DALLAS—This weekend, Western Governors University (WGU) will celebrate the dedication and perseverance of 1,180 new graduates who have earned their bachelor’s and master’s degrees, marking the first in-person commencement of 2022, which is also WGU’s 25th anniversary year. As the uncertainty brought by the pandemic significantly affected students and their families, these ceremonies will commemorate the culmination of their inspiring achievement. On Saturday, the new alumni will celebrate their well-earned diplomas with more than 7,000 family members and supporters at the Ford Center in Frisco, Texas.
Delivering the keynote address will be Christine Hà, noted chef, author and entrepreneur. Hà is the first-ever blind contestant and season three winner of the competitive amateur cooking TV show “MasterChef” with Gordon Ramsay. Her first cookbook is a New York Times Best Seller and she has been featured on NPR, the BBC and CNN International. Hà also has served as a culinary envoy overseas for the American Embassy as part of cultural diplomacy programs. In 2014, she received the Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award from the American Foundation for the Blind. Hà owns two restaurants, one of which was named a semi-finalist for 2019 Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation.
Since the most recent in-person commencement ceremony in November, nearly 10,000 WGU students have completed their degree programs, joining more than 260,000 alumni who have graduated from WGU since its founding in 1997. Some 577 undergraduate and 603 graduate degree recipients from 46 states are expected to participate in Saturday’s ceremony.
Approximately 73% 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, and many work full time and raise families while completing their programs.
“Since our founding, WGU has served students from across the nation striving to improve their lives and advance their careers,” said WGU President Scott Pulsipher. “Saturday’s milestone represents an unprecedented level of their dedication, persistence, and resilience. We are inspired by our graduates’ accomplishments, and we are excited to celebrate their achievements together during our 25th anniversary year.”
Four graduates will also share their stories. They are:
- Scott Emmons of Cedar Hill, Texas, is a recognized authority on retail innovation and technologies. During his 16-year tenure at a major luxury retailer, he founded and built their award-winning Innovation Lab (iLab), which became the catalyst to elevate technology innovation, lifting the brand to an acknowledged leader in retail innovation. Emmons earned his B.S. Business Administration - IT Management from WGU in 2021.
- Antonesha Lewis of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, is a pediatric registered nurse. An advocate for healthy families and higher education, Lewis earned her B.S. Nursing from WGU in 2021. Her favorite quote is from American rapper Nipsey Hussle, “The highest human act is to inspire.” Lewis said if she has inspired just one person, her purpose has been served.
- Rhoda Chism of Morgantown, Kentucky, is a registered nurse, working as a corporate manager of clinical documentation audit and education for a national healthcare system. A passionate educator, Chism is known for her descriptive storytelling and credits her teaching success to a solid understanding of subject material. She earned her B.S. Nursing and Master’s Health Leadership from WGU in 2021.
- Melanie Kerr of The Dalles, Oregon, loves learning about human behavior, psychology, the reasoning behind thoughts, processes, actions and how they affect all aspects of a business. Kerr serves as director of human resources at Custom Interface, Inc. Kerr earned her M.B.A and B.S. in Resource Management at WGU. She also earned her SHRM-Certified Professional certification at Society for HR Management and her PHR certification at HR Certification Institute.
All participants and commencement attendees are required to wear a mask except for children under the age of 2. For information on the Ford Center’s mask and bag policy, visit thestarinfrisco.com/bags. The master’s ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m. CST/11:30 a.m. EST and the bachelor’s ceremony will begin at 1:45 p.m. CST/3:45 EST. Both of Saturday’s ceremonies will stream live at wgu.edu/virtual. During the ceremony, graduates will use the hashtag #WGUgrad to share on social media how they’re celebrating.