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WGU Commencement Ceremony, February 2020
WGU Commencement Ceremony, February 2020
Western Governors University
<p>WGU Commencement in Dallas, Texas on February 22, 2020. Order of events: Processional National Anthem sang by Nastasha Robles; Welcome and Opening Remarks by WGU Texas Chancellor Dr. Steve E. Johnson; Graduate Speakers are Sarah Williams and Pooja Sijapati; Commencement Address delivered by America's First Latina Fighter Pilot and STEM Adovcate Olga E. Custodi; Conferral of Degrees and Closing Remarks by Dr. Marni Baker Stein; Recessional.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Steven E. Johnson: Thank you, thank you. Please take your seats. We'd like to thank Natasha Robles from San Antonio, Texas, who has earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, and will be starting her career as a kindergarten teacher this fall in San Antonio. For performing our national anthem, thank you, Natasha. [Applause] </p> <p>Well, good morning ya'll. Although there's a bunch of us, I'll use the plural "good morning all ya'll." [Laughter] It's my honor to convene the 76th WGU commencement here in Dallas, Texas. On behalf of the entire university, and our board of trustees, we welcome our honored graduates, and congratulate you on this significant achievement in your lives. Congratulations. [Applause] </p> <p>Now of course, we also extend our warmest welcome to the many family members and friends who are here to support their graduates. In addition, we want to recognize and welcome the many graduates who I'm sorry I skipped ahead. In addition, we want to recognize and welcome the many graduates, who together with their family and friends are watching this event live on TV. That's wonderful. [Applause] </p> <p>Now, graduates, it's likely that you wouldn't be here today would it not have been for your friends and family at your side as you went through this journey. Would all of you, the family and friends of graduates please stand up? Thank you for supporting your graduates. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Now often at WGU, we have family members who are graduating together. If you're graduating with a family member today, would you please stand to be recognized? Do we have any family members? All right! [Applause] It's great to see families share this accomplishment together. Congratulations. </p> <p>WGU is honored to be recognized year after year as a military friendly university. We would like to recognize the military members who are graduating. Would the graduates who are active duty, reservists, veterans, military spouses, please stand to be recognized. [Cheers and applause] Thank you for what you do for our country. </p> <p>Also with us today are many of our WGU faculty and staff members. If you've been the beneficiary of the time and dedication they put into their work, please put your hands together one last time and give them a round of applause. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Since our very first graduate in 2000, WGU has now awarded more than 170,000 degrees including more than 38,000 just in 2019. It's the biggest year in WGU history for graduates. Since our last commencement in October, just four short months ago, more than 13,000 students have graduated from WGU. That's amazing. [Applause] </p> <p>Today, more than a thousand graduates are joining us here at this ceremony in Dallas, to be individually recognized for earning their degrees. Among these are 557 who have earned their bachelor's degrees, and 498 who have earned their master's degrees. Amazing. [Cheers and applause] You represent 43 states and the Northern Mariana Islands. Of the 1,055 attending today, I'm excited to say this 635 of you are Texans. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>So thank you all for being here. It's our privilege to recognize you on this special day. Let me share just a few additional facts about today's graduating class, including both our master's and bachelor's graduates. Thirty nine percent of you are the first in your families to earn a college degree. We extend a special congratulations to you. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Your average age is 38 years old. Seventy percent of you are women. [Cheers and applause] The average time to graduation for those of you earning a bachelor's degree was two years and three months. [Cheers] I know, it's amazing. And the average time for those of you earning a master's degree was one year and six months. Those are both amazing. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Today's commencement celebrates you, our graduates, for setting and accomplishing a significant goal in moving to a new stage of your life. You join only 37 percent of the adults in the United States that hold a bachelor's degree, and eight percent who have earned master's degrees. Education is the surest path to opportunity. You worked hard to obtain an educational milestone that will change the course of your own history, and your community around you. You aspire to be a part of a greater thing. Thank you for letting all of us at WGU play a part in the fulfillment of your dreams. Thank you. [Applause] </p> <p>Now I'm truly honored to be able to introduce to you two graduates who are going to speak to you today. They are Sarah Williams, who is receiving her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Springfield, Oregon. [Applause] Yeah. And then we have Pooja Sijapati, Master of Science, Management and Leadership from Irving, Texas, right here in the Metroplex. [Applause] So please join me in welcoming first to the podium, Sarah. [Applause] </p> <p>Sarah Williams: Good morning fellow graduates, families