SALT LAKE CITY – This weekend, Western Governors University (WGU) will celebrate the resilience and dedication of more than 1,900 new graduates who have earned their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in recent months. These graduates have persevered through a constantly changing environment brought on by the global pandemic and emerged with their degrees in hand. The new alumni will showcase their well-earned diplomas in videos they submitted for the virtual ceremony, while over 8,000 loved ones celebrate with them during the livestreamed event.
Since the last commencement ceremony in February, more than 14,200 WGU students have completed their degree programs. Since its founding in 1997, WGU has awarded more than 230,000 degrees to students, many working full time and raising families while completing their programs. Prior to the global pandemic and the restrictions it created, these achievements were celebrated with in-person commencement ceremonies held across the country multiple times per year. In-person commencement ceremonies for 2021 are not yet scheduled, but WGU plans to resume the events when it is safe to do so.
“Earning a college degree is an impressive accomplishment under normal circumstances,” said Marni Baker Stein, WGU’s Provost and Chief Academic Officer. “But to achieve this milestone during the stress and difficulty of the pandemic—that’s especially significant. Our graduates have demonstrated persistence, dedication, and courage. We’re so proud of them and we look forward to celebrating this moment with them and their loved ones.”
Saturday’s ceremony will begin at 10:30 a.m. MDT/12:30 p.m. EDT and will stream live at wgu.edu/virtual. During the ceremony, graduates and guests will use the hashtag #WGUgrad to share on social media how they’re celebrating.
New York Times best-selling author of For the Love and Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire Jen Hatmaker will deliver the keynote address. Hatmaker, a mom to five, is co-founder of Legacy Collective, a giving community that grants millions of dollars toward sustainable projects around the world. She also starred in My Big Family Renovation on HGTV and hosts the 2018 People’s Choice award-winning podcast For the Love. Hatmaker welcomes a community of millions of women around the world and inspires members engaged in the Jen Hatmaker Book Club, offering an abundance of support and connection.
In addition to Hatmaker’s address, two WGU graduates will share their stories.
- Kimberly Larsen of Mt. Vernon, Wash., knew from a young age that she wanted to become a teacher. When she was about to begin her journey at WGU, a mysterious neurological disorder left her with debilitating physical and mental symptoms. With the support of her mentor and instructors, Larsen overcame her barriers and earned her degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, and she is now achieving her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher.
- Adam Emmanuel P. Salvatierra of Wilkes-Barre, Penn., knows what it means to be brave. After graduating from nursing school in the Philippines, Salvatierra dreamed of moving to the United States to pursue his nursing career. Through hard work and the support of his loved ones, he moved to Pennsylvania to work as a travel nurse and eventually pursued his master’s degree at WGU. As he selflessly cared for others during the pandemic, he has been continually grateful for the inspiration he’s found from his colleagues.
Some 1,001 undergraduate and 917 graduate degree recipients from all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia are expected to participate in Saturday’s ceremony. Approximately 71% of the graduates come from at least one of the following historically underserved populations: first-generation college students, students of color, rural residents, and/or low-income earners. Graduates earned degrees in business, K–12 education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing.