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Stay connected with WGU Alumni and your fellow Night Owls. WGU Alumni Podcast

Listen, learn, and stay engaged.

Episode 38 – Award Winning IT Professional and WGU Graduate Anthony Utt

College of IT graduate and award-winning professional Anthony Utt, from Mount Airy, North Carolina, joins the alumni podcast to talk about his passion for software development, his work as an engineering lead at GR0, and his reaction to receiving the 2021 Tech Innovator Award. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Anthony Utt of Mount Airy, North Carolina, started down the path of systems administration but while attending community college discovered his passion for being a software developer. After earning an associate’s degree from Surry Community College in Dobson, North Carolina, Anthony worked at a printing company, South Data. But he knew in order to advance his career, a bachelor’s degree was a must. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled at WGU in information technology but switched to computer science once the program launched, and he was part of the initial cohort of that program. Anthony found WGU after being referred by his cousin who was a current WGU student.

In 2021, Anthony was awarded the Tech Innovator Award by Built in, which recognizes highly skilled technologists for tangible impact within respective industries.  An avid tabletop gamer, Anthony will marry his fiancée, Taylor, in Virginia in October 2021. 

Anthony Utt Anthony Utt

Episode 37 – WGU Grad and HR Professional Claire Gravenhorst

Two-time WGU graduate Claire Gravenhorst from North Carolina joins the alumni podcast to talk about the lessons she's learned from her professional mentor and how her two business degrees have helped her thrive in the HR space while also keeping her creative dreams alive. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Claire Gravenhorst is an enthusiastic business professional passionate about diversity, corporate social responsibility, and the power of businesses to enrich employees' lives and communities. She also considers herself a lifelong learner, consistently seeking new opportunities to grow her expertise and experience both personally and professionally. She has more than five years’ experience in global business environments as a training specialist, an HR professional, and an analyst in the tech space. Currently she is a Business Process Analyst at Red Hat supporting global HR initiatives across 40+ countries. Claire holds an Associate Professional in Human Resources certification and is a two-time WGU grad. In 2020, she earned her bachelor’s in HR Management and most recently earned her MBA. She hopes to build her career for the next five years before pursuing a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA).

Claire Gravenhorst Claire Gravenhorst

Episode 36 – WGU Teachers College Graduate Marah Jordan

WGU graduate Marah Jordan joins the alumni podcast to share her excitement for entering her classroom as a first-year teacher. She shares her journey as a community college transfer student, and why she's re-enrolled at WGU in pursuit of her master's degree in English Language Learning. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Marah Jordan Marah Jordan

As first-year teacher Marah Jordan from Lafayette, Indiana, prepares to enter her classroom, she is grateful for the opportunity her WGU degree has given her to better provide for her and her son. After going through a divorce, Jordan knew that her waitressing job was not going to cut it, and so she pursued her passion for teaching. After temporary stints in the school where she did her demonstration teaching, she is thrilled to have a classroom of her own this fall. Recently, she re-enrolled at WGU and is pursuing her master’s in English Language Learning. 

Episode 35 – Special guest Jen Hatmaker

New York Times bestselling author, blogger, and TV host Jen Hatmaker recently spoke at WGU’s spring commencement and now joins the alumni podcast to recount her experience at the commencement, sharing how she continues to be inspired by life-long learners and achievers. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Jen Hatmaker Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker is the New York Times bestselling author of For the Love and Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire, along with twelve other books. In addition to starring in the popular series My Big Family Renovation on HGTV, Jen also hosts the award-winning For the Love podcast, is the delighted curator of the Jen Hatmaker Book Club, and leader of a tightly knit online community where she reaches millions of people each week. Jen is a co-founder of Legacy Collective, a giving community that grants millions of dollars toward sustainable projects around the world. She is a mom to five kids and lives happily just outside Austin, Texas, in a 1908 farmhouse with questionable plumbing and was the keynote speaker at WGU’s spring virtual commencement. 

Find more on Jen: www.jenhatmaker.com 

WGU Virtual Spring Commencement Keynote Jen Hatmaker

Episode 34 – WGU’s Alison Bell and Two-Time Graduate Valerie Wesley 

Celebrating the incredible growth of WGU Indiana during the past 11 years, WGU Indiana Chancellor Alison Bell and two-time WGU grad Valerie Wesley join the podcast to talk about how WGU is impacting the state's workforce and how Wesley and her team are experiencing success even during the pandemic. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Alison Bell Alison Bell
Valerie Wesley Valeria Wesley

After completing an associates degree at Indiana Business College, Indiana native Valerie earned two degrees from WGU—first, a bachelor’s degree in human resources in 2012, and then in 2016, she earned her MBA. A 20-plus-year veteran in human resources, Valerie currently leads a team of eight HR professionals, managing 77 medical facilities in eight states. Valerie enjoys spending time with her family and growing a mean salsa garden just outside of Indianapolis.  

