjoyed career success having been promoted six times in eight years. Currently, Todd serves as a Talent Acquisition Manager for Early Professional Digital Engagement and Tools.
Todd and his wife, Ashley, have been married for five years and have a four-year-old son.
WGU IT grad Cintya Auld shares her transformative story of overcoming major life challenges to go on to become a leader in cybersecurity. Also get to know Alumni team members Natalie Carter and Scott Baker as they share their experiences of supporting WGU's growing alumni base. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Cintya’s life is remarkable, especially considering the odds she faced at an early age. An underage, undocumented immigrant, high school dropout, and temporarily homeless mother of one with another on the way, she has completely done a 180-degree turnaround updating those titles to U.S. citizen, a two-time college graduate, and a cybersecurity professional.
In 2015, Cintya graduated as a first generation college graduate from WGU with a bachelor’s degree in business information technology management. Along with her degree, she earned four IT certifications and found herself updating the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s information system as an IT project manager only weeks after graduation, which was a far cry from where she was just years prior.
A wife and mother residing in Fort Worth, Texas, she currently serves as an enterprise-level cybersecurity professional and looks forward to continuing to evolve as a professional and as an individual with diverse interests.
WGU IT grad and business owner Spencer Wade joins the podcast to talk about alumni ambassador opportunities as well as his successes in founding and running his business, Lift Conversions. Also in this episode, get to know alumni team members Beau Jones and Wendi Gerardis as they join and share their experiences in supporting WGU's growing alumni base. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
WGU IT graduate Spencer Wade is the solutions-oriented principal strategist at Lift Conversions—the Google partner digital marketing agency he founded in 2014. Today, Lift Conversions has locations in both Chicago, Illinois, and Westminster, Colorado.
Spencer has earned numerous certifications from the IT industry’s governing bodies and holds a range of Google alum titles for his years of work in their forums and programs. These roles, along with his extensive experience in marketing across verticals, have given Spencer a voice of authority in the fields he’s passionate about. He's using that voice to assist individuals and businesses in their marketing pursuits.
Lift Conversions, his agency of Trusted Digital Media Advisors, offers a full line of digital marketing services—from world-class Google ads management to website design. His team delivers a unique blend of boutique-style attention and powerhouse results to clients in more than 47 verticals across the US, Canada, and the EU—with a referral rate of more than 90%!
Two-time grad and creative specialist from the Show Me State, Matt West, joins the podcast to talk about his career success as well as his work with his recent appointment to a nonprofit board. Also, in the first of a three-party series, alumni team members Krysten Gross and April Torres Chew join to share how they support our alumni throughout the country. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
After a decade of hitting walls in his career with just an associate’s degree, Matt West found WGU and earned not one degree, but two. First, in 2018, he earned his bachelor’s in marketing management, and a short time later he earned his master’s in management and leadership.
West hails from Fredericktown, Missouri, a midwestern town with a population of 4,000 residents. In 2016, West moved to the "Gateway to the West"—St. Louis. There, he’s flexed his creative muscles advancing in his career. Currently, he serves as a creative specialist at Neighbors Credit Union.
West was recently appointed to the Nonprofit Marketers Network - STL and is instrumental in helping support nonprofits as they reach for their goals.
Two-time WGU grad Doug Vigliano from Austin, Texas, joins the podcast to talk about his recent graduation experiences as well as his new promotion. Also, Bonnie Monteleone from WGU's Career & Professional Development team shares some great insights and resources available to our alumni. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
A short time after earning his MBA from WGU, Doug Vigliano was promoted to director of marketing at his employer, Construction Journal. He’s now taken the leap from individual contributor to leading and managing an entire marketing team where he helps forecast, analyze, and identify relevant construction opportunities. Additionally, Doug is a co-founder and COO of his wife’s nutrition business, Thrival Nutrition, based in Austin, Texas.
WGU's new Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity, Jason Thompson, joins the alumni podcast for an important conversation regarding the current racial climate. He's leading discussions on race relations among other topics internally at WGU, and here we share these helpful insights with our alumni. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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.
After David Rettig earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Franklin University, he enrolled at WGU seeking a master’s in management and leadership. This degree from WGU further strengthened his position as a leader in the IT Industry. David provides an edgy voice in today’s landscape. He’s authored four books and founded two companies providing CIO advisory services.
He is currently researching effective practices in leadership development as part of a doctorate in business administration at Wilmington University. He’s been married for 28 years to the only woman in the entire world with the patience to put up with him. He has three kids that think he's a great dad because they really don't know any better.
