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WGU Bachelor's Ceremony, September 2019
WGU Bachelor's Ceremony, September 2019
Western Governors University
<p>WGU Bachelor's Commencement in Seattle, Washington on September 7, 2019. Order of events: Processional; National Anthem sang by Lori French; Welcome and Opening Remarks by WGU Washington Chancellor Dr. Tonya Drake; Commencement Address delivered by Poetic Voice Sekou Andrews; Graduate Speakers are Rachel Davidson and Natalie Mohn; Conferral of Degrees by WGU President Scott Pulsipher; Closing Remarks by WGU President Scott Pulsipher; Recessional.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Wesley Smith: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 74th commencement for Western Governors University. Graduates, families, and friends, thank you for joining us as we celebrate this special occasion. Our ceremony is being recorded and streamed live over the Internet. A special welcome to all of our online participants joining across the country and around the world. Please silence your cell phones, but keep them nearby as there will be an opportunity later in the program to share your achievement on social media. Please stand for the processional, and remain standing for the national anthem.</p> <p>[Processional and National Anthem]</p> <p>Tonya Drake: Good afternoon night owls! Who's ready to graduate today? [Cheers and applause] Please have a seat. My name is Tonya Drake, and I am the chancellor for WGU Washington. And it is my honor to welcome you to the 2019 WGU Bachelors Commencement Ceremony here in Seattle. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Please give it up one more time for Lori French from Richland, Washington, who did a beautiful job at our national anthem. [Applause] Lori's graduating with her bachelors of science degree in business human resources management. Beautiful job, Lori. </p> <p>Welcome to our honored graduates, congratulations on completing one of life's greatest accomplishments: A higher education degree. We would also like to welcome the friends, the family members, and graduates who are joining us via our live webcast. Give them a wave. We would also like to take a moment to extend our very best thoughts to those who are on the East Coast being affected by Hurricane Dorian. We send out our wonderful thoughts for their safety. </p> <p>I identify as First Nations, and in the States it's Native American. My father is Cowichan from Vancouver Island [audience shout] thank you. I would like to acknowledge, in honor, the Duwamish people, for whom which their ancestor lands are in the stadium that we stand in today. I honor them. [Applause] </p> <p>Let me also welcome our president, Scott Pulsipher, as well as my colleagues from our leadership across the university, and our advisory board member and trustee, who are joining me here on stage. Yes, please. [Applause] </p> <p>Graduates, today marks a game changing moment in your life. I will ask you to lift your gaze and maybe gaze behind you, and just take this moment to look around and acknowledge all the friends and family who are here in support of you and all of your accomplishments. Please give them a round of applause for all of their support. [Applause] </p> <p>At WGU, we often have family members graduating together. Today we ask family members who are graduating together to stand and be recognized. [Cheers and applause] What a special occasion to see these families share this moment together. </p> <p>WGU is honored, year after year, to be recognized as a military friendly university. Today we would like to ask those who are military graduating students who are in the active duty, reservists, veterans, national guard or a spouse of a military duty member to please stand and be recognized. [Cheers and applause] We thank you for your service. </p> <p>If our students and alumni are the lifeblood of this institution, then our faculty and staff are its heart. With you today are many of our WGU faculty and employees. Let me ask them to stand, and graduates, please give them a big round of applause for all the support and commitment they have provided to you. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>More than 20 years ago, WGU enrolled our first student. The university now has over 154,000 graduates. Today, more than 1,450 graduates are joining us at today's two ceremonies. Among you, over 750 will be earning your bachelor's degree this afternoon, and almost seven have earned their master's degree at our morning ceremony. I'm excited to inform you that today is a groundbreaking day for our university, as we have set the record for the largest commencement in our university's history. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Let me share a few facts about our graduating class. You represent 43 states as well as Canada, and more than a thousand of you are from the state of Washington. [Cheers and applause] Thirty nine percent of you are like myself, you're the first person in your family to receive a college degree. I extend a special congratulations to you. [Applause] </p> <p>Your average age is 38, and 68 percent of you are women. [Cheers and applause] On average you completed your undergraduate program in two years and four months. Amazing. Many of you juggle work, family, and whatever else life has to throw at you. But now you're a WGU grad and you look at life and you say, "What else do you got?" </p> <p>Today, commencement marks a rite of passage to acknowledge your intellectual accomplishments. You join only 33 percent of U.S. residents who hold a bachelor's degree. This sets the stage for the rest of your life, and much will be expected of you on your life's journey. We ask you to embrace those expectations and to engage in leadership roles, but mostly to enjoy creating a better world for generations to come with your higher education degree from WGU. </p> <p>On behalf of our entire university, thank you for letting us be a part of your journey. We are proud of you and know that greater things await, a new kind of you. Congratulations to the class of 2019. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>All right, sit back and be ready to smile. I was really excited to hear our keynote speaker and I was laughing so hard I was crying this morning. He is so fantastic. I am excited to introduce our keynote speaker today, Sekou Andrews. A week in the life of Sekou Andrews could find him keynoting at leadership conferences, holding a global branding messaging, or even performing for the former president, Barack Obama wait for it in Oprah Winfrey's backyard. But I'm pretty sure his favorite venue is going to be right here in T Mobile Park for WGU graduates, yes. [Cheers] </p> <p>This schoolteacher turned national poet slam champion has become the world's leading voice and poetic voice. A type of speaker and artist who blends inspirational speaking with spoken word poetry to electrify the messages of global organizations such as Google, Toyota, Nike, and PayPal. Sekou also trains speakers to unlock their own stage might using rock star performance techniques. He does more than inspire us with his story, he inspires us with our story. Please give a big WGU welcome to Sekou Andrews. [Applause] </p> <p>[Upbeat music]</p> <p>Sekou Andrews: Okay. This is how WGU does it, huh? [Cheers] Oh, we just rockin' the stadium these days, is that what ya'll doing, huh? Just filling up stadiums? Okay, I like it, all right. Let's get it started. I think this is the traditional place to be, right? This is the place, the traditional place where commencement speakers deliver their commencement speech in a very traditional way, right? So I'm going to start here in the very traditional way. And then, true to the night owl spirit, we will see what happens. [Cheers] </p> <p>Because if you came here looking for a "your whole life is ahead of you," type speech; if you were getting ready to hear a "the world is yours for the taking," speech; or "the world is waiting for you to begin," speech, you have come to the wrong place. Yeah, you might go ahead and check Facebook or you know, hit the bathroom, play Fortnite or something, because this speech is not for you. No, this is not a "the world is yours for the taking" speech. This is a, "you have not only already taken the world, you purchased the deed on it, put a mortgage on it, raised a couple kids on it, put a ring on it, and paid the taxes!" [Cheers] </p> <p>Please! You have already taken the world by storm so this here degree is simply your proof of purchase. Call it your "Bachelors receipt." [Cheers] This is not a "you are young..." well, except for one of you, and you know who you are. [Chuckles] It is not a "you are young, talented, and facing your truth" speech. This is a "you are grown, grinded and got stuff to do" speech. A, "you are already in hot pursuit" speech. A, "you finally got no excuse," speech.</p> <p>'Cause we are all full of excuses until we find something that works, right? You know how it is, right? We keep saying, "Oh, I would totally lose 20 pounds if I could just workout from home," until we meet a trainer who says, "Fine, I'll meet you at your place, 6 a.m., be dressed!" You're like, "6 a.m., really? Not 9:30?" I mean we love repeating. "Oh, I would totally save more money, you know, if I wasn't so in debt." Until a credit counselor helps us live off less like a game of rock credit card scissors. [Laughter] </p> <p>Eventually something comes along that removes all of our excuses like "I would totally get my degree if I could set my own hours." Boom, here's Taskstream, log in. "I would totally finish school if there was a way to do it from home." Boom, here's a project you can do in your pajamas, log in. "And and if I could take classes at night." Coffee it up, log in. "And and if I could finish in 18 months." Start your clock now, log in. "And if I got competency units from my job." You work it, we count it. Now log in and start the run and don't stop until the goal is won! [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>See this here? This is not, "I'm here thanks to academic advisors, professors and graders." No, this is, "I'm here thanks to tech support " [laughter] "course instructors, and evaluators. Thanks to my program mentor who was at my side until the end!" [Cheers] Word! And even when she calls and I'm not quite ready, so to voicemail I send, [laughter] she calls again to help me create my version of the word "win." </p> <p>This is why this speech is not a "you have spent the past four years dutifully striving each semester toward your degree." No, this is a "I don't even know what a semester is? What are these things, right?" This is a "I earned this degree in half the time with double the course load, and twice the GPA at half the cost" speech. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>This... this... faculty and staff, family and friends, and of course, the graduating class of 2019, this is "the world had the nerve to try to tell you what it knows you cannot do, and you look back at the world all confused, and all that came out was, psshhh, who?" [Chuckles] You all didn't know I speak a little night owl did ya? Oh, yeah, I'm fluent, I'm fluent in night owl, yeah. </p> <p>Because we all know the sound that most species of owl make, right? "Whoo whoo." Nah, but the sound that WGU night owls make is "psshhh who?" [Laughter] As in, when you stand, face pressed against the dark of night, and the world says, "You know it's statistically unlikely with your maturity, and your responsibilities that you will ever find your way through this darkness to a degree." The night owl says, "psshhh, who?" [Laughter] You must not be talking about me, right? Because the fire in me has burned bright enough to light my path through raising four kids, or surviving three hurricanes, or serving two tours, and enjoying one heaven of a life. So as far as I am concerned, I am the light at the end of the tunnel. [Cheers and applause] Psshhh, who? </p> <p>See, you all are not your average students, which is why this is not your average commencement day celebration. It's not, right? It's why we're not doing the traditional thing, because ya'll don't do the traditional thing. Even what you're wearing. These are not your average commencement day gowns. Right, the ones that are all pristine and unblemished. No, that's not how ya'll do it, right? Your gown... has a little dish soap and some sauce stains from all the nights that you came home after work to find a raggedy pot of Hamburger Helper on the stove, and a mostly clean kitchen, courtesy of your loving son, and a husband who are stepping up their chore game so that you can get right to your coursework and get that business degree, right? </p> <p>Your gown. Your gown. Oh, your gown has camouflaged fatigues stitched into the lining from the many nights you spent faithfully serving your country that sometimes felt like a cakewalk compared to surviving the battlefield of clinical microbiology and being 400 in the queue. Are you kidding me, 400? [Laughter] I won't be alive by then. </p> <p>We are each robed in the gowns that tell our story as we congregate today. Even me. See, this is not your average day, your average commencement day speech, because this here, in case you haven't noticed, is not your average commencement day speaker. No, this is poetic voice. And most of you, I know, you don't even know what that means, but that didn't stop me from creating it. Poetic voice is simply the seamless integration of inspirational speaking with spoken word poetry. And the seamless part is the critical part. It's not just speak and then perform, and then speak. It's, I can't tell when the storytelling ends, and the comedy begins, the poetry ends, the business content begins. </p> <p>It's the seamless part that throws the world off. That's the part the world can't understand because the world wants us to live in the world of "or." But we, we're allergic to the word "or." All we know is "and," right? So we get confused when they ask me questions like, "Are you a speaker or an entertainer?" And I don't know what to say, but "yes." "No, no, no, you misunderstand, are you a presenter or a performer?" "Yes." "Now, are you business content or are you artistry?" "You nailed it, yes." </p> <p>And you guys know what I'm talking about, because ya'll been dealing with the same questions, right? "Are you going to go straight to college from high school or get a job?" "Yes." "Are you going to serve your country or go to college?" "Yes." "Are you going to be a husband for your spouse or be a college graduate in your house?" "Yes." "Make dinner for your kids, or make partner at your firm?" "Yes." "Be a parent to your kids or be an example to your kids?" "Yes." [Applause] </p> <p>Because you can't do both is what they will try to tell you. And when they do, oh, that's when we respond in the true night owl fashion with, "Psshhh... who?" And I've been doing it, that's why I'm telling you I speak a little night owl, because I've been saying that since the beginning of my career. Right? Ever since I quit my last job that I ever had as a fifth grade elementary school teacher shout out to all the educators in the house, where you at? Shout out to all the future educators. [Cheers and applause] It's the hardest job to do and hardest job to leave, but I knew that I was destined for something else and so I stopped, and I quit my job to do poetry full time. </p> <p>And everyone was like, "Oh, you'll never make it as a poet full time making money." And I was like, "Psshhh, who?" That was 17 years ago. And since then I have never missed a day of rent with poetry, paid all my mortgages with poetry, everything I have with poetry. Got my wife with poetry. [Laughs] They