Order of Events: Processional; National Anthem sang by TaVonna Dorsey; Welcome and Opening Remarks from WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Commencement Address delivered by the President of the American Council on Education and former Under Secretary of the United States Department of Education, Dr. Ted Mitchell; Graduate Speakers are Danielle Smith and Nicole Ibarra-Vogel; Conferral of Degrees and Closing by President Pulsipher; Recessional.
September 15, 2018 WGU Regional Commencement at the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Constitutional Hall in Washington, D.C. This is a recording of the Bachelor's Ceremony.
Transcript of video (note transcription begins around the 1:10:00 mark):
Dr. Kimberly K. Estep: Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 68th commencement ceremony for Western Governors University. Graduates, families and friends, thank you for joining us as we celebrate this special occasion. Our bachelor's ceremony is being recorded and streamed live over the Internet.
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. Now please stand for the processional, and remain standing for the national anthem.
[Processional and anthem]
Scott D. Pulsipher: Thank you. Please take your seats. We'd like to thank TaVonna Dorsey from La Plata, Maryland who is graduating with her bachelor's of science degree and information technology management for performing our national anthem. We are always blessed by the talent of our graduates. [Applause]
Good afternoon, everyone. It is my honor to convene the 2018 WGU Commencement in Washington, D.C. On behalf of the entire university, we welcome our honored graduates, and congratulate you on completing one of life's great achievements. And we also congratulate you on braving the storm to celebrate with us. Our thoughts and prayers are definitely with those who have been impacted by Hurricane Florence. Please stay safe.
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, together with their family and friends, are watching this commencement via our live webcast.
Standing here, I see the many family and friends. It is likely that today would not have been possible without them at your side. In fact, there are more than 4,000 guests attending today's ceremonies and many more watching online. They are here to support and celebrate you. You are a much loved crowd. Would all of you, the friends and family of our graduates please stand up. [Applause] Graduates, let's put our hands together and show them how much we love them. [Applause] Thank you for all that you have done for your family members and our graduates.
At WGU, we often have family members graduating together. Could we please have these family members stand and be recognized? And what a special occasion it is to see families share this moment together. So all those of you who may be graduating with family, please stand and be recognized. [Applause]
WGU is also honored to be recognized year after year as a military friendly university. We would like to recognize the military members who are graduating. Would the graduates who are active duty, reservists and veterans please stand and be recognized? [Applause] From the depth of our hearts, thank you to each of you for your service to us and to our country.
And last, but not least, if you, our students and alumni, are the lifeblood of this institution then our faculty and staff are its heart. With you today are many of WGU's faculty mentors and employees. If you have been a beneficiary of the time and dedication that they've put into their work, please put your hands together and recognize one last time, your gratitude for them and the work they did to support you. [Applause]
Twenty one years ago, WGU was officially founded. Nineteen years ago, WGU enrolled its first student. The university now has more than 119,000 graduates. Since the beginning of this year, WGU has awarded more than 20,000 degrees. Today we recognize the achievements of nearly 750 graduates who are attending the ceremonies here in Washington, D.C. Among these there are 311 individuals receiving their bachelor's degrees, and 432 receiving their master's degrees. You represent 45 states, the District of Colombia, Canada, and military installations overseas.
Specific to the DMV, nine graduates are from Washington, D.C., 99 are from Maryland, and 142 are from Virginia. Neighboring West Virginia is also represented today are eight graduates. Thank you for being here. It is truly a privilege to be among all of you, and among those who are here in support of you.
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. What a true accomplishment for you and for your families. [Applause]
Your average age is 39. The youngest is 19, and the oldest is 86. [Cheers and applause] Ninety two percent of you are over the age of 27, and among you receiving your bachelor's degree, on average, you completed your degree in two years and four months. Congratulations. [Applause] What took you so long? [Laughter] It's just wonderful to see that.
Rituals and ceremonies play an important role in our lives. They separate extraordinary moments from our daily flow, moments that have special meaning and should always be remembered. It is an inspiring and uplifting moment to look upon you and consider your achievement despite your many priorities and challenges that you faced in getting here. You are the reason that we have gathered here. Today's commencement ritual is an emphatic punctuation that you, our graduates, have set and accomplished a significant goal and are moving to a new stage in your life.
Since you join only about 33 percent of adults in the U.S. who hold a bachelor's degree, much will be expected of you as you continue on your life's journey; taking leadership roles in your businesses and your communities. It has been said that the door of history swings on small hinges. You have made the choice and put forth the effort to obtain a milestone that will change the course of your own personal history. You have set an expectation for yourself, your families, and your loved ones. You have lifted your gaze and aspired to greater things. Never forget the privileges or responsibilities of your education.
