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WGU Graduate Speaker, Heather Cunningham, Winter 2010
WGU Graduate Speaker, Heather Cunningham, Winter 2010
Western Governors University
<p>Heather Cunningham was selected as a graduation speaker for WGU's Winter 2010 Commencement. Heather is from Indianapolis, IN.</p> <p>Heather Cunningham earned her Master of Business Administration degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Good morning, graduating class. The wise don’t expect to find life worth living. They make it that way. That quote, when I read it, just made so much sense to me. After the last several years in a relationship with WGU, I look back and I realize the wisdom that I've acquired, the success, the experiences, all of these wonderful accomplishments that I have, and it's all thanks to WGU.</p> <p>Back in 2006, when I investigated going back to school, I was really at an all-time low in my life. My marriage of 15 years had just ended. A successful business that we had run had come to an abrupt end. We lost the home that we were living in for many years. I was unable to pay the bills. My children felt displaced, and I really was very unsure about my future.</p> <p>So as the months went by, and I continued to investigate different schools, I realized I didn't want to live this way forever. Once I narrowed down my choices, I realized that WGU was gonna be the perfect fit for me. You see, as you guys all know, there's the great online study along with the use of traditional textbooks and the wonderful use of our mentors that we all have here and we have to thank for our wonderful experience.</p> <p>So as I went on, I had a wonderful mentor at the time that stayed in contact with me and pushed me beyond what I really thought was possible for myself. Within two terms, I had my degree at Western Governors University, a bachelor of marketing management. So during that time, as you all know, we put together a portfolio for our career. I utilized that portfolio, and within two weeks of graduating with that degree, I had an offer from Comcast to work in their retail sales department. </p> <p>The experiences that I had at WGU really applied to the real world and helped me in my career, and within four months, I was actually running the department for the Indianapolis region of Comcast, which is still the position that I'm in today. So the experience that I got from WGU definitely helped me in my career and helped me get myself back together. My finances improved. I have a new home that I live in. My kids are very happy and healthy. And after all of that, I decided to look back at coming back and getting my MBA. So back in 2009, here I am.</p> <p>As I look back, I wonder really what my sanity level was at the time, knowing the time that it was gonna take. I was working in my career. I worked gosh, 50 hours a week. And now this whole new load of graduate work. I knew how hard it was to get my bachelor's degree, and I knew that there was gonna be an even stronger commitment for my master's degree.</p> <p>So I was introduced to my new mentor [Inaudible]. Don't know where she is out here, but she has been the greatest person that I've met since I had my experience with WGU. She's helped me. She's pushed me beyond what I ever thought was possible. She talked to me. She took the time to actually get to know me on a weekly basis. So for six months, every single week at least once a week, Fazzia was in contact with me, not just through email, but on the phone, having lengthy conversations. We talked about what my goals were, and we talked about the fact I felt I could finish this degree within one term. She said she normally wouldn’t recommend that to a student, but after getting to know me and understanding my drive for success, she felt that I could do it, so she asked that I reach out to the department head for the MBA program and explain what I was looking to do.</p> <p>So I did that. I made the phone call, and I spoke to the department head for the MBA program. And I was told that absolutely, without a doubt, there was no possible way I could finish this degree in one term. So needless to say, most of the time, I would just put my head down, and say, "Okay." But actually, for some reason, that just lit the fire underneath me. And I thought, "You know what? I'm gonna finish this degree in one term."</p> <p>So I called Fazzia, and she said, "You know, she was just trying to be realistic and just wanted to talk to you the way she would talk to a regular student. But in your defense, she just didn't know who you were." As soon as Fazzia said that, it just made me want to work even harder. So every day, all I did was work and study, study and work. And as most of you know, there's a lot of times you fall asleep at night with your head in the books, and wake up, and you’ve got the pages stuck to the side of your face. [Chuckling]</p> <p>So needless to say, November rolled around. My term ended November 30th of 2009. And I had just one final left. And I'm not sure if any of you out here have used this tool, but to me, this is the most wonderful tool that WGU has come up with yet, and that is the web assessor. With a schedule the way that mine is and being a single mom, being able to have that web assessor and actually take my finals at home in a quiet room with a webcam on was ideal to me. I could take those finals in the evening and shut the door, and my kids were out in the room. And there were so many things I didn't have to worry about, and it really eased my anxiety level.</p> <p>So needless to say, this one final left in November. I go in, and I'm in my quiet room, and got the webcam plugged in, web assessor on. Turn on the test, and I don't know where these questions came from. And I don’t even know who wrote the test. But needless to say, they were things that I swear I never learned in my time here. So my stomach was in knots, and I'm just like, "Oh, gosh. I just gotta get through this test." So I'm going on, and about an hour into it, my computer freezes up. Yeah. I'm freaking out, and ten minutes into it, I get the computer back up and running, and there's this big message across the screen. You must reschedule this exam.</p> <p>Oh, my gosh. I thought, "There's just no way. There's no way I am gonna be able to go back and do this again." So I called the helpdesk for web assessor, and some young guy that I felt so sorry for – I don’t even know what I said to him, but I'm sure it wasn’t nice [Chuckling] – so but he got my test back up for me. Hallelujah! So I was back on to go finish this test that I was so unsure of to begin with, and needless to say, I finished it up, finished it within the time, even with that huge mistake. And again, a great with web assessor guys, as soon as you're done with the test, you can go immediately in and see whether or not you passed. </p> <p>So everybody, I'm sure you all know right where I went. And that was to see if I passed. And sure enough, I finished my exam, passed it, and finished my degree in one term. It was probably the best experience in my mind that I'd ever had in my entire life. And I don’t know about any of the rest of you, but all the copies and papers that I had laying around the house, the first thing I did, I grabbed everything and threw it in the garbage. [Chuckling] So I was like, "Hallelujah! I'm done."</p> <p>So it took a lot. All of you guys know here it takes a lot. We've accomplished a lot in our time here with WGU. And I couldn't have done it without the support of my family, my friends, and of course, my mentor Fazzia. But most of all, my ten-year-old son who's here today. I'm looking at him out here. And he sacrificed so much of our [Cries] quality time together for me to earn my MBA, so thank you, Clay. I am so sorry. [Applause]</p> <p>But as I look back, there's three words that come to mind, and that's dedication, focus, and accomplishment. I was dedicated to betting my life. I found the necessary focus to beat the odds in doing so. And I now have a great accomplishment in my educational life. I've found that it's never too late to get your education, and a good education will always open doors that would never open otherwise. Remember there's always a way to achieve your dreams. And again, the wise don’t find life worth living. They make it that way. Thank you all.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
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