Episode 33 – Former NFL Star Marques Ogden

Former NFL Star Marques Ogden recently spoke at WGU's virtual commencement. On this podcast episode, we catch up with Marques to hear more about his experience speaking at commencement and what advice he has for WGU graduates. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Marques Ogden Marques Ogden

Growing up in a single-parent home with a father who inspired perseverance and fairness, Marques Ogden learned how to define his values and set goals. Ogden attended Howard University from 1998-2002 where he played Division I football. In 2003, Ogden was drafted into the NFL as an offensive lineman. He played with the Titans, Bills, Ravens, and Jaguars. After five years of playing in league, he decided to retire and pursue a career in construction and contracting.

At the age 27, Marques founded a construction company called Kayden Premier Enterprises. The company had fast growth and in 2010, Marques won the African American Subcontractor of the Year Award in the state of Maryland. Eventually his business went bankrupt, losing almost $2M dollars on one project in a matter of 90 days.

During his darkest hours, he pulled himself together, got a part-time job as a custodian, and with hard work and determination, became an inspirational keynote speaker, executive coach, best-selling author and marketing leader, helping to build the success of others.

Episode 32 – WGU Business Grad Donna Law

WGU business grad Donna Law joins the alumni podcast to share how she's giving back in her community as well as excelling in her professional career. A strong advocate for adult learners, particularly women, Donna shares her inspiring journey of beating cancer, finishing her degree, and going on to become the Executive Director of Development and Government Relations at Southern Utah University. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Donna Law Donna Law

Right out of high school, Donna began a career with SkyWest Airlines and worked her way up to become the marketing director. When she was newly married both her and her husband were laid off from their jobs in the same week. They settled in Cedar City, Utah, where she volunteered with the Shakespeare Festival for a year before being hired as their marketing director. 

Donna enjoyed career success but could only advance so far without a degree and with the encouragement of her employer, she enrolled in WGU’s business management degree program. In the middle of her studies she was diagnosed with cancer, but Donna wasn’t going to let that stand in her way of earning a degree. She beat cancer, finished her degree, and has since gone on to earn a master’s degree, and is now the Executive Director of Development and Government Relations at Southern Utah University. 

Episode 31 – Dr. Tonya Drake and Nitasha Lewis 

Special episode celebrating WGU Washington and their 10th anniversary on the Alumni podcast. WGU's Regional Vice President and Chancellor of WGU Washington, Dr. Tonya Drake, shares insights into the growth and success of the university in the state of Washington as well as the tremendous impact WGU students and grads are making in the state's workforce. Current student Nitasha Lewis shares her story of overcoming challenges and barriers and how she's making a difference to encourage the next generation to successfully pursue a college degree. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Tonya Drake Tonya Drake
Nitasha Lewis Nitasha Lewis

A preacher’s daughter, Nitasha Lewis has always been held to high standard. And being raised in a sheltered environment the time came when Nitasha rebelled with some significant consequences. Over the next decade, Nitasha endured physical abuse and drug addiction, among other challenges, even having her young children removed from her care. 

Years later, Nitasha has made a career out of helping students at a community college overcome barriers and challenges to higher education. She is a positive role model to countless students providing an example that you can preserver and achieve you goals.  

Episode 30 – WGU Grad Jonathan Soriano

WGU MBA IT grad Jonathan Soriano joins the alumni podcast to talk about landing his dream job at Nintendo, how he's mentoring others and has benefitted from his mentors, and his incredible experience at WGU's last commencement in Seattle. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Jonathan Soriano Jonathan Soriano

Shortly after completing his MBA IT Management degree in 2018, Jonathan Soriano landed his dream job at Nintendo of America. Jonathan’s passions include lots of cooking, music, and catching as many soccer matches as he can.

Growing up as an Army Brat, Jonathan has lived in two countries and multiple states, before his family settled down in Washington State. As a natural people-person, Jonathan thrives in communicating complex IT jargon in a language that the common person can speak and understand.  

YouTube: WGU grad lands dream job at Nintendo

WGU Blog: WGU grad lands dream job at Nintendo

Episode 29 – WGU Grad Winnie Obilor

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.

Winnie Obilor Winnie Obilor

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.

Episode 28 – WGU College of IT Grad Rashaan Green

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 Green Rashaan Green

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.

Episode 27 – Two-time WGU grad Marqus Hutchinson

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.

Marqus Hutchinson Marqus Hutchinson

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. 

Episode 26 – WGU Alumna and Continuing Grad Christine Granado

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.

Christine Granado Christine Granado

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.