and friends. I am honored to have been given the privilege to speak amongst fellow superheroes. Why superheroes you might ask? Well, I know from personal experience how much it to get here. For me, it was juggling a full time job, while being a full time student, and making time for family and spirituality. </p> <p>Every time I would tell someone what I had taken on, they would ask, "What are you, some kind of superhero or something?" [Chuckles] Yes, I was a superhero, and so are all of you. It takes an incredible amount of courage for a working adult to return to school. It was especially scary for me. I hadn't even finished high school. This was a generational pattern for my family. </p> <p>I am number five out of six siblings. Our mother was in her 20s when she was diagnosed with drug induced schizophrenia. She was unable to care for us. So, when I was three, my siblings and I were taken into foster care where we remained until we were adults. My foster mother had two sons of her own, nine grandchildren, and she always had eight foster children in her home. She, herself had not finished high school, or attended college. </p> <p>When I was 16, I gave birth, another generational pattern. I was home schooled for eight weeks. And when the baby was old enough, I returned to school. I was excelling until one day when I came home from school, my foster mother told me that my baby was too spoiled and that she could no longer care for him. So I had to drop out of high school in my junior year. </p> <p>I got married at 17, and at 19, I gave birth to a second child, a baby girl who was born with a serious heart condition. She spent most of her five short months of life in the hospital. During that time, the pediatric nurses were always complimenting me on how well I cared for my critically ill child. After all, I was just a child myself. </p> <p>One nurse said to me, "You are very smart. You should become a nurse." That always stuck with me. It played over and over in my mind until I knew that I needed to make that dream a reality. </p> <p>So married with three children, at the age of 21, I decided to go back to school. Because I hadn't finished high school, I had to obtain my GED before enrolling in a local nursing school. </p> <p>As a young mom, it wasn't easy, but I was able to complete a CNA, and then my LPN. And seven years later I became an RN. [Cheers and applause] I had become the first in my family to obtain a college degree. This is a really big deal for me. I had no one to encourage me as a child to attend college, or to teach me the value of an education. But by the grace of God, I have broken a generational pattern and I decided to keep going. </p> <p>I chose to attend WGU because a few of my coworkers had attended the bachelor's degree program and had nothing but good things to say about it. I learned that the tuition was affordable, and that I could accelerate through the program. With the support of my excellent mentor, Mindy, and the course instructors, I completed the program in just eight months. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>So fellow superheroes, we did it! Because we were determined, and driven, and possessed an enormous amount of courage, we now have earned our degrees. Those superpowers of hard work and perseverance have now paid off. With these degrees, many new opportunities are now available to us. The journey has prepared us to reach out and grab any star in the sky, as there is no limit to where we can go from here. </p> <p>Some of us have been working in our current careers for years already. Our degrees will help us to go even further. The next step for me is to become a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner. [Cheers and applause] This is a goal I realized during my community health course at WGU. Doing the community service hours, I worked with the homeless in my community, and I learned first hand that many of them are facing mental illness. It is now my calling to serve this underserved population. </p> <p>Superheroes, the journey only gets tougher from here, but the rewards are great. The amount of people that we will touch makes the journey worth it. We superheroes would like to give a special thanks to our sidekicks: Our loving families and friends who persevered alongside us, and will continue to do so through the rest of our journey. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Graduates, I know that as working adults, the journey to obtaining a bachelor's degree was not easy, but you did it. Remember your superhero powers, the power of hard work and perseverance, and you can accomplish anything. Thank you. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Steven E. Johnson: And now we'll hear from Pooja. [Applause] </p> <p>[Shouts from audience] </p> <p>Pooja Sijapati: My name is Pooja Sijapati, and I'm honored to have the chance to share my story with you this morning. My story is ordinary. However, I'm a true believer that ordinary, you can find the extraordinary. </p> <p>I was born in a small yet beautiful country of Nepal in south Asia. Being born a girl in my culture has traditionally meant my opportunities would be limited. Believe it or not, to this day, in Nepal, a girl born into a family is considered a burden, and a liability. She is always second place to any male children in the family. Education is still not considered a priority for girls in most, if not all developing countries. </p> <p>According to the Human Rights Watch, 37 percent of girls in Nepal marry before the age of 18, and 10 percent are married by age of 15. However, in my family, it was different. I was their first born, and their pride and joy. My father, who I consider to be my champion, he is an ex colonel in Nepal's military, who served for 30 years. Also served as a United Nations Peace Keeping Officer in New York. He met inspiring leaders from all around the world, and attended two master's degree in international security and strategy, and in defense studies. These different opportunities exposed him to richness of the world, and he wanted the same for his little girl. </p> <p>Today, he's a happily retired gardener, painter, writer, and most importantly, a dreamer. Growing up, watching him cultivate his diverse interests served me as a powerful example and he always encouraged me to follow my passion for learning. </p> <p>When I was little, my father helped me with my schoolwork, taught me English, and encouraged me to try again when I failed. He taught me how to play basketball and dance with me to Bob Marley songs. "Don't worry about a thing, 'cause every little thing is gonna be all right." </p> <p>My father's example has continued to serve me well throughout my life. A few years ago, I knew a master's degree would help me further my career. I had a thirst to learn more, and evolve as a leader. But with my busy schedule working as a business analyst consultant at Neiman Marcus, I wasn't sure a graduate program would fit in my hectic life. </p> <p>WGU gave me that opportunity. There were times that were hard but when I struggled I always asked myself, "What's my excuse?" I can, and I will complete what I started. If not for me, then for the little girls who are born in every developing countries. And for their fathers, who dreamt that one day their little girls will reach their goals in life. </p> <p>Because throughout my life the support of role models and mentors who believed in my dreams has kept me going, just as my father encouraged me all my life, my better half, [inaudible] hi, honey my mentor, Carmen Jackson, and the source instructors at WGU were my motivators, my advocates and my champions. They cheered me across the finish line when I really needed it. Because, as God as my witness, data driven decision-making class was the difficult. [Laughter] Right. </p> <p>Now it's my goal to give back by using the things that I've learned throughout my journey here to motivate and inspire others who want to turn their ordinary lives into something extraordinary. This is for my father who has championed this little girl to everything that she can be. Let's give a much deserved round of applause to your advocates, to your heroes, and your champions. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>My parents flew all the way from Nepal for this commencement. [Cheers and applause] And they had no idea that I was going to be a student speaker today. [Chuckles] My father must be holding back his tears in the audience. Tears of pride and joy, just like the day I was born. </p> <p>I'm proud to say that I'm the first woman in my family to pursue higher education, all thanks to my dad. [Cheers and applause] I was my high school valedictorian, I completed my bachelor's degree, and now to have earned master's degree, all while juggling a full time career. [Applause] </p> <p>Thank you, congratulations graduates, and have a wonderful day. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Steven E. Johnson: Join me in thanking both of our speakers, thank you so much. And congratulations on your success. Now I'm pleased to introduce Olga Custodio, our commencement speaker. Olga was the first Latina to complete the U.S. Air Force undergraduate pilot training and to become a pilot. I know. That's wonderful. [Applause] </p> <p>While studying at the University of Puerto Rico, she tried to participate in the university's Reserve Officer Training Corps program, but was denied, as women were not allowed to do so at that time. But Olga never gave up. She went on to fulfill her dream of becoming a commissioned military officer and then some. She severed for 24 years in the United States Air Force, retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel. [Applause] </p> <p>Along the way she received an Aviation Safety Award for superior airmanship, for handling of an in flight emergency. After transitioning to the U.S. Air Force Reserves, Olga became the first Latina commercial airline pilot, and later upgraded to captain, flying for American Airlines. [Applause] </p> <p>Today, Olga is retired, with over 11,000 flight hours to her name. Those of you that are pilots know that is a lot of hours. She works with several non profit organizations that advocate for inspiring and empowering students, especially those from underserved communities to pursue careers in aviation and aerospace. </p> <p>As a STEM advocate, she also has volunteered her time as a speaker at local schools, universities, corporations, military base groups, encouraging young women and men to reach for their dreams. Olga serves as a mentor with the Women of Aviation International, Aviation Explorers, and the School of Aeronautics at Inter American University in Puerto Rico. </p> <p>By pioneering many firsts during her career, Olga has shattered stereotypes and served as a powerful role model. Please join me in welcoming, Olga Custodio. