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Older Americans Month: Shalae De Jarnatt

Apr 24, 2023

Many students, and even employed people, hope for a career that is both personally fulfilling and professionally rewarding. When your job involves making a difference in the lives of others, you derive even greater purpose and motivation for the work you do. Shalae De Jarnatt’s life has never been short of purpose. After a long and storied career in law enforcement and at a time of life when thoughts of slowing down are on many people’s minds,

 Shalae’s passion and dedication led her to a career helping a new generation of students find their own professional path. 

As an instructor in WGU’s Student Success Center, Shalae’s efforts focus on helping students realize their academic goals to become successful in their careers. “My time at WGU has taught me that you can make a positive influence in the life of a student, even if you do not hold the position of being an instructor. As an Enrollment Counselor, I was assigned to work in the College of Health Professions, enrolling nurses into the RN-BSN-MSN and other programs. When I transferred to the Student Success Center, I was coaching a nurse who recognized me as her Enrollment Counselor [from] five years ago.” 

Shalae’s natural ability to help others is reflected in the choices she’s made throughout her life. “My university education prepared me for an entirely different field than the career path I chose. After studying post-cardiac rehabilitation, I became a cop. I began teaching as an adjunct [professor] while still employed as a detective for [Utah’s] Midvale PD.” 

After 22 years of service, and while also teaching as an adjunct in the criminal justice program for another university, Shalae retired from law enforcement. She returned to school and went on to receive a Ph.D. in Public Safety Leadership where she specialized in Emergency Management. Her passion for higher education would ultimately lead her to WGU, where she gained experience in an entry-level position that would eventually lead her to become a WGU instructor. 

Through her interactions with students, Shalae recognizes the impact of what she does. “I love, love, love working with students! Hearing their stories of overcoming obstacles to pursue dreams or improve their socioeconomic status is inspiring. That is what keeps me doing the job I’m doing!” Just as important to her is the growth she’s seen at WGU, which includes improved employee benefits and the more than 60 degree programs offered in four colleges—IT, business, healthcare, and teaching. 

Shalae’s association with the Silver Owls Employee Resource Group (ERG) has also shown her that WGU is a place where everyone can feel welcome, a university that celebrates diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I). Silver Owls ERG is dedicated to fostering a safe, inclusive, and supportive environment that also expands access and opportunity for WGU’s older employees and friends.  

“The Silver Owls ERG has been a ‘just in time’ organization for me,” she says. “Although I have retired once, I plan on doing it again [...] and [they’ve] presented questions I didn’t even know I should be asking related to aging and retirement. They’ve also enlightened me on becoming more aware of ageism and how [prevalent] it is in our society.” 

As she reflects on her own journey at WGU, and in commemoration of Older Americans Month, Shalae reminds us how important it is to appreciate our worth and the individual contributions we can make at any stage in our lives. “[When] employees recognize what others have to offer, we’re able to convert that to our social circles beyond the workplace and strengthen our communities,” she says. “Although I move a little slower, and it’s harder to get going in the morning than it was 10, 20, and 30 years ago, I still have value. I can learn just as younger generations can learn. I can love and laugh and tell stories and rejoice in the successes of others. [While] my experiences may not mirror exactly those of another, the feelings are the same regardless of our age, ethnicity, or gender. I’m proud of the gray hairs I earned. I wear them with pride because I’m a Silver Owl!” 

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