Episode 25 – WGU Community Affairs Director Aimee Edwards

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.

Aimee Edwards Aimee Edwards

Episode 24 – WGU Alum Robert Cross

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 Robert Cross

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. 

Episode 23 – WGU Alumna and Arizona Teacher of the Year Finalist Jillian Hernandez

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.

Jillian Hernandez Jillian Hernandez

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. 

Episode 22 – WGU Refer-a-Friend Manager Chris Mumford

WGU Alumnus Chris Mumford, who works with the WGU Refer-a-Friend Team, joins the podcast to share the many benefits available to our alumni who refer friends and family to the university. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Chris Mumford Chris Mumford

Episode 21 – WGU Continuing Graduate Specialist Mary Pugmire

WGU Continuing Grad Specialist Mary Pugmire joins the podcast to discuss the benefits available to alumni who are continuing at WGU for an additional degree. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Mary Pugmire Mary Pugmire

Episode 20 – Accountable Care Learning Collaborative’s Dr. Eric Weaver and Daniel Chipping

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.

Eric Weaver Dr. Eric Weaver
Daniel Chipping Daniel Chipping

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. 

Episode 19 – WGU IT Alum Shayne Moore

WGU IT alum and Philadelphia native Shayne Moore joins the alumni podcast to share his IT career journey, his community involvement, and insights into the IT field. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Shayne Moore Shayne Moore

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. 

Episode 18 – WGU Faculty members and Military Veterans Dave Ammons and Natalie Hoover

WGU 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.

Dave Ammons Dave Ammons
Natalie Hoover Natalie Hoover

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. 

Episode 17 – WGU’s Chief Operating Officer David Grow

WGU's Chief Operating Officer, David Grow, joins the alumni podcast to talk about the university's growth over the years. He shares insights about WGU's founding and also gives advice to students and alumni. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

David Grow David Grow

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.

Episode 16 – North Carolina Teacher of the Year and WGU alumna Maureen Stover

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.

Maureen Stover Maureen Stover

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. 

Episode 15 – WGU’s VP of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Jason Thompson is back

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 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 developing and accomplishing diversity and equity initiatives and goals.

Episode 14 – WGU Grad Todd Good and WGU Instructor Jim Jividen

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 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.

Todd Good Todd Good

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.

Episode 13 – WGU Grad Cintya Auld and Alumni team members Natalie Carter and Scott Baker

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 Auld Cintya Auld

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.

On episode 13 of the podcast, Scott Baker mentioned the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association. Here are links for additional information: 

https://www.pwsausa.org/ 

Episode 12 – WGU grad and successful business owner Spencer Wade and Alumni team members Beau Jones and Wendi Gerardis

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.

Spencer Wade Spencer Wade

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%!

Episode 11 – Two-time WGU grad Matt West and Alumni team members Krysten Gross and April Torres Chew

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.

Matt West Matt West

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. 

Episode 10 – Two-time WGU grad Doug Vigliano and Bonnie Monteleone from WGU’s Career and Professional Development

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.

Doug Vigliano Doug Vigliano

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.  

Episode 9 – WGU’s Vice President of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity Jason Thompson

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 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.

Episode 8 - IT leader and WGU Alumnus David Rettig

IT grad, author, and founder of two companies David Rettig joins the podcast to share why he provides an edgy voice in the IT landscape and how’s he’s been able to create success in the industry.. Listen now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

David Rettig David Rettig

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.

Episode 7 - Musician and WGU Alumna Angie Keilhauer

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.

Angie Keilhauer Angie Keilhauer

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.

Episode 6 - Chris and Gina Abbey, a Colorado Couple with Three WGU Degrees

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.

Chris Abbey Chris Abbey
Gina Abbey Gina Abbey

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 31Learn more or donate here

Episode 5 - Nursing Grad Jacqueline Becerra and WGU Director of Marketing, Sam Osselaer 

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 Jacqueline Becerra

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.

Episode 4 - IT Grad Gussie Hopkins and WGU Advancement President Annalisa Holcombe

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 Gussie Hopkins

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. 

Episode 3 - MBA Grad Jordan Barta and WGU's Refer-a-Friend Team

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.

Jordan Barta Jordan Barta

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 Refer-a-Friend
Jordan recounts his WGU experience

Episode 2 - TC Graduate Sean Boston and WGU Scholarship Director Amanda Savage

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.

Sean Boston Sean Boston

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.

Episode 1 - WGU Alumna Rachael Black and Commencement Manager Elizabeth Aranda

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.

Rachael Black Rachael Black

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. 


About the WGU Alumni Podcast and Your Hosts

WGU’s alumni network has grown significantly and we have 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. 

Sara VanWinkle
Jeff Burton