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Olga E. Custodio: Thank you very much. This is an honor to be here celebrating your success. This is a great moment in your life, whether it's a bachelor's or a master's degree. Achieving something in this stature is phenomenal. </p> <p>Everyone's decision to make this commitment is unique, but also has a common thread. The feeling of accomplishments after sacrifices and dedication to a goal that you set for yourself. The value of this educational achievement establishes the standard for you, and your family. The capstone of the time, effort, sacrifices that you have made working on your degree will be when you walk across this stage today. </p> <p>So there I was, I have to give you a pilot story because that's what I do. And all pilot stories starts with, "So there I was." As a Latina, it was natural because we normally talk with our hands a lot. I've learned to calm that down, but still as a pilot, you know, to instruct you and tell you what you need to do, you have to speak with your hands. </p> <p>It was a warm those of you from Texas know that there's nothing "warm" in Texas, it's hot West Texas day. The tower had just cleared me for takeoff. And as I'm lowering the canopy, I'm looking down final to make sure there aren't any other aircraft coming. I take the centerline, check my engine instruments, and make sure that everything checks okay. </p> <p>Push the power up. Release the brakes and I'm rolling down the runway. V1. Check instruments. All good. Continue. V2. Rotate. Lift off. I get my gear up. I get my flaps up. Crosscheck. And the next thing is bam! Windscreen goes dark, and there I was. </p> <p>Everything I had experienced and learned about life and myself brought me to this moment. And I was going to need all of it. When I talk to people and find they used to have a dream or a goal, and never went after it, I always ask, "Why?" Because I understand life happens, and it gets in the way. But was it really a dream or a goal, or just a passing thought? If the next thing they say, with the sound of regret, "I wish I would have " my answer is, "it's never too late." </p> <p>Today's success is just one of many defining moments and events in your life that will help you find your purpose and define what success means to you. It started with a vision, a goal, followed with a plan. When my kids would come up to me and say they wanted to do something, I would always ask them, "So what's your plan?" Because without a Plan A, there is no Plan B. And it's just a roadmap, a guidance to get you from point to point and help you execute what you're trying to achieve. </p> <p>But, there are always unforeseen barriers or obstacles, but you learn to adapt because the path is never a straight line. There will be many detours along the way. But you need never to lose sight of the vision and the goal. I knew I wanted to follow my father's military service. I didn't know what my military service would be, but I knew I was committed to that journey. I had a vision and a plan. And right at the start the door was shut in my face. </p> <p>My plan to get a math degree, to get a commission with the ROTC program at the University of Puerto Rico. But instead I was faced with a commander who didn't know what to do with me. And he said he was sorry, but "we won't be able to allow you to come into this program." He had pulled out a test out of a drawer. He gave it to me. And then he made me believe that I did not pass that test. </p> <p>I had no idea what discrimination was like. I was 16 years old when I entered college. And to me, he was the commander, he was the authority, and I accepted his word. What I didn't know was that women weren't allowed, and I don't know if he was afraid to tell me, or didn't want to tell me. </p> <p>So Plan B. Accounting? Close to math, but not really. But anyway, [chuckles] I needed a degree to be able to get a job now, because I knew I wasn't going to be in the service. Overcoming self doubt isn't easy, but getting the encouragement of others who believe in you is something everyone needs. So remember the people you surround yourself with, that mentored you, that supported you when things got challenging. </p> <p>Sometimes when you're denied an opportunity it doesn't mean never, it just means it's not the right time, or the right opportunity, and there are so many more experiences you still need to have in order to prepare you for the right opportunity. So don't give up. Be open to the detours, you never know what path will give you, things you never imagined. </p> <p>When I was in my last year at the university, I was taking night courses because I had already taken a full time job at a commuter airline, working in the accounting department. Close to math, right? No. </p> <p>Anyway, so a few months in my last semester that year, I was taking my last three courses. And I'd just gotten married. I was really young, I was 21 years old. And all I had was three more months to go, three courses to finish. And I would get a call at work from my mother, and she would say, "Miha, honey, how are you doing?" "I'm doing great, Mom." And she would say, "Well, you are going to class tonight, right?" </p> <p>She knew how easy it would've been for me to say, "Life is good. I have a job. I'm married. What do I need this for?" But just the fact that she called, she was very, very smart. She says, "Why throw it all away with all that time and effort and money? You're right at the finish line." But I did think about those options. It would've been easy to say, "I'm just going to go home, I'm a newlywed, I just want to be with my husband, and life is good." But I knew what I had to do. I went ahead, finished my degree, thanks to my mom's encouragement. </p> <p>But it took me ten years and my third attempt to finally get the opportunity to serve in the U.S. Air Force. That degree was key to getting the opportunity to apply for a commission. It was just the key that opened the door. And I also got military undergraduate pilot training. </p> <p>So back to my flying story. There I was, bam! The windscreen is dark. Looking up, it's covered with blood, with feathers. I immediately went into emergency mode. The first steps in any flight emergency is maintain aircraft control. You have to be in control and keep