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Pride Month – Student Spotlight – Cole Frandsen-Smith

May 30, 2023

For many members of the LGBTQ+ community, finding supportive allies can be an important aspect of their journey toward self-acceptance and greater social inclusion. Allies are individuals who may not identify as LGBTQ+ but actively support the rights and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals. Allies can also serve as an invaluable source of emotional support and advocacy. Cole Frandsen-Smith is a recent WGU graduate with a bachelor’s in HR Management and credits his mom as one of his greatest allies and the person who helped him discover a whole new approach to education.  Looking back, Cole felt like everyone else around him had it all figured out. He witnessed his peers choosing a traditional course through school and their careers, but for Cole, that path didn't align with his academic or mental health needs. After a few semesters at college, he made the difficult choice to step away from school and his childhood dream of becoming a pilot.

Doubt and worry followed, but it was through the suggestion of his mother, a WGU alum, that he found an educational institution for him. He reflects, “I arrived at WGU feeling as if my academic failures would engulf my very soul; I was quite certain that such failures were a greater indication of personal character shortcomings. WGU taught me that we can detach ourselves from failures and find peace in that which we do know and can contribute.”

Cole realized that WGU “offered an approach to education that allowed students to set their own terms” and “fostered a feeling of academic success” he had not felt in years. Most of all, Cole respected WGU’s commitment to evaluating and adapting its programs to meet market needs and provide valuable skills toward employment: “WGU serves students by preparing them for the real world–its comprehensive programs enable a student to move forward with the confidence that their degree will mean something to potential employers.”

For those who identify as LGBTQ+, such as Cole, education can come with additional challenges beyond academic rigor. He adds that “as an LGBTQ+ person, choosing to be visible in a physical place of learning can greatly impact one’s mental well-being and ability to find academic success.” That's one of the reasons why WGU's model can be so valuable for individuals of the LGBTQ+ community or any individual who can't get what they need from a physical classroom. Our unique approach to education is built for flexibility, removing barriers that can impact student success. This includes providing a safe and affirming environment where implicit bias is actively removed. Course Instructors and Program Mentors are also equipped with ally resources to support and understand LGBTQ+ identities. By eliminating identity-based barriers to education, WGU is creating a brighter future for all our students, regardless of who they are or who they love.

Find resources to celebrate Pride Month and become a stronger ally with us here

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