NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam will deliver the keynote commencement address during WGU Tennessee’s Aug. 26 commencement ceremony at Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville. Haslam was integral in bringing Western Governors University (WGU) an online, nonprofit university — to Tennessee through his Drive to 55 initiative.
“We are honored to have Governor Haslam speak to this year’s graduates,” said Kimberly K. Estep, chancellor of WGU Tennessee. “His support and innovation in higher education have directly impacted thousands of lives in Tennessee, and we’re glad he’ll have an opportunity to celebrate with us as 600 more Tennesseans earn degrees.”
Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly welcomed WGU to Tennessee in 2013 as part of the Drive to 55 initiative, which seeks to equip 55 percent of Tennesseans with a college degree or certificate by 2025. The university celebrated its four-year anniversary in July, and has already conferred more than 2,200 bachelor’s and master’s degrees to Tennesseans across the state.
Although WGU Tennessee enrolls a small percentage of traditional students, it is designed primarily for working adults who need flexible and affordable degree programs. This segment of students is critical for the success of the Drive to 55, as more than 900,000 Tennesseans have some college experience, but no degree.
“WGU Tennessee is playing a role in our success because it has an innovative approach to higher education,” Haslam said. “It is a privilege to mark this milestone with this year’s graduates, most of whom worked full-time jobs while returning to school to earn degrees.”
More than 1,700 attendees are expected to celebrate the 620 Tennesseans who have graduated from WGU Tennessee this year — 202 of whom will walk in the ceremony.
Randy Boyd, former education policy adviser to the governor and former chairman of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, will introduce Haslam at WGU Tennessee’s commencement ceremony. Boyd was also instrumental in launching recent higher-education initiatives — such as the Tennessee Promise scholarship — that seek to create a better-educated, more competitive workforce in Tennessee.