were like, "You'll never make it in business. Maybe at our holiday party, but not at our business meetings with poetry." And now Forbes Magazine calls me "the poet laureate of corporate America," and I have Fortune 500 clients every day on my client roster. They were like, "You'll never be successful as a poet." And I built a successful communication company built off the word "poetry" and "poetic voice." And when I sign my tax returns every year under "occupation," I put "the world's leading poetic voice, psshhh, who?" [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>I've never been afraid to keep stepping, just like you, to keep stepping into those uncharted spaces, to keep making the world eat their words. That's the beauty of where you're sitting right now. And that continues. You know, they say commencements are the end of things, something, the beginning of the next thing. You're simply beginning your next foray into your next uncharted space now, and that's exciting. It's exciting for me too. </p> <p>I'm actually continuing to my next uncharted space. Since I'm just here and like 7,000 of my closest family and friends, can I just share a secret with ya'll real quick? Just a little bit of excitement for me? I've lived my life trying to create the legacy of creating a commercially viable art form for spoken word, an industry for the art form of spoken word whereby young poets can have a purposeful and a profitable living off of their art form. And that's always in the face of people saying "poetry doesn't belong." And that includes the music industry. </p> <p>The Spoken Word Grammy never goes to spoken word poets, it always goes to audio books. And I think that's about to change because this past Tuesday I just released an album of my spoken word poetry with a symphony orchestra from Europe, and we submit it for the Grammy. And if I have your support, and your psshhh, who's, and all of your energy out there, I might just be the first contemporary spoken word poet to get the Spoken Word Grammy. Can I get some love on that? [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>And if it sounds like I got something to prove, I do! Just like you did when your boss said, "Oh, you think you're promotion material? Prove it." Just like your kids did when they said, "Oh, so you think a degree is achievable for me? Well, you prove it." When the statistics said, "Oh, you think you can be the exception to our rules?" Well the proof is in the pudding, which is why when you hear your name echo through these loud speakers today, I want you to step into these aisles like they are pudding fashion runways. </p> <p>You'd better strut through this room looking like homemade, fresh out the pot tapioca pudding, huh? When you walk across this stage past us, you'd better stride past us looking like grandma's banana pudding with the good bananas, not the brown bananas, okay? If you are a graduate online at home, get up and swagger walk around your living room looking like Louisiana bread pudding with Mexican chocolate, topped with caramelized bananas, and vanilla bourbon sauce. </p> <p>And I say "walk past us looking like pudding" but I'm sad to say this is actually the first commencement speech I've ever given where I unfortunately will not be able to stay sitting next to this gorgeous, dapper gentleman right here, Scott, and watching you all walk. So I want to send you my love right now because I have to get to a preexisting event. I hate that, because I love watching your pudding walk. But trust me, when I walk outside this stadium, I promise I will be walking like chocolate pudding is in my shoes, I promise you that. </p> <p>And by the way, graduates, if you feel like this speech is starting to make you hungry... you're wrong. It's not the speech. No, that hunger has been in you long before I ever showed up. That hunger, that's what got you through. Constantly hearing the voices of family, and friends, and bosses. "You never come out with us any more, homie." "Daddy, how come you're always tired?" "Oh, you know you can't pass that course, you ain't that smart." "You're late to work again." "Let me guess, you have to study." "Dear God, please, please, please let mommy hurry up and get her nursing degree so she can come home and be our mommy again." </p> <p>That hunger is what got you through all of that. But ladies and gentlemen, today is no longer about the hunger. Today is finally about the feast. Feasting on the fruits of your labor today. It's not about the thirst, today is about the toast, raising glasses to pursuing the best version of yourself. Today is about celebrating the harvest of your hard work at this college of IT. Where you at? Where you at? [Cheers] That was built on the hard work for the working. </p> <p>This college of health professions... holla!! [Cheers] That grows students who are grown, this teaching college... holla! [Cheers] That grinds out degrees for those on the grind. This college of business, where you at? [Cheers] That lives to help those who have lived. This new kind of you that works to no end to help students reach the end, where graduates don't finish like stop. No, they finish like win. They don't stop or say "when" they only stop at the end, long enough to toss their