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WGU Master's Ceremony, February 2019
WGU Master's Ceremony, February 2019
Western Governors University
<p>Order of Events: Processional; National Anthem sang by Danelle Gonzalez; Welcome and Opening Remarks from WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Commencement Address delivered by Simon T. Bailey; Graduate Speakers are Jennifer Knaack and Junne Lim; Conferral of Degrees by WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Closing by WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Recessional.</p> <p>Saturday, February 9, 2019 WGU Commencement in Orlando, Florida. This is a recording of the WGU Master's Ceremony.</p> <p>Transcription of video (note: This is not a complete transcription. Transcription only includes the Commencement Address and two Graduate Speakers):</p> <p>Announcer: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Disney Coronado Springs Resort. In preparation for the WGU Commencement, we ask that you please take your seats, clear the aisles, and silence your cell phones. The commencement ceremony is about to begin in a few minutes. </p> <p>Sarah DeMark: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 70th commencement ceremony for Western Governors University. Graduates, family, and friends, thank you for joining us as we celebrate this special occasion. Our ceremony is being recorded and streamed live over the Internet, so a special welcome to all of our online participants joining us from 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>Scott Pulsipher: Thank you. Please take your seats. We'd like to thank Danelle Gonzalez, who is graduating with us, for beginning with a very moving rendition of our national anthem. We are so grateful for her and her talents. Let's give her another round of applause. [Applause] </p> <p>Good afternoon, everyone. It is my honor to convene the 2019 WGU Commencement in Orlando, Florida. On behalf of the entire university, we welcome our honored graduates and congratulate you on contemplating one of life's great achievements. 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 are participating with us, together with their family and friends, and watching this event via the live webcast. Let's give them a round of applause. [Applause] </p> <p>Graduates, it is likely that today would not have been possible without friends and family at your side. Would all of you, the friends and family of our graduates, please stand up? That's right, all of you on the outside there. [Cheers and applause] Thank you, and we extend all of our appreciation for all of the support and guidance and love that you have shown our graduates. </p> <p>At WGU, we also often have family members who are graduating together. Would these family members please stand and be recognized. [Cheers and applause] What a special occasion it is to see this moment and you celebrate it together. </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. So would the graduates who are active duty, reservists or veterans, please stand to be recognized? [Cheers and applause] Thank you sincerely for your service. </p> <p>And last, but not least, if you, our students and alumni, are the lifeblood of this institution, then the faculty and staff are its heart. With you today are many of our WGU faculty, mentors, and employees. If you have been a beneficiary of the time and dedication they've put into their work, please put your hands together one last time, and give them a round of applause when our faculty stand up. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Twenty two years ago, WGU was officially founded. Twenty years ago, WGU enrolled its first student. The university now has more than 130,000 graduates. Since our last commencement in November 2018, 8,783 students have completed bachelor's or master's degrees at WGU. Today, we recognize the achievements of 1,254 graduates who are attending the commencement ceremonies here in Orlando. Among these there are 648 receiving their bachelor's degrees and 606 receiving their master's degrees. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>You represent 46 states, the District of Colombia, and military installations overseas. Of the 1,254 attending today, nearly one third are from the great state of Florida. [Applause] Thank you all for being here. It is truly our privilege to be among all of you, and among those who are here in support of you. </p> <p>Let me share some additional facts about our graduating class. Thirty nine percent of you are the first in your families to earn a college degree and we extend a special congratulations to you. [Applause] </p> <p>Your average age is 38. The youngest is 18, and the oldest is 74. [Cheers and applause] Ninety percent of you are over the age of 27, and on average, you completed your master's degree in one year and seven months. [Applause] I'm pretty certain that you are all over achievers. That's impressive. </p> <p>It's inspiring to look at all of you and to consider your achievements, knowing that you've juggled many priorities, faced many challenges along the way, and you are the reason that we have gathered here. And for all of us at WGU, the reason why we believe in the importance of the work that we do. We truly believe in changes lives of individuals and families, and it is truly an inspiration for each of us here to be with you. </p> <p>Today's commencement celebrates you, our graduates, for setting and accomplishing a significant goal and moving to a new stage of your life. You join only nine percent of Americans who have achieved a master's degree. Much will be expected of you as you continue your life journey, taking leadership roles in your businesses, in your societies, and in your communities. Education is the greatest predictor of career success. You worked hard to attain an educational milestone that