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WGUs Women in Leadership

Jun 1, 2018

WGU encourages women to actively pursue leadership roles. For the past few years, WGU has invested in women leaders by providing the Women in Leadership and Women in IT scholarships. These have helped over 500 women nationwide ramp up their careers.

Here are the stories of three of these women. Each one of them is a recipient of WGU’s Women in Leadership scholarship. They have all had distinct careers paths, but share a love for leadership and advocating for women in leadership roles. Read on to learn more about their journeys:


Amber Howard - Solar Design Manager, Vivint Solar - MS in Management and Leadership

My name is Amber Howard and I’m the proud mother of one amazing son! Utah born, my family bounced around Utah County while I was growing up. We eventually settled in Payson, UT when I was 11 where I finished out my schooling and graduated from Payson High School.

I am the oldest of 7 children and spent most of my childhood helping my mother raise and look after my siblings while she attended school and worked hard to provide for our family. When I was in 5th grade, an orchestra visited my elementary school and it was the first time I had ever heard or seen a performance with stringed musical instruments. I immediately fell in love with the violin and knew I needed to learn how to play it. At 11 years of age my mother bought me my own violin and music became completely intertwined with my soul.

Once I graduated high school, I began attending Utah Valley University, at first to become a nurse following in my mother’s footsteps. However, I ended up graduating with my Bachelor’s in Music Performance with an emphasis on the violin.

In my spare time, other than playing my violin, I love exploring the desert, going on road trips with my son, reading anything I can get my hands on and rock climbing.


How has the Women in Leadership Scholarship helped you reach your education/career goals?

I’ve wanted to pursue a master’s degree for over 5 years, but never felt like I could afford it. Being awarded the Women in Leadership Scholarship gave me the extra bit of confidence I needed to pursue my goals and has helped me to financially make it more attainable.


What are your career goals? And what advice would you give women that are starting to look into their own career path?  

I have realized that I find so much joy in being in a leadership position. I feel part of my purpose in this world is to be a leader and be a leader of strength. Being the oldest in my family, I was always looked to as the example and was expected to be a leader. My career goal is, through my own personal development and continuing to develop my leadership skills, I want to be able to start my own successful business and be able to lead an organization while mentoring and coaching men and women to achieve their potential.

My advice to all women is to never tell yourself that you are unworthy. Never tell yourself you are not enough. There are so many people in this world who will do nothing but tear you down and breathe unbelief into you. Do not let them! Women are the most powerful people in this world, but most don’t realize the strength they have within themselves. It takes true courage to pursue a dream that no one understands but you. Find a mentor and surround yourself with people who believe in you and uplift you. If you do that and you work hard, there is no way you won’t succeed!


What role have mentors and/or role models played for you? How did they help guide you? Do you think role models and mentors play an especially important role for women in the workplace?

I 100% believe that mentors have played a pivotal role in my success thus far! Having a mentor is so incredibly important because it allows you to seek perspective from someone else who has already walked through the minefield that you are walking. No one is ever too good for mentorship! In fact, it wasn’t until I truly invested in mentorship that I began to see my progression and career take leaps and bounds. I truly believe that no successful person ever became successful on their own. My advice to anyone is to seek out positive people who have achieved the success you want to create in your own life and in your own career. Lastly, remember to never seek advice from someone with whom you wouldn’t want to trade places.



Jenny Sorenson - Teacher at The Waterford School - MS Curriculum and Instruction

I am proud to be entering my tenth year of teaching the third grade at The Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. The liberal arts program aligns well with my philosophies of teaching and living.  I have also taught Pre-K and kindergarten and have spent some of my career in tutoring and as reading specialist. In the summer, I enjoy teaching a jewelry-making class to pass down the craft that was taught to me by my “Gramma Pat.”   

I received a Bachelor’s of Science degree, with a focus on Human Development and Family Studies, as well as an early childhood education certification from the University of Utah in 2001. I began the Curriculum and Instruction master's degree of education program at Western Governors University in 2017.     

I pride myself on being a lifelong learner. I am currently researching recycling issues with my students, and we are working to devise ways to increase community awareness and participation: “Recycle Often, Recycle Right.” In 2016, I completed a mindfulness course for using and teaching mindfulness in the classroom.  Based on collective, positive results, the practice has spread campus wide.  

