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WGU's Largest-Ever Commencement Celebration at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas to Recognize 2,700 Graduates

Event to celebrate graduates and employer partnerships. Keynote by artist and author Erik Wahl.

Oct 26, 2023

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA (October 23, 2023)Western Governors University (WGU) is set to hit a new milestone with the largest commencement event in the university's history at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, on Oct. 27. Over 2,700 graduates will be recognized, with over 13,000 guests expected to attend.

“Commencement is the stage where we celebrate our graduates' accomplishments and witness their dreams transforming into reality," said Rick Benbow, WGU regional vice president. “This celebration reflects the hard work and dedication of our graduates and is a shining testament to the limitless potential that WGU has unlocked within every one of them.”

WGU is an online, nonprofit university created to expand access to in-demand bachelor’s and master’s degrees for, working adults and traditionally underserved student populations, among others. Of the graduates to be celebrated during the commencement event, 78 percent are considered underserved, including first-generation college students and students of color. Their average age is 38, and many worked full-time and raised families while earning their degrees.

Internationally recognized artist, TED speaker, and bestselling author Erik Wahl will deliver the commencement keynote address. During his address, Wahl will discuss personal creativity while he paints stylized portraits of iconic figures. His message will emphasize the importance of embracing innovation and creativity in a rapidly changing world.

The ceremonies will honor a diverse group of graduates, with special recognition given to Kevon Pascoe, the first person to earn a degree through the innovative partnership between WGU and the KFC Foundation. In addition to earning an MBA from WGU, Pascoe worked night shifts at KFC while also serving as an assistant logistics officer in the United States Marine Corps. Among new WGU enrollees, 40% are part of such collaborative employer programs.

“My experience at WGU was nothing short of phenomenal. The degree of support I received from my mentor and instructors was unmatched,” Pascoe said. “These high-caliber professionals constantly prioritized my needs and allowed me to capitalize on the university’s self-paced approach, directly impacting my success. In addition to an already unique experience, I was the first graduate of the 100% tuition covered partnership between the KFC Foundation and WGU, making it magical. I’m forever thankful to WGU and the KFC Foundation for bringing to fruition my lifelong dream in the manner it was delivered.”

Additionally, five graduates will speak during the commencement festivities:     

  • Leah Chansa; Roseville, CA; M.S. Nursing – Leadership & Management
  • Brady McNulty; Roseburg, OR; B.S. Cybersecurity & Information Assurance
  • Heather Anderson; Herriman, UT; B.S. Business – HR Management
  • Sabrina Robinson; Albuquerque, NM; M.S. Nursing Education
  • Lisa Petersen; Bountiful, UT; M.S. Educational Leadership

The festivities will span two days, with a commencement ceremony for all graduates scheduled for 4 p.m. PST on October 27th. Two convocation ceremonies are set October 28th at 9:30 a.m. PST for graduates from the College of Business and College of IT and 1:30 p.m. PST for the Leavitt School of Health and School of Education.

During the ceremonies, graduates will use the hashtag #WGUgrad to share on social media how they are celebrating.

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