will change the course of your own history, and influence future generations. You have aspired to greater things. Thank you for letting all of us at WGU play an important part in the fulfillment of your dream. Congratulations again. [Applause] </p> <p>I am pleased to present to you Simon T. Bailey, our commencement speaker. Simon is one of America's top ten most popular corporate and association speakers on change, leadership, and customer experience. He has worked with more than 1,500 organizations in 45 different countries. As an innovator, educator, executive advisor, and author, he shapes the lives of men and women around the world. </p> <p>Prior to founding his company, Simon held the role of Sales Director for the world renowned Disney Institute and worked in hospitality and tourism for 20 years. </p> <p>When Simon is not working, he spends quality time with his two active teenagers and roots for the Buffalo Bills – I'm very sorry – But we all have to have our thorns – and is an avid movie goer. He believes his most important role is to be a great dad and to volunteer in serving the least, the last, and the lost in society. Please join me in welcoming Simon T. Bailey. [Applause] </p> <p>Simon T. Bailey: Good morning. Do me a favor, look at the person you're sitting next to. Look them in the eye, and tell them, "You look marvelous! Simply marvelous!" [Chuckles] Congratulations to all of you graduates. </p> <p>I couldn't help but think about when you were coming in, a number of years ago, my mom and dad loaded the family station wagon and drove me and my brother from Buffalo, New York down to Atlanta, Georgia where they dropped me off at Morehouse College. And at the end of my freshman year at Morehouse they called and said, "We don't have the money to send you back to Morehouse, nor do we have money to bring you back home to Buffalo, but we do love you." [Laughter] How many realized I didn't quite feel the love? </p> <p>So I dropped out of Morehouse, moved into a drug infested community in the southwest part of Atlanta, Georgia. Only had a mattress on the floor, bright green beanbag from the '70s, a couple of milk crates turned over with a black and white TV on top of it with a hanger hanging out of the back of the TV with a piece of aluminum foil wrapped around the hanger. How many have the visual so far? [Laughter] I know some of ya'll saying, "Bless his heart, you know, bless his heart." [Chuckles] </p> <p>And it was probably the lowest point of my life, because here I am, 19 years of age, a college dropout. And I eventually did go back to school, got my undergrad, got my master's degree. But I was on the ten-year plan. And my parents said, "It took you ten years to finish your degree." I said, "Because you didn't pay. But I love you." [Chuckles] But all of you as graduates today, I know that you are so excited, and the families that are here celebrating this amazement, achievement that you have accomplished is absolutely awesome. And what I've discovered in matriculating and taking so much time to finish a degree, aren't you grateful for the faculty mentors who came alongside? [Applause] </p> <p>Since leaving Disney, a lot of my work and research has been around this concept called "brilliance." When I first started writing and talking about brilliance, I based it on some of the research work of Dr. Howard Gardener, Professor of Education at Harvard. And what we discovered is, in Dr. Gardener's work he said, "Children, up until the age of four are operating at the genius level." The same group of children were studied in their early 20s, and only ten percent were still operating at the genius, or what I call the "brilliance" level. And in their late 20s, early 30s, only two percent were still operating at the genius or brilliance level. So the question that you have, like I had, "Oh, brilliant one," you do know that you're sitting next to the "oh, brilliant one," right? Just look at your neighbor and say, "Good morning, oh, brilliant one." [Laughter] Somebody said, "I'm glad you finally recognize!" You may be slow, but they're worth waiting on. [Chuckles] </p> <p>But the question you have, like I had, is where did this genius or brilliance go? And it didn't go anywhere, but it became buried by a society that says, "Color within the lines, sit down, give it back, you can't do this." And sometimes I realized that people, because they may not have a degree, they are marginalized. Well, guess what, you have your degree. Marginalize no more. [Applause] </p> <p>So, if there's one thing I want you to take away, just from that particular point is that you weren't born to fit in. You weren't born to do it the way everybody else does it. Thank you for the amazing competency based model that WGU has because [Applause] isn't it amazing? [Applause] You weren't born to fit in. You are a night owl. Do I have any night owls here? [Cheers] And when you understand that, you realize that you were born to be brilliant. </p> <p>I'll never forget, I was working here at Disney, and Disney sent me over to Paris to design a leadership program for a thousand leaders out of Barclays Bank out of London. And I was working during the time, going to school, trying to figure it out. Had toothpicks in my eyes. I know ya'll can relate to that. And I was there on stage speaking before Barclays Bank, and Lion King had just come out. And I said, [in deep voice] "Remember who you are, you are more than what you have become." Something had just come over me. </p> <p>And so people came up to me afterwards and they're like, "Oh, my God, that was phenomenal!" And I went back to my room that night, and I asked myself three questions. And I want to give to all of you graduates, these three questions because these three questions have become the foundation of my work around the world. Question number one: What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? Question