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WGU Master's Ceremony, September 2019
WGU Master's Ceremony, September 2019
Western Governors University
<p>WGU Master's Commencement in Seattle, Washington on September 7, 2019. Order of events: Processional; National Anthem sang by Oksana Rudenko; Welcome and Opening Remarks by WGU Washington Chancellor Dr. Tonya Drake; Commencement Address delivered by Poetic Voice Sekou Andrews; Graduate Speakers are Jayven Tipado and Dawn Helzer; Conferral of Degrees by WGU President Scott Pulsipher; Closing Remarks by WGU President Scott Pulsipher; Recessional.</p> <p>Transcription of video:</p> <p>Wesley Smith: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 74th commencement for Western Governors University. Graduates, families, and friends, thank you for joining us as we celebrate this special occasion. Our ceremony is being recorded and streamed live over the Internet. A special welcome to all of our online participants joining 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>Tonya Drake: Good morning night owls! Who's ready to graduate today? [Cheers and applause] Please have a seat. My name is Tonya Drake, and I am the chancellor for WGU Washington. And it is my honor to welcome you to the 2019 WGU Masters Commencement Ceremony here in Seattle. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Please give it up one more time for Okasan Rudenko from Grant, Washington, for doing our national anthem. [Applause] Oksana is graduating with her Masters of Arts degree in Mathematics Education. I have a feeling I'm going to be competing with these trains all morning. You did a beautiful job, Oksana. </p> <p>Welcome to our honored graduates, congratulations on completing one of life's greatest accomplishments: A higher education degree. Please extend a welcome by waving your hands to the many graduates, friends, and families who are joining us via our live webcast. Give them a wave. We would also like to take just a moment to send your very best thoughts to those affected on the East Coast by Hurricane Dorian. We send our thoughts out for safety for those. </p> <p>I identify as First Nations, and in the States we say Native American. My father is Cowichan from Vancouver Island, and I would like to acknowledge, in honor, the Duwamish people, for whom which whose lands we stand on today. I thank you and honor you. [Applause] </p> <p>It is my pleasure to also welcome our president, Scott Pulsipher, my colleagues representing our amazing university leadership, and our advisory board members who are joining me here on stage. Yes, you should give them a round of applause. [Applause] </p> <p>Graduates, today marks a game changing moment in your life. I ask you to lift your gaze and possibly look behind you, take a look at the family and friends who are here to support of you and honor your accomplishments today. You are a much loved graduating class. Yes, put your hands together one more time. [Applause] </p> <p>At WGU, we often have family members who are graduating together. Let me ask, if you are a family member, who is graduating together, to stand and be recognized. [Cheers and applause] What a special occasion to see these families share this moment together. </p> <p>WGU is honored and recognized, year after year, as a military friendly university. We would like to recognize the military members who are graduating today. If you are a graduate who is in the active duty, reservists, veterans, national guard or a military spouse, we ask you to stand and be recognized. [Cheers and applause] We thank you for your service to our country.</p> <p>If our students and alumni are the lifeblood of this institution, then our staff and faculty are its heart. With you today are many of our university faculty and employees. Let me ask them to stand, and graduates, will you please give them a big round of applause for their support and commitment. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>More than 20 years ago, WGU enrolled our first student. The university now has over 154,000 graduates. 154,000 graduates. [applause] And today, more than 1,450 graduates are joining us at two of our ceremonies here in Seattle. Among you, over 750 will be earning a bachelor's degree, and almost 700 this morning, will be earning your master's degree. [applause] If you've read any of the press around today's ceremonies, you will know that this marks a historic occasion for our university. This is our largest single commencement in our university's history. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Let me share a few facts about our graduating class. You represent 43 states and Canada. More than a thousand of you are from the state of Washington. [Cheers and applause] And we have the right colors, go blue, right? Thirty nine percent of you are like myself, you're the first in your family to receive a college degree. A special congratulations to you. </p> <p>Your average age is 38, and 68 percent of you are women. [Cheers and applause] On average you completed your undergraduate program in one year and seven months. Impressive. You juggle work, life, and whatever life throws at you. But now you're a WGU grad and you can tell life, "What else do you got?" </p> <p>Today's commencement marks a rite of passage to acknowledge your intellectual accomplishments. You join only nine percent of U.S. population that has a Master's degree. This sets the stage for the rest of your life, and much will be expected of you on your life's journey. Embrace those expectations, engage in leadership roles, but most of all, enjoy creating a better world for generations to come with your higher education degree from WGU.</p> <p>On behalf of our entire university, we would like to thank you for letting us be part of your journey. We are proud of you and know that greater things await, a new kind of you. Congratulations to the class of 2019. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>It is my honor to introduce our fantastic keynote speaker. Please help me welcome Sekou Andrews. [applause] A week in the life of Sekou Andrews could find him keynoting at leadership conference, or possibly helping some global branding with his messaging, or performing at former Barack Obama in Oprah Winfrey's backyard. Or say at T Mobile Park doing a keynote for WGU, yes. [Cheers] More importantly, right? </p> <p>This schoolteacher turned national poet slam champion has become the world's leading poetic voice. A new type of speaker and artist who blends inspirational speaking with spoken word poetry to electrify the messages of global organizations including Google, Toyota, Nike, and PayPal. Sekou also trains speakers to unlock their own stage might using rock star performance techniques. He does more than inspire us with his story, he inspires us with our story. Please give it up for Sekou Andrews. [Applause] </p> <p>[Upbeat music]</p> <p>Sekou Andrews: This is how WGU gets down, huh? I like it, I like it. All right. All right. Let's get this party started. I think this is the official traditional place that you're supposed to stand as the commencement speaker, right? The official, traditional place. So let me look. And let me let you know that if you came here looking for a "your whole life is ahead of you," speech; if you were getting ready to hear a "the world is yours for the taking," or a "the world is waiting for you to begin," speech, then you have come to the wrong place. Yeah, you might as well check Facebook or play Fortnite or go to the bathroom or something, because this speech is not for you. </p> <p>No, this is not a "the world is yours for the taking" speech. This is a, "you have not only already taken the world, you purchased the deed on it, put a mortgage on it, raised a couple kids in it, put a ring on it, and paid the taxes on it!" [Cheers] Please! You've already taken the world by storm so this here degree is simply your proof of purchase. Call it your "Masters receipt." [Cheers] This faculty and staff and family and friends and graduates, is not a "you are young, talented and facing your truth" speech. This is a "you are grown, grinded and got stuff to do" type of speech, huh? A, "you are already in hot pursuit" speech. A, "you finally got no excuse," speech.</p> <p>'Cause we are all full of excuses until we find something that works, right? It's true. Like we keep saying, "Oh, I would totally lose 20 pounds if I could just workout from home," until we meet a trainer who says, "Fine, I'll meet you at your place, 6 a.m., be dressed!" "6 a.m., really, 6?" Or we love repeating. "I would totally save more money, you know, if I wasn't so in debt." Until a credit counselor helps us live off less like a game of rock credit card scissors, right? [Laughter] </p> <p>Eventually something comes along that removes all of our excuses like "I would totally get my degree if I could set my own hours." Boom, here's Taskstream, log in, huh? "I would totally finish school if there was a way to do it from home." Boom, here's a project you can do in your pajamas, log in. "And if I could take classes at night." Coffee it up, log in. "And if I could finish in 18 months." Start your clock now, log in. "And if I got competency units from my job." You work it, we count it. Now log in and start the run and do not stop until the goal is won! [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>I'm not here for the tradition, as neither are you. So this is not a, "I'm here thanks to academic advisors, and professors and graders." No, this is, "I'm here thanks to tech support " [laughter] "course instructors, and evaluators. Thanks to my program mentor who was at my side until the end!" [Cheers] And even when she calls and I'm not quite ready, so to voicemail I send, [laughter] she calls again to help me create my version of the word "win." Which is why this speech is not a "you have spent the past four years dutifully striving each semester toward your degree" speech. No, this is a "I don't even know what a semester is?" speech. This is a "I earned this degree in half the time with double the course load, and twice the GPA at half the cost" speech. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>This is a, "the world had the nerve to try to tell you what it knows you cannot do, and you looked back at the world all confused, and all that came out was, psshhh, who?" [Chuckles] You all didn't know I speak a little night owl did ya? See, we all know the sound that most species of owl make, right? "Whoo whoo." Yeah, nah, nah, nay. The sound that WGU night owls make is "psshhh who?" [Laughter] As in, when you stand, face pressed against the dark of night, and looking at the end of that tunnel, and the world says, "You know it's statistically unlikely with your maturity, and your responsibilities that you will ever find your way through this darkness to a degree." The night owl says, "psshhh, who?" [Laughter] I know you're not talking about me, because the fire in me has burned bright enough to light my path through raising four kids, or surviving three hurricanes, or serving two tours, and enjoying one heaven of a life. So as far as I am concerned, I am the light at the end of the tunnel. [Cheers and applause] Psshhh, who? </p> <p>See, you all are not your average students, which is why this is not your average commencement day celebration. These are not even your average commencement day gowns you're wearing, all pristine and unblemished. No, that ain't you, that's not how you get down, nu-uh. Your gown has a little dish soap and sauce stains from all the nights you came home after work to find a raggedy pot of Hamburger Helper on the stove, and a mostly clean kitchen, courtesy of your loving husband and son, who are stepping up their chore game so that you can get right to your coursework and get that business degree, huh? </p> <p>Your gown, your gown has camouflaged fatigues stitched into the lining from the many nights you spent faithfully serving your country that sometimes felt like a cakewalk compared to surviving the battlefield of clinical microbiology while being number 400 in the queue. 400? [Laughter] I won't be alive by then. </p> <p>See, we are each robed in the gowns that tell our story as we congregate today. Even me. See, this is not your average commencement day speech, because in case you haven't noticed, this is not your average commencement day speaker. No, this is poetic voice, right? And most of you, you don't even know what that means. You're like, "I don't know, what is he? It's a performer, right?" Poetic voice is simply the seamless integration of inspirational speaking and spoken word poetry, creating an experience where it's not perform and applaud, and then speak, perform, and applaud, and then speak. It's a seamless integration. So you don't know where the business speaking ends and the trains begin. [Trains in background] You don't know where the trains end, and the storytelling begins, where the theater, the comedy, the poetry ends and begins, right? </p> <p> And that's the beauty of what you all have created, right? You defied the word "or". You're saying, no, "and." I'm all about and, right? Same with me. People ask, "Are you a speaker or an entertainer?" I answer, "Yes, absolutely." "Are you a performer or a presenter?" "Yes." Is it business content or is it artistry?" "Yes." Right? So I know what you're going through, right? Because the world has been asking you the same type of questions. "Wait, are you going to go straight to college out of high school or are you going to get a job?" "Yes." "Are you going to serve your country or are you going to go to college?" "Yes." "Are you going to be a husband for your spouse or be a college graduate in your house?" "Yes." "Make dinner for your kids, or make partner at your firm?" "Yes." "Be a parent to your kids or be an example to your kids?" "Yes." [Applause] </p> <p>Because you can't do both is what they will try to tell you. And when they do, that's when we each respond with what? "Psshhh... who?" See, I must have a little night owl in me too, right? I must, because they say, you know, they used to tell me all the time, "Oh, you know what, you won't make it as a full-time poet. That's just ridiculous." Now I've been a full-time poet for 17 years. I'm like, "Psshhh, who?" Right? They say you won't make it in speaking, in the speaking world with spoken world poetry, you should abandon that and just stick with the conventional, the traditional way of being a speaker." And I've been a communications company, a successful communications company, and built it all on the backs of the words "I thought I hated poetry, but I kind of like that." I'm always pushing myself into new, uncharted terrain, despite what everybody tells me. </p> <p>And to be honest, I'm still pushing my way into new, scary spaces. Can I share, just because it's family and friends here? Can I share my new scary space with ya'll? Okay? There is