the airplane flying. Second, analyze the situation. So there's the blood. Immediately my eyes went to my instruments. Did I lose an engine? How is this? </p> <p>In my twin engine jet, a T 37, during a primary phase in Air Force undergraduate pilot training I was on a solo flight. My pilot skills, situational awareness and mental aptitude was put to the test. Checking the instruments was great. Everything was working. The turkey vulture that hit me wasn't so lucky. Off he went. But luckily did not go into my engine. The windscreen didn't crack. I could still see through the blood and through the feathers. It was blurry, but I was still able to make out what was in front of me. </p> <p>I was nervous but my training and my discipline kicked in. Emergency mode and survival mode primarily. I declared an emergency, immediately entered the traffic pattern and was talking to the tower. They directed every aircraft in that traffic pattern out of the way, I had the priority to the runway, as fast as I could get there. They sent a chase aircraft with an instructor, and a student to check out my airplane to make sure that it was structurally sound for me to continue to land the airplane. </p> <p>I got my gear down, my flaps down. I was full of gas. I had just taken off. The T 37 only needs 3,000 feet to land. Luckily the runway in front of me was 10,000 feet long, so I had plenty of room. When you declare an emergency, the emergency vehicles immediately come to the approach end of the runway. So when you land, depending on if you crash or not, they're right there to greet you and put you out if you're on fire. </p> <p>So I landed the aircraft. It was a long landing. They're chasing me down the runway. I continued down and I pull off, shut the engines down, open the canopy, and I'm greeted by the ambulance. And the first thing they ask is, "Are you okay?" "I'm fine." Everything's great. Followed the checklist, did everything I was taught, and there I was. Thirty minutes later when I felt my knees buckle, reality it set in, and the adrenaline started wearing off. What had just happened? Incredible. </p> <p>Successfully handling the emergency and safely landing the aircraft elevated my confidence. This moment had defined that I had what it took to be a pilot. Not only when everything is functioning as it should, but when the red lights and the fire bells go off. In this profession, you must have some skills to become successful. But motivation, combined with these skills is a huge part of reaching success. </p> <p>Later, as an instructor pilot, I could see this in my students. I was able to develop those skills, and with their motivation, help them successfully graduate from flight training. The denials and the delays led me to this opportunity because I never gave up on my goal, and stayed open to the possibilities and the opportunities. </p> <p>I was challenged in training. Some instructors told me that I wasn't going to make it. They thought it would make me give up. But I had waited too long to enter the Air Force, and I wasn't going to let anyone discourage me. So I gave it everything I had. I could've never imagined I would become the first Latina female U.S. military pilot, graduating in the top five percent in my class...[cheers and applause] thank you...to return to fly the Supersonic T 38 aircraft, and become an instructor pilot in that. It was the fastest aircraft any female military pilot could fly at that time. </p> <p>Your degree shows commitment and discipline. It will open up opportunities. Many people, sometimes end up in a profession not even related to their degree. My degree was in business administration with a minor in math. But the commitment to finish my degree was an experience that I had earned and proved that I could follow through. Your studies took discipline, time management, and work/life balance to get you here today. You had to make the commitment. You had to make your schedule, and you had to motivate yourself. </p> <p>Your mentor's guidance and experience gave you the hope to navigate through the times when you had doubt. Be proud of your achievement, enjoy and celebrate this moment. Most of the time we're always thinking about tomorrow without living in the present. Planning for tomorrow is essential. But don't forget to enjoy life. Find what makes you happy, and get paid to do what you love. You will need mentors along the way, so be ready to go out and find them. All you have to do is ask. You'll be surprised how many people will be gracious with their time to help you. Great leaders want the people they lead to be successful and succeed. It's up to you to put in the hard work. And as you do, you will gain the respect and support of others. </p> <p>Stay open to the possibilities and opportunities. Remember that respect is something that you cannot demand, it is earned. Learning how to process information for problem solving is an important skill which I'm sure you had to use working towards this degree. But just as important is developing your emotional intelligence in order to deal with people and situations. Building relationships through respect and trust is an added value and make sure you listen with purpose. </p> <p>As you climb your success ladder, don't forget to reach down and pull others up with you. Share your successes, as well as your struggles, what you learn from those struggles and how they made you stronger and more determined. </p> <p>As you continue towards the goals ahead, don't leave behind the people that supported you and encouraged you. Know what and who is important in your life and bring them on the journey with you. They will be there to share your successes because you've heard the phrase "it's lonely at the top." Those