number two, what would you do if no one paid you to do it? And question number three, what makes you come alive? </p> <p>That third question came out of a book I was reading at the time, written by an author named John Eldredge. And in John's book, Wild at Heart, he says, "Don't ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs are people who come alive." And the reason I share that with you graduates is that I realized so many people went to work 30 years ago, and they sell it for a chair, a check, and a cup of coffee in a cubicle farm. And they woke up 30 years later and said, "I'm just a bill, well, I'm only a bill, and I'm sitting here in capitol hill." [Chuckles] </p> <p>And when I answered those questions for me, I recognized that it's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not that holds you back. And everything that you have to succeed is inside of you. So you have matriculated through an amazing university who has been able to bring out the brilliance. Because the word "education" comes from a word called "educari." "Educari" means "to bring out." So, when you begin to understand your brilliance, I want you to say this to me, say, "Simon says " </p> <p>[Audience: Simon says...] </p> <p>I am... </p> <p>[Audience: I am...] </p> <p>Brilliant. </p> <p>[Audience: Brilliant.]</p> <p>Turn to your neighbor and say, "I'm brilliant, but I'm a little concerned about you." Okay? [Chuckles] "I am brilliant!" [Laughs] </p> <p>You know, what's so amazing about being here on Disney property, I worked at Disney for seven years, one of the most amazing places to work at. And it took me two years to get hired at Disney, ten interviews, and a ten page psychological analysis from Gallop. And finally they hired me. So I was working here at Disney, and I was driving over here this morning and I thought about something that most of you don't know. You are sitting in the middle of an imagination. What do I mean by that? </p> <p>Sixty years ago, Walt flew over this property. Disney World encompasses about 55,000 acres, or 47 square miles. And in what some might call in the country, a crop duster plane, he began to survey the land and began to acquire the land through a series of dummy companies. </p> <p>And on October 1st, 1971, when Magic Kingdom opened, Walt had died December 15th, 1966. And so a gentleman turned to Roy, Walt's brother, and said, "It would've been great for Walt to be here, and to see that Magic Kingdom, Disney World has opened." And Roy turned to him and said, "He did see it, though he may not be physically here." </p> <p>All of you saw this day coming. And you are in the middle of the imagination of a man who didn't believe what everybody else was saying because sometimes those who don't believe in you are more negative than an undeveloped piece of film. But you persevered, and you've gotten to this point. So I want you to think about this: If the imagination is the movie screen of the mind, what problem have you been created to solve? Because in a world of algorithms, autonomous cars, AI, I submit to you, as much as you hear about artificial intelligence, soul intelligence is faster than AI. </p> <p>And when you understand that, because of everything that you've learned at this great university, you're not here by accident. You weren't born in the 18th Century because you weren't needed. You exist now as a graduate of this amazing university because you have been created to solve a problem. I am Simon T. Bailey, and I approve this message. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Scott Pulsipher: Thank you, Simon, thank you for reminding us also how important our imaginations are. I am always blessed to think about the high expectations that we place upon ourselves and how it allows us to dream a little bit bigger, lift our gaze a little bit higher and achieve things that only we thought possible. </p> <p>I would now like to introduce our graduate speakers. They are: Jennifer Knaack, Master of Science, Nursing Leadership and Management from Becker, Minnesota. And Junne Lim, Master of Business Administration from Kissimmee, Florida. Please join me in welcoming first to the lectern, Jennifer. [Applause] </p> <p>Jennifer Knaack: Welcome fellow graduates, faculty, family, and friends. I have the honor today of speaking to you about my journey toward earning my master's degree. </p> <p>My higher education journey started off great by earning my associate's degree in nursing through a community college in Minnesota. The plan was then to go back to school for a certified registered nurse anesthetist. I had this goal in mind and it was picture perfect. Nothing was going to get in my way... or so I thought. </p> <p>I had my first child during my and program, and then added one more child after that. I attempted taking general education courses through two different universities to achieve my goal. I even met with a dean for a nurse anesthetist program to ensure I was on the right track. </p> <p>I completed training to work in the ICU as a critical care nurse at the acute care facility I worked at. After realizing my passion for ICU, I planned to step down from leadership in the unit that I worked at. Bring in child number three. I struggled immensely in completing courses on time, and finding the motivation to continue on this path. The thought of finishing my end goal was exhausting, and I lost all motivation. I didn't want to complete assignments, I just wanted to snuggle with my three little children. I felt defeated, I felt like a failure, so I quit. Yes, I said it, I quit. </p> <p>I settled with the fact that the traditional path to a graduate degree would not work for me and my new family. I had had my last child in case you lost track, that's number four and was working in ambulatory care as a site manager. This is the point when I fell in