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WGU Graduate Speaker, Donna Law, Summer 2016
WGU Graduate Speaker, Donna Law, Summer 2016
Western Governors University
<p>Right out of high school, Donna began a career with SkyWest Airlines and worked her way up to become the marketing director. When she was newly married, both her and her husband were laid off from their jobs in the same week. They settled in Cedar City, Utah, where she volunteered with the Shakespeare Festival for a year before being hired as their marketing director. Donna enjoyed career success but could only advance so far without a degree and with the encouragement of her employer, she enrolled in WGU’s business management degree program. In the middle of her studies she was diagnosed with cancer, but Donna wasn’t going to let that stand in her way of earning a degree. She continued on and entering her 3rd term at WGU was deemed cancer-free. Thanks to her degree she is now the Executive Director of the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service at Southern Utah University.</p> <p>Donna Law earned her Bachelor of Science, Business Management degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>It's an incredible honor to be here today and those of us who are up here selected to speak Amanda reminded me as you were coming in, she said we're representing all of you, and we're so honored to have that privilege, thank you. I'm grateful for the many people who have helped me get here. I've got friends and family over here, my mom and dad are watching online, hopefully, if Mom could make the link work. Got it, Mom? I'm grateful for my bosses, for their inspiration and encouragement; husband, friends, family who provided support all along the way.</p> <p>I've been in the workplace for 38 years in sales, marketing, communications, management for both the for profit, and the non for profit sector. For a time, I led the marketing team for what is now the largest regional airline in the United States. I've held marketing, fundraising and executive positions with three different professional theater companies in three different states. I sit on a couple of boards and I'm certified to provide leadership training for arts organizations in Utah, Idaho, and Colorado. And yet despite these successes, I still had a confidence void, and I found that I would avoid at all costs the question: What's your degree in? Or where did you go to college?</p> <p>I attended my first semester of college right out of high school, began working for a small airline company. And working for that airline was much more thrilling than that first semester of college. The GE stuff, remember health? I'm old enough, we had health. Yeah, that one did it for me. I put my schooling on hold, and instead I pursued this career, traveled to some exotic locations, and as the company grew, so did my professional opportunities.</p> <p>And for 13 years I enjoyed positions in customer service, I was a dispatcher that's the job where you get to tell pilots where to go. And ultimately in sales and marketing where I was the director of marketing again for this most successful regional airline. As the industry transitioned, the need for marketing personnel changed and my position was eliminated.</p> <p>Now, at the time I had recently married, and coincidently enough, my husband's position was eliminated the very same week. We just built a home, landscaping was underway. I had deeply loved my airline career and honestly had never given thought to what else I might do. And a big question was: Now what?</p> <p>Fortunately we'd built our home in Cedar City Utah, just 250 miles to the south, for those of you who come from other parts of the place, it's where the national parks are. Come visit any time. And it's home to the Tony Award winning Utah Shakespeare Festival. And thinking that would be a great place to work, I approached the managing director regarding employment and I was immediately offered a position... as volunteer. I, however, enthusiastically fulfilled my volunteer opportunities until the theater company had paid positions that matched my skill set.</p> <p>I was hired full time in 1995 and grew through all of the marketing positions, building the marketing department for about ten years before further exploring fundraising and leadership opportunities with Shakespeare Festivals in Boise, Idaho, and Orlando, Florida. And after two years in Florida, and a few too many hurricane warnings, we returned to southern Utah where I was hired to help raise funds for a dynamic new $39 million arts center that just opened last week in Cedar City.</p> <p>Throughout these various opportunities, though my lack of a college degree would come up in conversation, my work experience had always been recognized, valued, and been enough to get the job. It was bound to happen though, when I found myself in need of a college degree to be considered for new positions. My work with the Shakespeare Festival was a professional staff position with a really great, well respected, and accredited university. I'd had the opportunity to pursue a degree for years, at minimal, or even no cost. But time had always been the issue. Because of my work, I traveled a lot; I couldn't commit to class schedule. And inasmuch as I'd be starting from scratch, I couldn't see myself taking a course or two every semester and taking ten years to get a degree.</p> <p>The path to my WGU business management degree was totally clear. I knew what courses I needed to complete, and with guidance from my fantastic student mentor, Michelle I saw you up there thank you! I was able to complete, 116 credits in 17 months. I was able to apply what I've learned throughout my career, and find that learning what I didn't know satisfying, rewarding, and even fun except for college algebra.</p> <p>Great friends became patient tutors speaking of college algebra. I invested the recommended 20 hours a week study. I'd watched webinars in bathtubs, I've read e texts on airlines and in hotel rooms and taken exams whenever I felt ready, including lots of very early mornings in my pajamas with a Diet Coke.</p> <p>Pursuing this degree at my pace and in my way became very important when I was diagnosed with breast cancer midway through my coursework. As you might imagine, I was stunned, I wasn't sure what this diagnosis would mean to my goal, and I wondered if I'd be able to continue. Not only could I continue, but I had extra determination to do so. The goal of a degree that was truly in sight kept me motivated and perhaps distracted from the cancer. I could study when I felt like doing so, and I knew that even though my body was fighting a foe, my mind was gaining strength that would get me through the challenge.</p> <p>Surgery and radiation treatments were successful, and while the doctors call it remission, I considered myself cancer free just in time for the beginning of my third and final term, which I completed in just under five months. [Applause]</p> <p>Remove barriers. That's what WGU has allowed me to do. What I appreciate the most is that the barrier of no degree will no longer prohibit me from accomplishing all that I'm capable of doing. I will no longer have that barrier impeding my self confidence, and I no longer have a barrier to advancement at work. In fact, because I progressed towards this degree at such a rapid pace, when an advancement came at my university, the job became mine along with a salary increase. And it's particularly pleasing to me to have Jackie Leavitt here today because in addition to serving as the Government Relations Director for Southern Utah University, I now also direct the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service at Southern Utah University. Give the governor my regards. [Applause]</p> <p>Thanks WGU for being the right answer for me. Barriers continue to be eliminated and my learning needs and goals have been achieved for now. There's nothing I shouldn't look at you that way, should I? You'll think I'm going to sign up for a master's program. [Laughter] Thanks to WGU there's nothing to get in the way of being all I wish to be, and congratulations graduate, there's nothing getting in the way of our success.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
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