WGU grad Angie Keilhauer joins the WGU Alumni podcast and shares what it was like to earn a degree from WGU while being a contestant on NBC's The Voice. She shares how the degree has helped her music career and what she's up to now. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Two years into her first attempt at a college degree, Angie Keilhauer gave up her scholarship to become a full-time singer-songwriter. Her parents, sacrificing immigrants from El Salvador, felt far from ecstatic after hearing that Angie was dropping out. But college simply just didn’t make sense to her—she wanted to go on tour, not attend Monday morning lectures.
During her first tour, Angie realized she needed to learn the tools necessary to run a successful business in music. This is when she learned of WGU from her mom, who graduated from WGU at the age of 60. Though memorizing legal jargon felt incredibly out of place as she simultaneously prepared for NBC’s The Voice, it was her courses at WGU that gave her the confidence to read through her entire show contract and later create a budget to record an album and marketing plan. Angie earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing management from WGU in 2019 and recently released her latest single, Real Talk.
On episode 6, we catch up with husband-wife duo and Coloradoans Chris and Gina Abbey, who, between the two of them, have three degrees from WGU. The Abbeys share their successes in the nonprofit and cybersecurity industries, respectively. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Gina Abbey earned her bachelor’s degree in marketing in 2014 . She has a background in sales and development and most recently joined the Bridge of Hope Greater Denver, which helps single moms and their kids who are facing homelessness in the Denver, Colorado, area. She has been instrumental in raising funds and working with donors and sponsors.
Chris Abbey is a two-time WGU graduate, first earning a bachelor’s degree in IT Network Design and Management back in 2013, and then later a master’s degree in Information Security and Assurance. He’s held various leadership positions in cybersecurity and currently is the senior customer service success manager at Red Canary, which is an ally security in detection and response for customers.
Most importantly, they are the parents of two little girls and have been married for 15 years.
Gina’s organization is doing a virtual fundraiser “run” for Mother’s Day through May 31. Learn more or donate here.
This podcast gives a behind-the-scenes look at WGU’s "Ambition Never Rests" national advertising campaign. WGU Director of Marketing, Sam Osselaer, will share this insight, and then we’ll hear from one of the inspiring WGU alumni featured in the national campaign, San Antonio Texas-native Jaqueline Becerra. Becerra will share all that she’s overcome to become a healthcare and nonprofit leader in her community. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Jacqueline Becerra from San Antonio, Texas, is a wife, mother, nurse, pastor, philanthropist, nonprofit champion, and proud WGU graduate. Throughout her years, Jacqueline has never let her life circumstances limit her. Instead, she used them as a driving force to help people facing the same hopelessness she did at one point in time. Jacqueline projects that drive into her work with her nonprofit organization, Hope and Life Centers, as well as her job as a Nursing Director at Tenet Healthcare in San Antonio.
She earned her master of science in nursing from WGU in 2018, and earlier this year, WGU unveiled a 45-foot mural in her hometown to honor her as part of its "Ambition Never Rests" campaign for her overcoming numerous hardships and going on to accomplish her goals. Becerra is a shining example to all and we are proud to have her representing WGU as an alumna.
Recent WGU grad and IT mover-and-shaker Gussie Hopkins joins the podcast to share how she is having great success as a woman in IT. Also, President of WGU Advancement, Annalisa Holcombe, joins and gives us an update on how students, alumni, and foundations are making a great impact by paying it forward. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Gussie Hopkins’ journey in higher education began 16 years ago after getting pregnant with her son, Chris, during her first semester in community college. Though she was having a baby, she knew that she didn’t want to become another statistic and would graduate no matter how long it took. She chose to attend community college and continue making the 90-minute commute to school with her newborn strapped to her chest.
Throughout her journey, she faced many challenges that stood between her and her degree. But Gussie persevered, knowing that education had the power to change the course of her life. At the age of 30 and as a mother of two, she found WGU. During her time at WGU, she was able to lean on her Program Mentor and others throughout all the ups and downs. In 2019, she earned her bachelor’s in IT Management and today serves as a project manager at Stratix, a large mobility solutions provider company headquartered Norcross, Georgia.
Jordan Barta, WGU MBA grad, joins the podcast and shares his business success and why he’s referred more than 20 individuals to WGU. Chris Mumford and Bret Smith from WGU’s Refer-a-Friend team talk about why referrals are so important to the university and how you can earn cool swag when you refer your friends and family. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Oregon native Jordan Barta earned a bachelor’s degree in 2011 while playing football for California Lutheran University as a defensive end. After college, Jordan spent five months in Finland playing outside of Helsinki and seven months in Ingolstadt, Germany. Following this time, he returned to the United States and began working as an account manager at an online affiliate marketing company.