are the people who left everyone behind. </p> <p>I have a personal mantra. It's [Spanish]. And those of you who speak Spanish kind of understand what that means. But I will translate. My first translation of this was, "Where there's a will, there's a way." But through the years I have learned to translate it in a different way. "Where there's a will, there is power." Power behind that will, that you can do anything you put your mind to. </p> <p>I had to make my own path, and I left a trail. I believe it allows an opportunity of awareness for the young and the not so young, that anything is possible if you follow your passion, and have the patience to pursue it. Don't be afraid to be confident and open to the possibilities that will lead to those opportunities. Stay curious and continue to learn. The next chapter is waiting as you continue your experiences and pursuit of your purpose. Congratulations, well done, and thank you very much. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Marni Baker Stein: All right, let's hear it one more time for our speakers. What amazing, inspiring stories. Thank you. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>All right. We will now recognize each of our master's degree graduates. [Cheers and applause] would the candidates for master's degrees and educator endorsements please rise, including everybody watching from home. Get off that couch, wherever you may be. </p> <p>Upon the favorable recommendation of our faculty and the authority vested in me, by the board of trustees and members of Western Governors University, I hereby confer upon you, the master's degree or endorsement you have earned, to include the Master of Arts, the Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, Master of Science, or Educator Endorsement, with all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. Congratulations and welcome to the community of innovative, bold, and credible professionals. Thanks so much. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Okay, so I'm going to ask you to please be seated just for a moment. Folks at home, that's you too. Our master's graduates wear a hood bearing the color of their discipline. The following leaders from each of our colleges will now present the diplomas to our graduates. Bruce Stetar, Academic Programs Director, College of Business; Scott Jones, Academic Operations Vice President, College of Health Professions; John Balderree, Academic Operations Vice President, College of Information Technology; and Deb Eldridge, Academic Vice President, Teachers College. </p> <p>[Reading of Master's Degree Names]</p> <p>Marni Baker Stein: Thank you everyone. We will now recognize each of our bachelor's degree graduates. [Cheers and applause] Would the candidates for bachelor's degrees, post baccalaureate, teacher preparation endorsements please rise, including those of you watching through this webcast, wherever you may be. Please rise undergraduates. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>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 the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. Here's the big moment. You may now move the tassel from the right to the left side of your mortarboard. Congratulations. [Applause] </p> <p>Congratulations on this important milestone in your lives. I'm gonna ask you to please again be seated for a moment, that includes you at home. Just sit down for just a second. The following leaders from each of our colleges will now present the diplomas to our graduates. Bruce Stetar, College of Business; Scott Jones, College of Health Professions, John Balderree, College of Information Technology, and Deb Eldridge from Teachers College. </p> <p>[Reading of Bachelor's Degree Names] </p> <p>Marni Baker Stein: Graduates, please accept our sincere congratulations. You now join a network of more than 170,000 WGU alumni worldwide. Welcome to this amazing community. We hope you'll stay engaged by visiting WGU.edu/alumni. Welcome to the family. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>For many of you, earning your diploma is the fulfillment of a life long goal. The degree you have earned at WGU will create new pathways to opportunity. But it's important to remember that commencement, like they say, is not the end, it represents a new beginning. I encourage you to continue exploring your dreams, and following your passions. Whatever you choose to do, do it well, and great things will follow. </p> <p>Learning is a lifelong journey. I urge you as you continue to journey on, to reach out to others in the pursuit of their dreams, identify meaningful ways to contribute to your communities, and help us, help us all find our way as a country to unite and create a brighter pathway for future generations. </p> <p>I hope you'll take a moment to reflect on the pride you felt today, and all this weekend. We hope you'll share your excitement on social media. Be sure to use the hashtag WGUgrad. Hashtag, WGUgrad, so we can find you and celebrate with you. Thank you for letting us share your educational journey and celebrate with you and your families and your friends today. Please remain seated until our graduates have filed out. Thank you. Thank you. [Applause] </p> <p>So, one last thing. One last thing before we go. Hold the music! Steve Johnson wants to take a selfie. Sorry. Sorry. We gotta do this. My teenagers are cringing somewhere right now. Okay, Steve? </p> <p>Steven E. Johnson: You do it. </p> <p>Marni Baker Stein: Okay, I'm gonna do it. Okay, everybody get ready! [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Thank you! Now we're finished! [Applause] Thank you so much, congratulations!</p>
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