not a contemporary spoken word poetry that typically wins the Grammy. And I just launched a new album, that is actually going to try to be the first spoken word poet that beats audio books and gets the Grammy, because my purpose is to create an industry for young spoken word poets whereby they can make a purposeful and profitable living. So that when people tell them "You will never make money as a poet," they can turn around to the world and say, "Psshhh, who?" So I want you guys to hold space for my new album, and me continuing to push myself into new spaces like the Grammy's. I'm excited. </p> <p>And if it sounds like I've got a whole lot to prove, oh, yeah, I do. But just like you did. Just like you did, when your boss said, "Oh, you think you're promotional material? Prove it." When your kids said, "Oh, so you think a college degree is achievable for me? Well, you prove it." When the statistics said you think you can be the exception to our rules? Well, I'll tell you what, the proof is in the pudding. Which is why, when you hear your name echo through this stadium today, I want you to step through these aisles, into these aisles, like they are pudding fashion runways. [laughter]</p> <p>You'd better strut through this room looking like homemade, fresh out the pot tapioca, huh? When you walk across this stage, you'd better stride past us looking like grandma's banana pudding, huh? With the good bananas, none of them brown bananas, right? If you are a graduate online at home, I want you to get up and swagger walk around your living room looking like Louisiana bread pudding with Mexican chocolate, topped with caramelized bananas, and vanilla bourbon sauce. </p> <p>And graduates, if you feel like this speech is starting to make you hungry... you're wrong. It's not the speech. No, that hunger has been in you long before I ever showed up. That hunger is what got you through. Constantly hearing the voices of family, and friends, and bosses. "You never come out with us any more." "Daddy, how come you're always so tired?" "You know you can't pass that course, you're not that smart." "You're late to work again." "Let me guess, you have to study." "Dear God, please, please, please let mommy hurry up and get her nursing degree so she can come home and be our mommy again." </p> <p>That hunger is what got you through all of that. But today is no longer about the hunger. No, today is finally about the feast. Feasting on the fruits of your labor today. It's not about the thirst, today is about the toast, raising glasses to you pursuing the best version of yourself. Today is about celebrating the harvest of your work at this college of IT that was built on the hard work for the working. </p> <p>This college of health professions that grows students who are already grown. This teaching college that grinds out degrees for those on the grind. This college of business that lives to help those who have lived. This new kind of you that works to no end to help students reach the end, where graduates don't finish like stop. They finish like win. They don't stop or say "when" they only stop at the end, long enough to toss their cap, have a party, and then begin the next chapter of their journey, this time stronger within with the skills to know how to fall and get back up again to hold your head high because you stay lifting your chin because you've proven that your best version can better itself again. [cheers]</p> <p>This here is not a speech to celebrate the first version of you. No, no, no, this is a speech to celebrate You-point 2, huh? I'm talking update and repeat like You point 3. Upgrade to even more like You point 4, uplevel and multiplying. This is You point 5. Surrounded by faculty and staff, kids, dads, moms who remind you to never stop short, always go long and help you to finish strong like degrees made of Teflon. And night owl, telling the word "never", to bring it on. Because this is the day you show there's no storm you cannot weather. </p> <p>This is the place you prove there's no aspiration on chasing forever. And this is the moment the world learned the futility of telling you "never." Because today is when you put the world on notice that your best... just... got... better. Thank you. [Cheers and applause] Thank you, graduates, congratulations! Thank you. And that's my new music right there, everybody bob your head. Everybody bob your head. Thank you so much. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Tonya Drake: Give it up one more time for Sekou Andrews. [Cheers and applause] My favorite part of being chancellor is the opportunity to meet each of you, and hear your stories and successes. Today, we have the privilege of hearing from two of our students, and it is my honor to introduce both of them. </p> <p>First you'll hear from Jayven Tipado. Jayven is receiving her Masters of Science degree in Nursing, Leadership, and Management. And Jayven came all the way from Augusta, Georgia. We also have Dawn Helzer, who is receiving her Master of Science Degree in Management and Leadership, and she is from our home state, Lacey, Washington. First give it up to the lectern for Jayven. [Applause] </p> <p>Jayven Tipado: Good morning graduates. Welcome to a new chapter of your life. Your hard work has paid off. Give yourself a round of applause for greatness. [Applause] </p> <p>I stand before you grateful for the opportunity to share my testimony and I hope you leave here today inspired. In 2017, I was in the last semester of my LPN to RN bridge program. According to my plans, 2017 was going to be my year. It was going to be the best year of my life. I was focused on completing RN school, and wasn't thinking about continuing my education beyond that. But God had other plans. He chose a different path for me. </p> <p>In the summer of 2017, my five siblings and I lost our mother unexpectedly. These circumstances left us with a 12 year old sister to care for. I already had a son of my own, and now we were responsible for my baby sister as well. Although we were all grown with careers, during this low point in our lives, we were kids again. Without our mother's guidance, my siblings and I had to find ourselves. </p> <p>My mother was our go to person, my baby sitter, our chef, a voice of reasoning, and most of all, our biggest fan. It was now time for us to lean on each other. As the eldest of five, I had to step up, but I must say, I am proud of my siblings as I am of myself. My siblings stepped in with my baby sister and some without hesitation. Three young adults without kids put their lives on hold and became parents. </p> <p>Around fall of 2017, when the dust was settling, I flash back to a conversation I had with my mother before the chaos began. I promised her early that year that I would return to school to complete my BSN before 2020. She promised to buy me one of those fancy stethoscopes. You know, the one that does your job for you. [Chuckles] So now I guess my siblings owe me that $400 gift. </p> <p>So I decided to do it for her, my kids, and myself. I committed to push hard, and fast, until I completed this goal. In December of 2017, I moved from Louisiana to Georgia to start a new career with my awesome son and my intelligent baby sister. The move brought us much closer to my siblings. Now we can be a team just like Mom taught us to be. </p> <p>With my sister and son living with me, Uber became our best friend and teamwork became my favorite word. We were a mini army. We made it look easy. The kids had to Uber themselves to football and cheer practice, and I would pick them up on my way home from work. There were many times I would get out of the shower to realize food had been delivered. It was around this time that I realized the kids knew how to use my credit card a little too well. [Laughter] </p> <p>As spring of 2018 approached, it was time to add another challenge. It was time to go back to school. I realized that my opportunities were limited, and I had the ability to accomplish much more. Even more importantly, I had that promise to keep. So at the start of my RN career, in February of 2018, I began WGU that spring. </p> <p>Turns out, this was a great decision. With the help of my mentor and course instructors, I was able to bridge from RN to MSN in two terms. This was paired with 48 to 60 hour workweeks and many sleepless nights. On my off days I would spend ten hours or more completing modules. My laptop was my constant companion. We went everywhere together, to kids cheerleader practices, football games maybe football practices, but not the games. [Chuckles] But needless to say, I was always working on a WGU task. </p> <p>I will wake up at 5:30 a.m. before work just to check Taskstream for those revisions. And I will complete them before my shift at 5:30 if needed. I made it through my days fueled by caffeine and pep talks from my middle sister, Megan. I can still hear her now. "For as long as I knew you, you wanted to be a nurse. What are you crying for now?" By the way, she's sitting in the audience tooting her own horn. </p> <p>It was support like this from family and friends that fed my fire. Today, less than two years later, I stand here as an MSN graduate, assistant nurse manager, and certified progressive care nurse. For this I have to give a special thanks to my support team, my kids for being troopers, my siblings for pushing me when I thought I couldn't move, my uncle who was more like a brother, my god-sister who is more like a sister, my partner and friend who understood I needed time to heal, but still offered his support. And most of all, my family for cheering me on. </p> <p>Everyone will not walk the same path. We all must choose our own. But as we leave here today, I challenge you to push your limits, apply for that job you think you're not qualified for. Take that new certification, pursue that new degree. Take whatever leap you need to take to get to your next level, because remember, much like those 3 a.m. revisions, there's