cap, have a party, and then begin the next chapter of their journey, this time stronger within with the skills to know how to fall and get back up again to hold your head high because you stay lifting your chin because you've proven that your best version can better itself again. </p> <p>So this is not a speech to celebrate the first version of you. Oh, no, this is a speech to celebrate You-point 2. I'm talking update and repeat like You point 3. Upgrade to even more like You point 4, uplevel and multiplying. This is You point 5. Surrounded by faculty and staff, kids and dads and moms who remind you to never stop short, always go long and help you to finish strong like degrees made of Teflon. And night owl, telling the word "never", please, bring it on. Because this day you show the world there's no storm you cannot weather. </p> <p>This is the place you prove there's no aspiration on chasing forever. This is the moment this world learned the futility of telling you "never." Because today is when you put the world on notice that your best... just... got... better. Thank you. [Cheers and applause] Thank you, graduates, congratulations! I appreciate you, thank you so much. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Tonya Drake: Please give it up one more time for Sekou Andrews. [Cheers and applause] I told you he would be amazing. My favorite part of being chancellor is meeting all of you, and hearing your amazing stories and all of your success in your life. Today, we have the privilege of hearing from two of your fellow graduates. Let me introduce them, and then we'll bring them up. </p> <p>First is Rachel Davidson. Rachel is receiving her Bachelor of Science in Marketing Management, and she came all the way from Gonzales, Louisiana. The second student you'll hear from is Natalie Mohn. Natalie is getting her Bachelor of Arts in Special Education, and she is from Washington, Orting, Washington. Please help me welcome to the podium, Rachel. [Applause] </p> <p>Rachel Davidson: A few years ago, when my oldest son was about five years old, he was hanging on my leg asking me, "Momma, can you play with me?" I responded with, "Not right now, Mommy is studying for her test." And he said, "But why can't you play with me?" I responded with, "Son, because I am changing your future. You won't understand right now, but you will when you're older." </p> <p>I was born in the Amazon region of Brazil, and moved to Louisiana with my parents at the age of ten. Growing up, my parents supported my sister and me through several jobs and small businesses. Even as a young girl I witnessed the importance of hard work. When I first entered adulthood I didn't know how important that lesson would become. </p> <p>I met a good looking man, we got married, and started a family. It seemed like smooth sailing until my family experienced tragedy in 2012. That year, as we were expecting our third child, my husband's position was eliminated. Not long after, we had to move away from the house we invested so much in. Our beloved family dog passed away. And to top it off, my husband experienced a very bad accident. </p> <p>It was this shocking reality that showed me how fragile financial security could be. I embraced the concept that every setback is a setup for a comeback. My favorite NFL quarterback is Drew Brees. I'd seen him conquer the game, even when the score seemed to seal the Saints' fate. I decided I would be that comeback quarterback for my team, my family, by earning a degree that would allow me to elevate myself and get us back on track to financial security. </p> <p>After I decided to pursue a degree in marketing at WGU, I wanted to be able to apply those skills to market on the Internet. So I learned to build and design websites. And after several months, I designed my first website. The first business that benefited from my newly learned skills was my mother. She experienced a 70 percent increase in sales from the website I created. From that point on, I became hooked. </p> <p>I wanted to learn more. I imagined how many people I could help in my community just by helping them market their product. From my humble beginnings, I have been involved with several different businesses' marketing plan, including non profits and film. Thanks to my marketing degree, not only is my career thriving, but so is my husband's. I'm now the marketing manager for his real estate investing company. None of this would have been possible if it were not for the unwavering support of my family, friends, and all of those who never stopped encouraging me along the way. </p> <p>There were times when I wanted to quit, but my program mentor, Courtney, told me that she would drive all the way down to Louisiana to make sure I didn't. I responded with, "Come on down, New Orleans has the best gumbos and beignets in the whole wide world." Thankfully, I didn't quit, and I saved Courtney her gas money. </p> <p>One of the greatest personal discoveries in my WGU journey is that the business of marketing is about people and what they believe. This was true yesterday, it's true today, and it will be true forever. You change beliefs through education and understanding, which builds trust in your brand. So as professionals, it's vitally important that we choose a