Virtual event will showcase videos of grads from across the country; 6,000 guests expected to tune in and cheer them on
SALT LAKE CITY–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Celebrating the life-changing milestone of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, more than 1,000 new graduates will participate remotely in Western Governors University’s (WGU) commencement celebration this weekend, where instead of walking a traditional stage, they will wave to loved ones and show off their diplomas in videos they’ve submitted for the event. Some 6,000 family members, friends, coworkers, and other guests are also expected to watch the event.
The ceremony recognizes the achievements of the thousands of students who have completed their degrees at the online, competency-based university in recent months, 1,097 of whom have chosen to participate in the optional commencement activities.
Since the beginning of 2020, more than 30,000 individuals have earned degrees from WGU, most of them while working full-time jobs and raising families. In its 23-year history, WGU has awarded more than 197,000 degrees and has celebrated with ceremonies held multiple times per year, usually in cities across the country. This weekend’s virtual ceremony is being held in place of previously planned in-person celebrations in Anaheim, Seattle, and Denver, which would have been the university’s 78th, 79th, and 80th, respectively.
“Thanks to technology, we don’t have to let current circumstances deny our grads the opportunity to celebrate their achievements with their family, friends, and faculty members,” said WGU President Scott Pulsipher. “Each of our grads has overcome tremendous challenges along the way to their degrees, especially over the past several difficult months. We look forward to joining them as we celebrate their grit and the support they’ve received from loved ones along the way to their degrees.”
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 how they’re celebrating on social media.
Some 593 undergraduate and 504 graduate degree recipients from 49 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, or low-income earners. Graduates earned degrees in business, K–12 education, information technology, and health professions, including nursing.
Olympic Gold Medalist, WNBA All-star, and Utah native Natalie Williams will deliver the keynote address. Williams, who spent nine years playing professional women’s basketball, won three gold medals as a member of the USA Basketball Women’s National Team, and now coaches and mentors teenagers in her local community.
In addition to Williams’ address, two WGU graduates will share their stories. They are:
- Aileen Richards of Vona, Colorado, who will share her story of coping with post-traumatic stress disorder through her studies at WGU. Richards works as a volunteer firefighter, EMT, and now, fifth-grade teacher, and is graduating with her Master of Education, Learning and Technology.
- Armando Martinez of Bakersfield, California, a first-generation college graduate who will share his story of inheriting his work ethic from his parents. Martinez works as a Lead Technology Specialist, and is graduating with his Bachelor of Science, Cloud and System Administration.
Under WGU’s competency-based model, students complete their degrees as soon as they complete the requirements, with an average more than 4,000 graduating each month in 2020. Because of this, the success of graduation is a yearlong celebration at WGU, and the university traditionally holds several commencement ceremonies across the country each year. This week’s virtual ceremony is not meant to replace in-person commencement ceremonies, and the university hopes to see its graduates walk across the stage to receive their diplomas when it is safe to do so.
Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 121,000 students nationwide and has more than 197,000 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation’s leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In just 23 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families, and preparing the workforce needed in today’s rapidly evolving economy. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, has been named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and has been featured on NPR, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and in The New York Times. Learn more at www.wgu.edu.
Contact for media inquiries:
Emily Knight, WGU Communications
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