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Part of Western Governors University

June 7, 2019

WGU’s Commencement Ceremony in Anaheim Celebrates a Dream Come True for More Than 6,500 Graduates

Jaime Casap, Google’s Chief Education Evangelist and leading advocate for innovation in higher ed, to deliver keynote address

ANAHEIM – More than 1,500 graduates from 49 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and military installations overseas will cross the stage and be recognized at Western Governors University’s (WGU) 72nd commencement in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, June 8, 2019. 

The master’s ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. EDT and the bachelor’s ceremony will follow at 1:45 p.m. EDT. Ceremonies will be held at the Anaheim Convention Center. For those unable to attend the ceremonies in person, both sessions will be streamed live.

This week’s commencement recognizes 6,569 students who have completed their degrees since WGU’s last commencement in April. And while it is not required for graduates to attend commencement to receive their degrees, nearly a quarter of them choose to do so illustrating the importance of this achievement.

“Education provides one of the surest paths to opportunity and a better life, and the graduates we honor this weekend put in the hard work and sacrifice to build brighter futures for themselves and their families,” said WGU President Scott Pulsipher. “We’re truly proud of all our graduates for this incredible achievement.”

WGU hosts in-person commencement ceremonies throughout the year in locations across the country. That’s because students complete their coursework online and live in all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories and on military bases worldwide. Unlike universities that award degrees at the end of defined terms or semesters, WGU’s competency-based model allows students to officially graduate any day of the year. 

Attendees at both ceremonies will hear from Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google, who will deliver the commencement address. Casap evangelizes the potential of digitalization as an enabling capability in pursuit of promoting inquiry-based learning models. He collaborates with school systems, educational organizations, and leaders focused on building innovation in education policies and practices. Casap also serves as an advisor to dozens of organizations focused on learning, skill development, and the future of work.

Following Casap’s address, four graduates will speak—two at each ceremony. Addressing the undergraduate class will be Misty O’Brien, from Spokane Valley, Washington, who will receive her B.A. Special Education, and Adeela Kiran Shaikh, from Chicago, Illinois, who will receive her B.S. Health Informatics. Addressing the graduate class will be Kathleen Satumbaga, from San Antonio, Texas, who will receive her M.S. Nursing – Leadership and Management, and Salomon Torrescano, from Palm Springs, California, who will receive his MBA Healthcare Management, will address the graduate class.

O’Brien will share her story of finding her calling through special education after her son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. In her role as his primary caregiver, she wanted others to treat her son the way that she saw him—especially his teachers. And she wanted the opportunity to do the same for other children with special needs. Misty’s bachelor’s degree in special education from WGU led to a full-time position as a elementary special education teacher in Kodiak, Alaska, where she will begin teaching this fall. She is also working on earning a master’s degree at WGU. 

During the ceremonies, WGU will recognize the 3,871 undergraduate and 2,698 graduate degree recipients who completed their degrees since the university’s last commencement in April 2019. Graduates earned credentials in health professions and nursing, business, K–12 education, and information technology. Sixty-six percent of the graduates are classified as underserved in at least one of the following categories: first-generation college student, ethnic minority, rural, or low-income. 

WGU was designed to meet the needs of students not traditionally served well by higher education, including working adults, students with families, and rural students or those who do not live near a college or university. Competency-based learning—along with online access to their courses, study materials, and proctored assessments—means students are able to complete coursework on schedules that fit their lives—not driven by a syllabus or class schedules. Course materials and learning resources are available 24/7, and students work one-on-one with course and program faculty members to receive personalized instruction and support. As a result of this flexibility, many students are able to accelerate through their programs and graduate faster than they would at a traditional school. Of this graduating class, the average time to graduation for those earning a bachelor’s degree was two years, four months, while the average time for graduate programs was one year, six months. 

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