ANAHEIM – More than 1,500 graduates from 49 states, the District of Columbia, Canada, and military installations overseas were recognized at Western Governors University’s (WGU) 72nd commencement in Anaheim, California, on Saturday, June 8, 2019. Six graduates from Missouri participated in the festivities including Hycine Sikuku from Florissant, Tonya Carey from Kansas City, Dana Irvin from Freeman, Chase Phelps from Lee’s Summit, Rhauliza Joanez from St. Louis, and Kathryn Hill from Belton.
This commencement recognized 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.
“This commencement is be a proud milestone for these graduates, their families and for WGU,” said WGU Missouri Chancellor Angie Besendorfer. “The hard work of these graduates will not go unnoticed, and their academic achievements will help to strengthen the state of Missouri.”
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 heard from Jaime Casap, Chief Education Evangelist at Google, who delivered 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.
During the ceremonies, WGU recognized 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.