no such thing as fail. Fail is just a first attempt at learning. Thank you. [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Dawn Helzer: Good morning fellow graduates, family, and friends. As someone who has worked in higher education for the past seven years, I've had the opportunity to participate in more commencement ceremonies than I can count. The student speeches and stories of overcoming obstacles are always remarkable and inspiring, and it is simply the best part of working in education. </p> <p>As I've listened to all these wonderful stories of triumph throughout my career, I promised myself, if ever given the opportunity to tell someone my story, I would jump at the chance in hopes of inspiring the audience just as many have inspired me. All of us graduates have a story, and my obstacles are no greater than those of others. </p> <p>Those who are close to me will certainly tell you that I am a planner. Whether it be outfits, events, or planning my entire grown up life. This is certainly a trait that has its pros and cons. At 27 years old, considered myself to be on the right path. I finished my undergraduate degree, I had just been promoted and relocated to a new city and was doing all the things that a normal 27 year old should be doing. But as all of us know here today, just when we think we have it all figured out, life certainly will throw us a curve ball. </p> <p>One evening while visiting with a friend, I suddenly lost all feeling in the upper half of my body. I could hardly speak, I could not feel or move my arms, and I have never been so scared. The ER did not have immediate answers for me, and once I regained feeling a few hours later, I was instructed just to "follow up with my physician." Many doctors' visits, tests, and ER stays followed over the next year. I lost feeling a couple more times in my hands and torso, I had a constant tingling, painful sensation. </p> <p>I struggled with common daily activities like tearing a check from a checkbook, clasping a necklace, or even just opening a creamer bottle. My sense of touch had changed, and even my hair did not feel the same. Diagnoses were ruled out, and others were suspected, but it wasn't until I started having the same pain in my leg that they gave me my official diagnosis. I will be honest, hearing that you have multiple sclerosis at 27 years old was nothing that I had planned for. </p> <p>I knew enough about the disease to instantly begin thinking the worst. I'm not going to be able to walk, I will lose my eyesight. My mind wandered to all the darkest places, and I struggled coming to terms with the diagnosis for years. And in my mind, I was terrified that I might lose myself to this disease. But in addition to being a planner, I am also a bit stubborn [chuckles]. So I don't know about you guys, but has anybody told you you can't do something. I don't know about you, but when that is said to me, there is no easier way to get me to do that than tell me I'm incapable. [Chuckles] That's a fact. </p> <p>So when my physician told me that I would not be able to handle my high stress job managing a small college campus much longer, I did it so well I ended up getting a new position managing an entire program. And when she told me I couldn't handle my new higher stress job plus enrollment in a Master's program, well, here I am proving her wrong today. [Applause] </p> <p>Thank you. I am grateful for her telling me that MS would limit my abilities as it has made me more determined to overcome this disease. Sure, there are days when I'm in pain, and I struggle just to get out of bed, but I refuse to become a statistic. According to the National MS Society, only a third of patients diagnosed with MS are able to work, as it is the most debilitating disease in young adults. Statistics like these make me feel incredibly lucky that my disease has not worsened at this point, and I would like to think that if it does, I will still be determined enough to pursue my next goal: A doctrine degree. [Applause] Thank you. </p> <p>So as you get ready to walk across this stage, I encourage all of you to reflect on how much you have overcome to be here. Think about the obstacles, the setbacks, but also consider the inspirations and support along the way. Also think about the people that told you you couldn't do it, and perhaps send them a thank you card. [Chuckles] You did it, and you are greater than everything that stood in your way. </p> <p>Of course we all have to give credit where credit is due to those that have supported us through this journey. I'd like to thank my mom and step dad who sat through countless appointments and always gave me advice, whether I wanted it or not. [Chuckles] We all know how that goes. All three of my sisters, Jen, Lindsey, and Natalie, who are incredible, smart women that inspire me every day. And then to my many dear friends, Katie, Brandy, Tracy, Christy, Amy, and so many more, thank you for listening and believing I didn't feel