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WGU Graduate Speaker, Merit Sowards, Winter 2014

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WGU Graduate Speaker, Merit Sowards, Winter 2014
Western Governors University
<p>Earning her bachelor's degree in Health Informatics from Western Governors University was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to complete a college education for Merit Sowards, a mom from Bradenton, Florida. And her degree has already opened new doors for her: Immediately upon completing her professional practice experience (PPE) as a WGU student, she was hired by the hospital where she had done her PPE work. Merit shared her story as a speaker at WGU's Winter 2014 Commencement at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center on February 8, 2014.</p> <p>Merit Sowards earned her Bachelor of Science, Health Informatics degree.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Good morning, graduates, family, friends, staff. Thank you so much for letting me tell you my story. Like all of you, I pushed through years of studying, test taking, writing papers, and presenting projects. I would never have gotten through any of it if it weren't for the support of my mentor, Vinny. Thank you so much. All of my marvelous course mentors, my family, including my parents, my sister, my brother, my in-laws, and two of my biggest supporters, my husband and my daughter. Thank you so much.</p> <p>I always knew I wanted to finish my college education, but I was not one who could sit in a large classroom with a whole bunch of student, even ones my own age. I tried that route years ago and found it was just too much. Too much noise. Too much disruption. Too much disrespect for the professors teaching and the students sitting there trying to learn. So I decided to stop.</p> <p>So I decided that as soon as I got the opportunity again to finish my education I would take it and run with it. So 17 years forward, God that makes my parents sound old. [Laughter] Sorry. I mean me. Now married, have a child, full-time job, I was presented with that opportunity. My mom called me in 2009, who was also my boss and said, "Our accountant says we need some more deductions in the form of education. You want to go back to school." I said, "Okay. I can do this. I'm going to look into programs that will benefit our business of medical transcription." The industry was changing at the time. So I looked. And I still knew I could not sit in a classroom with kids that were much younger than me. I interviewed three different schools. The cost was too high for two of them and there was no way I was going to be able to ask my parents, let alone our business, to pay for my education.</p> <p>But then I saw an ad for Western Governors University. I loved the competency-based concept. The price was perfect. And it would allow me to achieve my goal of obtaining a college education in a field that would benefit our business, health informatics. It was the perfect match for me. Some of you here and all of you online have made it through the health informatics program and know the tests and the papers that we have had to overcome. My nemesis class? Pathophysiology and pharmacology. [Laughter] You know that class. My mentor, Vinny, and at that time, I was taking it for the fourth time, mentor Diana, gave me the tools to pass that class. Passed it with a 98. I was so happy. [Applause]</p> <p>If it weren't for my course mentors, and my mentor, and my family, I would have never have pushed myself. They pushed me. My daughter sat there with me. Did her homework at the same time. Said, "Come on, mom. You can do it." I did. With this degree, I also found that I would have to do an internship. I had no clue how I was going to fit an internship into family, job, normal life, and school. But I found a wonderful place, a hospital in Sarasota, that would take me, for their health information management department.</p> <p>After I finished my internship there, I found that they were going to post a position. So I applied for it, and thanks to the experience I had received with my family business, and the education I was receiving at WGU, I got the position. So now, [Applause] I'm with Sarasota Memorial Healthcare Systems in their Health Information Department.</p> <p>Now at the beginning of the last term, I wasn't sure if I was going to come here to walk. I thought it would be a great testament to my hard work and to show my daughter that anything was possible and that if you push hard enough, you can accomplish any goal, but there was a huge possibility that this graduation was going to fall on the same day as her first two night overstay Girl Scout campout. So I let her know. And she said, "Oh, it's okay, mom." We can have our own ceremony here in our backyard. I'll invite our relatives. I'll hand you your diploma. And we can have our own ceremony." Too sweet, right?</p> <p>But for me it even got better when today's date was posted for our graduation was posted, I found out it was indeed on her same weekend for her campout. So I decided, okay, I'm going to ask her what she thinks. Eight years old. She has an opinion. [Laughter] She goes, "Mom, I will have plenty of campouts, but I can only see you graduate once. So we're going.” [Applause] So here I am up in front of all of you because of a little girl's decision. Thank you. [Applause]</p> <p>For some of you, this could be your second degree, your third degree, and a career change. And some, your first. But no matter the reason, you have finished with your college degree. You finished this chapter. Now it is time to go and run and start a new one. Congratulations to all of you.</p> <p>[Applause]</p>
Western Governors University
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Original Format: 
Commencement Video
Digital Format: 
MP4 (Moving Picture Experts Group)