He knew that to advance his career, a master’s degree would be key. In 2016, while working for the company Paychex, he found WGU, which had a partnership with the payroll company. He loved WGU’s program and found it extremely relevant to the demands of his full-time employment, and he started to get attention from his company’s leadership. Since earning his degree, he has advanced his career by leveraging his experience and education to better roles, which has helped him double his salary.
Jordan is currently a customer sales director at SumTotal Systems, an East Coast-based company specializing in helping organizations with their human capital management strategies. He is a huge advocate of WGU—he’s referred more than 20 individuals to the online, nonprofit university, one of which is his wife, Michelle, who earned her MBA in Healthcare Management.
When Jordan is not working, or referring family and colleagues to WGU, he’s often traveling with his wife, exercising, or finding any reason to be outside.
WGU Teachers College graduate, Boise, Idaho, native, and national award-winning physics teacher Sean Boston joins the podcast. Also, learn more about the many scholarship opportunities available to alumni, family members, and others as we talk with WGU Scholarship Director Amanda Savage. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
WGU alum and Boise, Idaho, native Sean Boston was recently recognized in Washington, D.C., as one of the top science teachers of the year. Boston was one of only 100 science, math, and technology teachers recognized by the White House for teaching excellence for the 2017 school year. Boston, along with the others recognized, was given a sizeable financial award, the opportunity to connect with fellow award-winning teachers, and the chance to visit and tour the museums and monuments in the nation’s capital.
Sean is a first-generation college student. He earned his bachelor’s in engineering from the University of Idaho. As an undergraduate student, he wasn’t sure what career path to head down, but he knew engineers were paid very well, so he pursued that route. After working as a mechanical engineer for four years, Sean desired a greater connection to his community—and he felt that his calling was to be a teacher. He found WGU online and, like many WGU students, was able to make a career change, graduating from WGU in 2016 with a master’s in science education. Although he took a sizeable pay cut, he finds great fulfillment as a teacher and has never looked back. The award and recognition help Sean know he made the right decision.
On our first episode, we catch up with WGU Teachers College alumna, science teacher, and Texas native Rachael Black. We also talk all things WGU Commencement with Elizabeth Aranda, who oversees these events as the Manager of Commencement at WGU. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Weatherford, Texas, native Rachael Black is the oldest of six kids and the first in her family to graduate from college. A successful mother of two young boys, Rachael entered her first year of teaching in 2016 after graduating from WGU, but her early life was full of challenges.
Rachael recounted some of those challenges when she shared her story at WGU’s commencement in Houston in 2016. She said: “I grew up impoverished, a prison inmate’s daughter, neglected and abused, hungry, uneducated and destined to be unsuccessful.”
Now, as a teacher, she creates an engaging environment for her 9th-grade biology students, instilling them with wisdom from Dr. Seuss’ "The Lorax," which has become her life motto.
When she’s not teaching science or wrangling her two boys, Rachael likes to be outdoors, camping, hiking, swimming, or just enjoying nature around her.
WGU’s alumni network now has more than 175,000 graduates living in all 50 states. In 2020, the alumni team launched the WGU Alumni Podcast as a new way to engage with its growing alumni base. Each episode highlights the incredible work that our alumni are doing in their local communities and the impact it is having. We also share benefits, perks, resources and partner information to help you stay engaged and get the most out of the alumni community.
Sara VanWinkle serves as Director of Alumni Relations and joined the university in that role in 2019. Sara comes from Northwest Arkansas, where she served as senior producer and content editor for the Event Solutions (shows and events) team for the world’s largest retailer.
Sara received her B.A. in Journalism from Harding University and has a diverse background in hospital marketing, newspapers, corporate communications, and event production. Starting this podcast has been something she’s wanted to do for more than a year.
In her free time, Sara enjoys anything with music (concerts and making killer playlists, especially), traveling, baseball (Go Braves!), and reading. She loves animals, recently adding black cat Blaze to the household. Her niece and nephew are her life.
Jeff Burton is the Senior Manager of Alumni Engagement at WGU. He is a proud graduate of WGU, earning his MBA in 2016.
Jeff’s background is in public relations—prior to joining the Alumni team, he spent the past five years managing public relations efforts at WGU.
He’s passionate about traveling, American history, ’90s country music, and fantasy football. A bit of a sports nut (understatement), Jeff created and hosts the tongue-in-cheek sports podcast Guys on the Sideline. He’s most happy when he’s at Disneyland with his beautiful wife and three kids.