Meet the Class of Summer 2012

The 23rd commencement ceremony at WGU is a big one—this summer, we mark our 15th anniversary! More than 16,000 graduates have earned their degrees online from WGU since we were incorporated in 1997, starting with Genevieve Kirch, WGU’s first graduate in December 2000.

As more than 450 graduates from 39 states gather in Salt Lake City on July 14 for our summer 2012 commencement, we’re celebrating WGU’s largest graduating class yet. Even if you can’t attend in person, you can watch commencement live on the WGU website beginning at 9:45 a.m. MT Saturday, July 14, 2012.

Some stats about this class:

  • 3,235 graduates—2,036 earning undergraduate degrees; 1,199 earning graduate degrees
  • 49 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Canada, and overseas military personnel represented
  • Degrees by college:
    • College of Business: 758
    • College of Healthcare Professions and Nursing: 822
    • College of Information Technology: 302
    • Teachers College: 1,353
  • More than 60% first-generation college grads
  • Average age: 38; youngest grad: 19; oldest grad: 80
  • 67% female; 33% male
  • Average time to graduation: 2 years, 1 month

Representing this distinguished class will be four graduate speakers with remarkable stories to tell. They include a circus clown, a single father, a surgeon with his M.D. and Ph.D., and a nurse whose family migrated from the Philippines to the United States specifically so she could have access to a high-quality education.

Graduation Speaker Jonathan Allen

Jonathan Allen

Jonathan is from Streamwood, Illinois, and graduated from WGU with a B.S. in Marketing Management. A single father of a teenage son, Jonathan found his WGU degree program served two purposes: The degree gives him the credentials he needs to advance in his career and build a more secure future for himself and his son, and the shared experience as students helped bring him and his son closer together. Jonathan plans to follow up his bachelor’s degree with an MBA from WGU, and he aspires to start his own independent consulting firm.

Graduation Speaker Sapan Desai

Sapan Desai

Sapan is from Chicago, Illinois, and lives in Durham, North Carolina. He is graduating with his MBA in Healthcare Management from WGU. A successful surgeon and faculty member at Duke University and the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Texas Medical Center, Sapan had already earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees before coming to WGU. He is also CEO of a rapidly growing health information technology company and found that he needed to learn to "speak the language of business" and obtain other business skills and knowledge—a need that he was able to fulfill at WGU. He credits his MBA training with successes at Duke and the University of Texas at Houston that have led to his promotion as faculty.

Graduation Speaker Elaine Pacoy

Elaine Pacoy

Elaine lives in Van Nuys, California, and is graduating with her B.S. in Nursing (BSN) from WGU. Elaine moved with her family to the United States from the Philippines when she was 18 years old, as her parents saw here the opportunity for Elaine and her brother to earn a better college education and a brighter future. Elaine started her first American job just a few days after arriving in the States and has worked full time ever since, including while attending community college to become a registered nurse and while earning her BSN at WGU. The Los Angeles hospital where Elaine works recommended WGU for her continued education, and earning her BSN helped her earn a raise. She plans to continue to advance at work, applying what she learned at WGU, and to return for her M.S. in Nursing degree soon.

Graduation Speaker Valerie Velez-Hall

Valerie Velez-Hall

Valerie, of Taylorsville, Utah, earned her B.A. in Special Education from WGU’s Teachers College. The first person in her family to earn a college degree, Valerie took an unorthodox path to higher education. After high school in her native New Jersey, she received a full scholarship to Rutgers University but opted instead to accept an invitation to travel with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a clown. Today, she works at an accelerated learning charter school, but has aspirations for a career in education to include administration positions like principal and superintendent. Her next step toward that goal: retuning to WGU next month to pursue her master’s degree in teaching.

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