well when so many others questioned me. You never know how much that means to someone with a chronic, invisible illness. </p> <p>To my dear friend and colleague, Mr. Josh V, who is actually walking here today, thank you for calling up and essentially telling me to enroll in WGU and pushing me along the way when I didn't think I could finish. And lastly, to my dad who passed away unexpectedly just over a year ago, actually about a month after I started this program. I have to thank him for always believing in me no matter what I wanted to do in my life. You should be here, and this one is for you. So thank you. [Applause] </p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: I think it's fair to say that both Jayven and Dawn took Sekou's advice before they had Sekou's advice, and "psshhh... who?" [Laughter] Thank you, Jayven and Dawn, let's give them one more round of applause. [Applause] </p> <p>I'm just so impressed by the stories that each of our students have to share, and the many obstacles that each of you face in the pursuit of your dreams and the aspirations that are placed before you. I'm grateful for your examples of resilience, and the very clear perseverance that you have with your face and your gaze forward. And that despite all those setbacks and those telling you that you're limited in any pursuit that you may have, then said you look forward, and you persevere. </p> <p>I'm grateful to that example that Jayven gave to that younger sister of hers. I'm grateful to the example that Dawn gives to each and every one of us, that even in spite of obstacles and challenges and everything else, that you continue, that you persevere. It is truly a remarkable thing. And I loved the advice that also Dawn gives us in simply saying, "Thank you to each of those who doubted." Thank you. Because it allows us to lift our gaze a little bit higher, to ask ourselves "Why not? Why can't I do what I want to do?"</p> <p>And each of you are an example to all of us who associate with WGU, that you have asked that question of yourself, "Why not?" Thank you again, and give yourselves one more round of applause. [Applause] </p> <p>We will now like to recognize each of our Master's degree graduates. So would the candidates for Master's degrees, and educator endorsements please rise, including those of you who are watching this via our live webcast. Please stand up. [cheers and applause] All of you, stand up there.</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 Master's degree or endorsements you have earned to include the Master of Arts, 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. Congratulations [Cheers and applause] </p> <p>Please be seated for the moment. All those we'll recognize that are 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. Rashmi Prasad, Academic Vice President, College of Business; Anmy Mayfield, Academic Programs Director, College of Health Professions; Elke Leeds, Academic Vice President, College of Information Technology; and Stacey Ludwig Johnson, Academic Operations, Vice President, Teachers College. </p> <p>[Reading of Graduates] </p> <p>Scott D. Pulsipher: Graduates, please accept our sincere congratulations and you now join the ranks of more than 154,000 WGU alumni, congratulations again. [Cheers and applause] You'll be happy to learn that we have a very active alumni community, and we invite you to stay involved. You can visit Alumni.WGU.edu to connect with fellow night owls, and take advantage of the many benefits and resources that are made just for you.</p> <p>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, it is not the end, it represents a new beginning. I encourage you to explore your dreams, dare to discover, and follow your passions, whatever they may be. </p> <p>And whatever you choose to do, do it well, and great things will follow. Learning, it's a lifelong journey. I suppose that it is now the one that has become a habit of both your heart and your 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 your neighborhoods, and help us to find our way as a united country, to a brighter pathway for our children, and our children's children.</p> <p>Now, as is the sign of the times, we'd like to take a moment and celebrate this amazing event with a selfie. So I'm going to invite Chancellor up here, Chancellor Drake, come up here. Sekou, we want you to also come up here, and we're going to take a selfie with all of you as our background. This is now an opportunity for you to get your phones out and take your selfies as well. So Tonya, Sekou, let's get in here. Awesome. We got them. There we go, get them out there. See if you can find your family in the stands. </p> <p>As you celebrate this day on social media, please remember to use the hashtag "WGUGrad." This now concludes our commencement ceremony. And please remain seated until our graduates have filed out. Thank you and congratulations once again. [Cheers and applause]</p>
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