love with leadership. To this day, I am very passionate about it. </p> <p>During this time, my oldest daughter decided she wanted to be a hockey player. She had never seen the inside of a hockey arena, let alone ice-skated. I will be honest, the first time watching her was rough. At the end of her first practice I prepared myself for tears, and the last time I would ever have to smell that horrific smell of hockey gear. None of that happened. She came off the exploding with joy. She was going to be a hockey player. I was shocked. My SUV would never smell the same. [Laughter] </p> <p>My second daughter started playing soccer, so now both of my daughters were playing sports. They struggled at times due to feeling like they were not good enough. When they doubted themselves, we talked about what was causing them to feel this way. Nine times out of ten, it was due to them being their own worst enemy. It was during one of our conversations that it struck me: I am my own worst enemy. I had found passion and love for leadership, why am I not pursuing a degree in it? If it means that much to me, why am I willing to give up on myself so quickly? </p> <p>I learned about WGU through one of my co workers who was a WGU student. I spoke to my family and decided that this was it. This was the university I was meant to attend. Four months later, I enrolled in my first course with WGU. Through multiple breakdowns, explanations of why I needed to complete an assignment to my children, and breaks to refill my WGU coffee mug, it happened. All of my courses were marked "complete." There is nothing more satisfying and fabulous than accomplishing the stuff that finally add up to a degree. It feels like winning the lottery except there is no check. And it didn't happen my chance. It happened because of the passion, grit, and dedication you find deep within yourself. </p> <p>All of us sitting here today happened because you believed in yourselves. You are here because when you were faced with challenges, you changed your perception and chose to persevere and not give up. When I finally finished my degree there was a celebration of ugly crying, jumping up and down with the kiddos, and texting my family the exciting news. I realized that I was no longer going to allow anyone to stand in my way, including myself. I was no longer going to be my own worst enemy. </p> <p>I have gained valuable insight and experience from my children, learning that there are never small successes. Every success is gigantic and deserves a celebration. I am extremely proud of what we all have accomplished, and I am proud to be a WGU alumni. To all my fellow night owls, congratulations. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Junne Lim: Surprise Mom and Dad! [Laughter] My parents didn't know they were actually attending my commencement ceremony today. They also didn't know I was pursuing my MBA. They live about 30 minutes away, so I told them, "Meet me at Disney. Dress nice. You're coming for a photo shoot." [Laughter] Hi, Mom and Dad! Say hi to the cameras. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Very few people knew that I was working on a master's degree. My fiancé, Yasmina, was one of those who knew. I can't wait to marry you next month. [Cheers and applause] We spent countless hours in the library together, both of us taking classes. And I remember while I was working on financial accounting, she would ask me which of the shade of blue would match with coral/salmon/blush/pink bride's maid dress. [Laughter] I couldn't give her an answer, but luckily there have been no bridezilla moments. [Knocks on podium] </p> <p>The second person who knew was my WGU program mentor, Stephanie Robinson. Stephanie, I know you're in Arizona right now, and I hope you're watching. But thank you so much for your guidance. Without your help, I don't think I would've been able to be here at this time. I know towards the end there, it kind of got difficult, but you kept me going, and kept me to persevere. I really felt supported during my time at WGU. </p> <p>So why did I keep this a secret from so many people, even my parents? More than anything, I wanted to surprise them and make them proud. They're both very successful in their professions, and my challenges pale in comparison to theirs. Actually my family came from a little town called Bohol, Philippines. We didn't have much growing up. In fact, my mom had to work overseas for most of my childhood. We missed each other for eight years while she was in Saudi Arabia and the United States. She wanted to do this so me and my siblings can go to nicer schools and have a brighter future. </p> <p>In a developing country, back then, our means of affordable communication were these small recorded cassette tapes. What I would've given to have Skype or Facetime back in the day. I remember we would receive these tapes in the mail, usually about a month after it was recorded. At the time, my dad, my sister, and I would huddle up in our rooms, hit "play" and listen to that radio to hear my mom's voice. We'd flip the cassette tape and listen to her some more. And at the end, we would also reply with our own recording. We'd hit "record," pretend she was in front of us, and talk to the radio. I actually don't know how she would understand those tapes because mostly it was just my sister and I arguing about what to say. [Chuckles] It was hard not to see her for those eight years. However, the plight of many immigrants was that they usually have to leave their families behind in search for a brighter future. </p> <p>In the year 2000, my dad joined my mom and immigrated to the United States to also look for better job opportunities. At that time, my sister and I were entering high school and middle school. They wanted to keep sending us to these nicer schools so they wanted to work abroad so they could afford it. At that