great reputation over riches. </p> <p>In closing, I encourage you to chase your dreams wholeheartedly. Don't be afraid to go after what seems impossible. Always be open to learning and never stop improving, no matter what the road looks like. Congratulations WGU students on your great success. Thank you so much. [Applause] </p> <p>Natalie Mohn: Growing up, school was always a roller coaster of success and failure, and all the emotions that come with it. I always seem to struggle with organization, completing assignments, turning in assignments, socializing with peers, and controlling my emotions. </p> <p>While elementary school was difficult in so many ways, it is also where I found my life's calling. Yes, at the age of ten, I found my purpose in life in special education. When you grow up in a small town like Orting, you move through grade school with the same kids year after year. This includes peers with disabilities. </p> <p>I remember one boy in particular, Cody. He had Down syndrome and would spend part of his day in my classroom every year since first grade. One day in the fifth grade, Cody asked me to walk him back to his other classroom and meet his other classmates. It was in that moment that my educational journey suddenly had a purpose. I started spending recesses, lunches, and the end of the day in Cody's class, working with him and students just like him. These kids welcomed me with open arms, warm smiles, and genuine hearts. I'm so thankful to all of those who recognized my passion to work with students with disabilities at such a young age. Because of those who believed in me, I was able to peer tutor, TA, and mentor special education classes throughout my middle school and high school years and develop my passion for special education even more. </p> <p>Now remember those struggles and challenges I mentioned having? Well, it turns out there was an explanation for every one of them. During the summer of 2005, just a day shy of my 13th birthday, beginning middle school and starting in a whole new school district, I was diagnosed through the University of Washington Autism Center with Asperger's and autism. I was diagnosed and suddenly there were answers to things that had happened in my life that just couldn't be explained before. But my future had become a bit of a mystery. </p> <p>While I had successfully earned my AA degree at a local community college after high school, it wasn't without its own extreme struggles, hardships, failures and tears. I needed to find a new approach to education, one that would be successful for me, and one that I could do by myself. I knew moving to a traditional university campus was not the fit I was looking for, I had just spent the past year living and working at Disneyland, and I knew I wanted to be closer to home where my family was. Plus I really wasn't interested in the dorm life. </p> <p>Finding WGU was the answer to my lifelong question: How am I going to successfully become a special education teacher? I knew there was a way, I just had to find the way for me. My WGU journey has not been without struggles and hardships, but it has come with the most amazing support system built in that led me to achieving success. </p> <p>My first couple of terms were rocky, but I finally found my rhythm and made it through my general study courses. When I'd started my program courses, the support of my mentor, Paulette, became crucial. Because of my rough start, I had my doubts, but Paulette assured me that she was going to stick through it with me, every call, every email until graduation day. I didn't believe her, because see, I went through four program mentors in my time with WGU, and Paulette's words meant nothing to me in the beginning. </p> <p>While I'm happy to say Paulette kept her word and pushed me to achieve more than I ever thought was possible within myself. One day last spring, she was looking at my degree plan and we were trying to figure out what courses I would take next. She decided to challenge me and push up graduation by a whole six months. She said, "You need to complete 47 credits in the next three months so you can student teach in January." I thought she was crazy. I didn't think I could do it, and I wondered why she would put this amount of pressure on me. But after talking with others they said, "If Paulette thinks you can do it, then you can do it. She wouldn't push you past what she knows you can do." </p> <p>See, along the way, I had struggled, but it was finding that right support system is what I needed. Student teaching pushed me so far outside my comfort zone, I didn't even know where I was anymore. I Ed TPA nearly drove me off a cliff [cheers] but thanks to my Ed TPA buddy and cohort facilitator, we did it. And Paulette, I would never have graduated without her because she saw something in me that I still hadn't seen in myself. </p> <p>Now here I am, 27, graduating with my Bachelor's degree in special education, teaching special education at the elementary level, and beginning my Master's degree last Sunday. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>As I stand here today, I think back to that ten year old looking to find her place in the world. She found it in one special education class in the fifth grade. Thank you. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: Let's give one more round of applause for both Rachel and Natalie, thank you. [Applause] I think we are all truly moved by the example of compassion and love of service that Natalie emulates in her life, and just the recognition of the worth of every individual, and proving to all of us that working to lift others, in fact, in turns lifts us as well. And once again, reminds us that when love is shared, love is multiplied. </p> <p>I'm also grateful for, if you will, the lesson that Rachel gave us when she said, "setback is only a setup for a comeback." I love that phrase, I have written that down. I, at the same time, would like to express some concern that every one of our students expresses the love of their mentor with the kind of phrases that say, "she nearly drove me off a cliff," [laughter] "she brought me to the brink of a breakdown," "she made me do 47 credits in three months." I'm starting to wonder whether this is student abuse rather than mentoring. [Laughter] But needless to say, I suspect that each of you would concur with the statement that you are here thanks to the love and service of a well intentioned faculty program mentor. So let's hear it for all of your faculty mentors. [Applause] </p> <p>Lastly, I just wanted to recount what Rachel had to share in her words to her son, that "you may not know now, but I'm working to change your future." There is a well known statistic that the child of a college graduate is ten times more likely to also finish their degree. So thank you to the 40 percent of you who are the first in your family to complete your degree. You're not only changing your life, but the life of your children, and your children's children. So thank you. [Applause] </p> <p>We will now recognize each of our Bachelor's degree graduates. So would all of you, the candidates for Bachelor's degrees and post baccalaureate teacher preparation endorsements please rise. That is all of you. [Laughter] Including those of you who are watching this via our live webcast wherever you may be. </p> <p>It is upon the favorable recommendation of our faculty, and the authority vested in me, by the board of trustees, and member governors of Western Governors University, I hereby confer upon you the Bachelor's degree or endorsement you have earned to include the Bachelor of Arts, the Bachelor of Science, or the Post baccalaureate Teacher Preparation Endorsement with all of the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. You may now move the tassel from the right to the left side of your mortarboard. Congratulations to the important milestone of your lives. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Now you can be seated for the moment. And the following leaders from each of our colleges will now present the diplomas to our graduates. Rashmi Prasad, Academic Vice President, College of Business; Anmy Mayfield, Academic Programs Director, College of Health Professions; Elke Leeds, Academic Vice President, College of Information Technology; and Stacey Ludwig Johnson, Academic Operations, Vice President, Teachers College. </p> <p>[Reading of Graduates] </p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: Let's give them all one more last round of applause, congratulations everyone. [Applause] Graduates, you now join the ranks of more than 154,000 WGU alumni worldwide. You'll be happy to learn that we have an active alumni community, and we invite you to stay involved, and you can visit Alumni.WGU.edu to connect with fellow night owls. Please take advantage of the many benefits and resources available to you. </p> <p>For many of you, earning your diploma is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. The academic degree you have earned at WGU will open doors for you, and allow you to explore new opportunities. But it's important to remember that commencement is not the end, it represents that new beginning. I encourage you to explore your dreams, dare to discover, and follow your passions, whatever they may be. </p> <p>And whatever you choose to do, do it well, and great things will follow. Learning, is a lifelong journey and one that's now a habit of both your mind and your heart. I urge you, as you continue your journey, to reach out to others in pursuit of their dreams, identify meaningful ways to contribute to your communities, and your neighborhoods, and help us to find our way as a united country, to a brighter pathway for our children, and our children's children.</p> <p>Now as is consistent with the time in which we live, we want to commemorate this moment with a selfie. So get your phone out, I have mine up here. I'm going to invite Chancellor Drake up here to take a selfie, and we get to have you in the background. So you guys can all take your photo too. That was nearly like taking selfies with my wife who is like a foot shorter than I am too. I'm like usually like this. </p> <p>As you celebrate on social media, please remember to use the hashtag "WGUGrad." Congratulations again, graduates, this now concludes our commencement ceremony. And please remain seated until our graduates have filed out. Thank you and have a great evening. [Cheers and applause]</p>
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