My husband, Steve, and our two teenage daughters are amazingly supportive of my efforts to expand my education. I love singing with them in our family praise band and helping to direct a youth praise band. I am also privileged to coordinate and participate in a women’s support group, and a program to pay-it-forward with positivity in the workplace.  


How has the Women in Leadership Scholarship helped you reach your education/career goals?

It is an honor to receive the Women in Leadership Scholarship - to be considered a leader among women. There are so many remarkable women that inspire me. I feel like in many ways this scholarship has been and will be a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is empowering me to act more assertively and proactively in a variety of settings. I am broadening my definition of leadership. It is not just for CEO’s and administration. It is for all of us who work toward our passions. I am appreciative of the scholarship program at WGU. Having financial assistance helps take the pressures off of me and my family and enables me to focus more completely on my education.     


What are your career goals? And what advice would you give women that are starting to look into their own career path?  

I am striving to have a more active role in helping to advocate for the effective curricular and instructional decisions that I am passionate about. I wish to continue to incorporate experiences and programs that make a difference for our students, community, and world. Knowledge is power. The more I can support my vision and hope for the future with ideas based on historical patterns and statistically sound research, the stronger my presence and influence will be.

All of us in education begin our journey out of passion for children and the possibilities for education that we envision. Many of us become disheartened when faced with the realities if teaching:  regulations, limitations, expectations, etc. I realized that I do not need to feel powerless and complacent. “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”- Ghandi. I decided to revitalize my understanding and perspective in order to more actively move forward with renewed insight and hope.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” - Lao Tzu  

It is never too late to begin a new journey. We are never completed. We are meant to continue to learn and grow and change. I was my own hindrance, because I thought I needed to make a single career decision that would last a lifetime. I became comfortable with being stagnant and prevented myself from having new opportunities. I never expected more or reached for more. You will never have what you never reach for. If you do not take that initial step, you will definitely not progress.  


What role have mentors and/or role models played for you? How did they help guide you? Do you think role models and mentors play an especially important role for women in the workplace?  

I am inspired by a faculty of amazing people, many of whom are women. They are proactive and innovative as well as supportive and collaborative. They help me to aspire to greater things by the wonderful examples they provide. When I am uncertain, they provide the guidance and support I need to get through the situation and rise above it.         




Shannon Pacheco - District Manager for Savers/Value Village - BS in Business Management

After going through a rough separation in Sept of 2016, I decided to do something for myself and further my education. As a young teenager, I always assumed I would go to college and get my bachelor degree but life plans changed. Given that I'm now a 38-year-old a single mom of two teenage boys, and with a full-time career as a district manager, I needed something that would fit in with my busy schedule. I also love running and run multiple marathons throughout the year. After lots of research, I settled on WGU for the online format as well as the competency-based format, which allows some of my work experience to help me.

How has the Women in Leadership Scholarship helped you reach your education/career goals?

Without this scholarship, I may not have pursued my goal of finally getting my bachelor degree. I am the sole financial supporter of my children and every dollar matters. I am immensely grateful to WGU for providing this scholarship and supporting women in leadership!


What are your career goals? And what advice would you give women that are starting to look into their own career path? 

I aspire to be a Regional Manager, and possibly even an executive for a dynamic company someday!  I would tell young women #1- CREATE your opportunities. By that I mean work hard, don't wait to be handed something but don't be afraid to let your dreams and drive be known. No one can read your mind. Never give up.  #2- Know your WORTH. Be confident that you are a valuable contributor and member of the team; however, don't assume you will get a position/promotion just because you are a woman.  Conversely, if you don't get that promotion you wanted, don't assume it's just because you are a woman either. Ask questions, find out what you can do to be ready for the next opportunity.


What role have mentors and/or role models played for you? How did they help guide you? Do you think role models and mentors play an especially important role for women in the workplace?

I have had two main role models throughout my career. They have both taught me valuable lessons as well as pushed me to extend my talents beyond my comfort zone. One was a male and one was a female.  What really helped me is that they were both very honest when they needed to be, yet respectful as well.  I do think that young women especially can blossom with a mentor who really cares about them and their success and growth. Having someone who has achieved their goals helping a woman (who may not always know what to do or how to do it) is invaluable.  Sometimes that's all it takes to give her the confidence she needs to succeed!


If you are ready to claim your spot-on top, or know someone who is, the Women in Leadership scholarship is currently taking applications until September 30, 2018. Click here for more information


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