time, we were living with my grandparents and my uncles and aunts. Some of them are here today. Thank you for taking very good care of us. [Applause] </p> <p>It wasn't long after that when my family was fortunate to migrate to the United States. We settled in a little town called Lakehurst, New Jersey. Because they prioritized education when I was a child, I was actually fortunate enough to graduate high school at the age of 16. I remember they had to drop me off to college every day because then I only had a learner's permit. [Laughter] </p> <p>At the time, college was tiring. It was very expensive, and I hated being dropped off to school. I mean, we're in America now, I've made it, right? So I quit. I mean I've got mostly jobs that I've applied to, so I just stopped going to school. After a few years, I realized I really didn't make the most of my opportunities here in the land of opportunities. I felt like I've wasted away all my parents' sacrifice. I wanted a second chance at education, my key to unlocking real opportunities. </p> <p>When we moved to Florida in 2007, I wanted to get into the health care field. I applied and got a job as a housekeeper. I've held many positions in health care since, and along the way, I was able to obtain my bachelor's in health service administration. I now currently manage a financial services team at a children's hospital called Nemours here in central Florida. [Applause] </p> <p>I'm sharing my story because I wanted to share why I went back to school. In fact, I went to Google for advice about how best to share it. Google told me to say an inspirational quote, but then I got distracted by inspirational memes. [Laughter] So let me just leave you with this: To my fellow graduates, today, let's remember why we are here. Some of you may have earned your degree for your parents. Some of you may have done it for your spouse. Some of you may have done it for your children. Some of you may be doing it for yourselves. So here's to us, and here's to them, we've made it. Congratulations. [Applause] </p> <p>Scott Pulsipher: Truly inspiring. I want to extend my personal thank you to your parents for the sacrifice they made to make the opportunity available for you. And I'm sure that there would be a great round of applause for all those who have made this possible for all of you. [Applause] </p> <p>There is certainly one thing that I think all of us who may be parents or who are considering being parents have learned that with each individual that you grow to love, you realize that love only expands, that in fact we have greater capacity for love and for care for those around us, and it is truly inspiring to see those who have sacrificed so much to make the opportunities possible for us. </p> <p>We will now recognize each of our master's degree graduates. Would the candidates for master's degrees please rise, including those of you watching by this webcast, wherever you may be? [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 Governor's University, I hereby confer upon you the master's degree you have earned to include the Master of Arts, Master of Arts in Teaching, Master of Business Administration, Master of Education, or Master of Science, with all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. Congratulations and welcome to the community of learned professionals. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Our master's graduates wear a hood bearing the color of their discipline. And the following are the leaders from each of our colleges who will now present the diplomas to our graduates: Bruce Stetar, Academic Programs Director, College of Business; Daren Upham, Academic Operations Vice President, College of Health Professions; Elke Leads, Academic Vice President, College of Information Technology; and Deborah Eldridge, Academic Vice President, Teachers College. Welcome to the lectern, Bruce. </p> <p>[Reading of Graduates]</p> <p>Scott Pulsipher: Everyone, let's recognize our graduates one more time, and extend our congratulations to them. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>All of us at WGU are very proud of you, and we welcome you into our community of alumni now 130,000 strong. For many of you, earning your diploma is the fulfillment of a lifelong goal. 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 a new beginning. I encourage you to explore your dreams, and dare to discover, and follow your passions, whatever they may be. </p> <p>And whatever you choose to do, do it as well as you possibly can, and great things will follow. Learning is a lifelong journey and one that is now a habit of your heart and mind. 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 to your neighborhoods. And help us find our way as a unified and united country to a brighter pathway for our children, and our children's children. </p> <p>Now, as a sign of the times, it is an opportunity for us to take a minute and get out your phone. I have mine in my pocket here. And… take a selfie. [Laughter] So I'm going to invite Simon up here to the stage with us, and we're going to take one with all of you in our background. But please, take out your phone, take your photos, and we're going to have you share this on all of your social platforms and make sure you hashtag it with: WGUGrad. So Simon and I will get ours up here. </p> <p>Awesome! That's what I like to see! Remember, as you celebrate that, use the hashtag: WGUGrad. And just as a matter of logistics, for those of you who parked at Typhoon Lagoon, there will be shuttles right outside of Veracruz Hall here, as well as outside of the Coronado Ballroom to take you back to your cars. This now concludes our commencement ceremony. Please remain seated until our graduates have filed out. Thank you and have a great afternoon. </p> <p>[Cheers and applause]</p>
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