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January 5, 2023

WGU Creates Distinguished Alumni Council in California

WGU’s Distinguished Alumni Council to offer advice and service on advancing student success

LONG BEACH - Western Governors University’s (WGU) alums are rising, and their accomplishments have illuminated the university’s goals and values. From being vocal advocates of WGU’s competency-based model to serving as mentors to our current student population, alums are essential to the strength and advancement of the university. 

WGU is proud to announce the creation of its California Distinguished Alumni Council, which comprises alum leaders representing the public and private sectors committed to equitable access to high-quality, competency-based, and career-relevant online higher education. Members act as ambassadors in their communities and provide strategic counsel to West Region leadership, including Regional Vice President Richard Benbow and Regional Director, WGU Advancement Erica Adams.

“Our team looks forward to learning from – and working with – the Distinguished Alumni Council. With their innovative ideas, strategic thinking, and most valuable, their efforts to increase the visibility and impact of WGU,” said Richard Benbow. “With their insights, we will be able to drive a stronger, more resilient future for higher education, our region, and the individuals and families at the center of it all."

The council is composed of twelve individuals who will serve a two-year term and were selected for their alignment with WGU's fundamental beliefs and embodiment of leadership principles: Heath Anderson, Grace Benlice, Jane Chung, Zack Fernandes, Valentina Fiorentino, Anthony Hildesheim, Chibbunia Nwaboia, Karen Paolinelli, Nicholas Rodriguez, Claudia Sandoval Robles, Carter Todd, and Glenn Wilson. The group met with WGU leadership for the first time on December 5 for introductions and to discuss how to serve best the WGU student and alums population in California, which has now surpassed 30,000 graduates.

Council member Carter Todd, Nurse Manager at Kaiser Permanente in Sacramento, added, "The distinguished Alumni Council provides a collective effort of leaders across multiple industries from which I can learn and amplify my service to the community."

These council members and WGU leadership know that talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. With over 11,000 active students in California, the alum council will help move WGU forward in changing the lives of those brave enough to harness their talents and ambitions to achieve their dreams. The work of this group will further improve the quality, access, and outcomes of education through innovative programs and technologies.

Local business owner and military veteran Heath Anderson of Carlsbad, CA, will serve as one of the 11 ambassadors. "This council comprises an esteemed group of leaders from diverse and varied professional fields and backgrounds. Each had a unique story to share about their higher education journey, educational pathway, and success in their professional careers," said Anderson. "I am excited to be an inaugural member of this council and look forward to working with my colleagues to provide strategic advice and service to increase awareness, reputation, visibility and the impact of WGU by networking and advocating for equitable access to higher education."

WGU’s alumni are the expert source and offer a unique perspective about what it takes to earn a degree online and as a busy adult learner. Through these extraordinary alumni, students will see themselves and be more closely connected to the WGU community. “Our distinguished alumni council members are some of our most important ambassadors. They use their knowledge of WGU and their local connections to help create a relevant and meaningful education for our students and to develop authentic and valuable alumni experiences,” said Annalisa Holcombe, WGU Senior Vice President.

For more information on the Distinguished Alumni Council, contact Erica Adams, Regional Director, WGU Advancement, at

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