Western Governors University (WGU) held its 72nd commencement ceremony on June 8 in Aneheim. For anyone unable to attend in person, the entire event was also lived streamed on the WGU website. Prior to yesterday’s ceremony, the fully online university, which was founded in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors, has conferred more than 145,000 degrees to graduates in all 50 U.S. states.
Over 1500 Diplomas Distributed at WGU Graduation
The June 8th graduation ceremony, which took place at the Anaheim Convention Center, was a large-scale event. More than 1500 graduates were on hand to pick up their degrees in person, but many more students have completed WGU degrees since last April. In total, the university has graduated 6,569 students over the past year.
Like any commencement, WGU commencements don’t cut corners on tradition. Their ceremonies always include a lot of pomp and a commencement speech by a high-profile speaker. In Anaheim, Jaime Casap, Google’s Chief Education Evangelist, gave the address. Casap is best known for his work on inquiry-based learning. He also has a long history of collaborating with educational institutions to build innovative new programs.
Other speakers at the June 8th WGU commencement included graduates from just some of WGU’s programs. As detailed in a press release issued by WGU on June 7, Misty O’Brien, who received a B.A. in Special Education, and Adeela Kiran Shaikh, who received a B.S. in Health Informatics, spoke at the bachelor’s graduation ceremony on Saturday afternoon.
O’Brien shared a powerful story about her decision to study special education after discovering that her son has autism. Acutely aware of the struggles her son was facing in the school system, she wanted to support other students with special needs. This led her to enroll in a WGU bachelor’s degree in special education. Misty, originally from Spokane, Washington, will be taking up a full-time position as a special education teacher in Kodiak, Alaska this fall. She also plans to pursue a graduate degree through WGU.
Earlier in the day, Kathleen Satumbaga, a graduate of WGU’s M.S. Nursing program, and Salomon Torrescano, an MBA Healthcare Management graduate, spoke at WGU’s ceremony for graduate-level students.
Other Ceremonies Planned Across the United States
For students who couldn’t attend the June 8 WGU graduation in Anaheim, there are still several opportunities to pick up their diplomas in person. With students completing coursework across the nation and on military bases around the world, WGU has a long tradition of hosting commencements throughout the year in multiple locations. This year, 3,871 undergraduate student and 2,698 graduate students completed WGU degrees and many are expected to attend other commencements over the coming months.
One of the most striking things about any WGU graduation is who shows up to receive a diploma. A majority (66%) of WGU graduates are first-generation college graduates, identify as ethnic minorities, and/or come from rural or low-income backgrounds. This is arguably what makes WGU stand out among U.S. postsecondary institution.
WGU maintains that its success in graduating non-traditional learners has everything to do with its unique model of education. WGU is not only a fully online university but also committed to a competency-based approach to learning. As a result, students are free to complete coursework at their own pace and on their own time. Students’ existing competencies are also recognized. While WGU’s competency-based approach has occasionally come under attack by regulators, the university has a high graduate approval rating. The university’s graduates also report higher than average levels of job placement and job satisfaction.