And finally, a sincere thank you for letting all of us at WGU be a part of your journey. We are proud of you, and know that greater things now await you. Congratulations. [Applause]
I'm pleased to introduce Dr. Ted Mitchell, our commencement speaker today. Ted Mitchell is the president of the American Council on Education, the major coordinating body for America's colleges and universities. Prior to coming to ACE, Ted was the Undersecretary of the United States Department of Education, responsible for all post secondary, and adult education policy and programs as well as the $1.3 trillion federal student aid portfolio.
Prior to his federal service, Mitchell was the CEO of the New Schools Venture Fund, a national investor in education innovation. He has served as well as president of the California State Board of Education, president of Occidental College, and in a variety of leadership roles at UCLA, including Vice Chancellor.
Ted was deputy to the president and to the provost at Stanford University, and began his career as a professor at Dartmouth College, where he also served as chair of the Department of Education. Please welcome Dr. Ted Mitchell. [Applause]
Dr. Ted Mitchell: Thank you, President Pulsipher. Great to see you all. I'm thinking about enrolling but I'm going to wait a few years. [Laughter] Members of the board of trustees, distinguished guests, graduates, family, friends, it's terrific to share this moment with you. I'm very grateful to be here, and Scott, particularly grateful to share the stage with you this afternoon.
Before I address the graduates I'd like to say a couple of words to you, President Pulsipher. I want to thank you for the leadership that you've provided to WGU. It has been truly, truly outstanding. You've led WGU to become a real force not only in the lives of the 100,000 plus graduates of the institution, but in the field of higher education. You took the helm of an institution that was already thriving, built upon its many strengths to make it a beacon for American higher education.
Unlike most of the presidents I spend my days with, you're not a "tweedy academic." I think some would say that you're a "non traditional" choice to run a major university. But that's the point. Like WGU itself, and like today's graduates, you're breaking the mold, and setting a course that meets today's learners and tomorrow's economy through technology-powered and people-inspired innovation that's laser focused on you, on students' success. And that's exactly what American higher education needs today.
As we start, could I ask the graduates to one more time thank the friends and family who are here, and who have been a part of your journey? [Applause] Who provided that support and occasionally that kick in the pants that we all need to be able to get to the finish line.
And now, to the guests of honor. If I have my math right, in my over 40 years in higher education, I've listened to about 100 graduation speeches. So I really feel your pain right now. [Laughter] I promise to follow Franklin Roosevelt's wise advice to "be sincere, be brief, and be seated."
So I have three things that I want to say to you today. First, congratulations. Your achievements are impressive, individually and collectively. The size of this graduating class alone is an indication that there's something very special and very important going on at WGU. It's not every institution that needs to divide its ceremony to be able to celebrate all of its graduates.
Individually, you have made sacrifices to be here today. Whether it's staying up late after putting the kids to bed, whether it's finding time after a long day at work to put in just a few more hours at your computer. Yup, you've made sacrifices to be here today. And guess what, you made it. Give yourselves a hand. [Applause]
Scott talked a little bit about some of the demographic features of this class. In addition to the things that he mentioned, I'm sure you know 90 percent of you work full or part time. A fair number of you are parents yourselves. How many parents in the class? Yeah, that's a fair number. Goodness, gracious, congratulations. So you know what it takes to be able to balance your work, your parenting responsibilities, your other family responsibilities, that thing called real life. And you've done it. And you've done it marvelously. And you're to be celebrated today.
All of the research suggests that I'll be done, really. [Laughter] You'll note that my kids aren't here today because they would've started heckling about four minutes ago. All of these things, being a parent, working full or part time, being a veteran, being a first generation college student, coming from a low income background, being a racial minority all of these are considered risk factors by researchers. Risk factors that often prevent people from getting to the finish line that you are at today.
Yet, as President Pulsipher mentioned, not only have you gotten to the finished line, but you've gotten to the finished line faster than traditional students in traditional institutions could ever dream of. And I think that that is an important fact not only about this class as a whole, but about each and every one of you. And in fact, it's easy to talk about numbers. But it's also important to realize that behind those numbers are your stories, your individual journeys to this point.
Students like Erika Smith. Erika, stand up and wave. There you are. [Applause] Erika, like a lot of us, struggled in high school. She was stymied by family obligations and dropped out of community college not once, but twice before deciding to give it one more go. She found that WGU's structure, its foundation and support shaped her into the type of student she never thought she could be. She says she has not only gained a degree from WGU, but a new perspective, new outlook, and new confidence and she plans to take all of that back to her job as a curriculum designer at Signa. Erika, congratulations. [Applause]
Also here today is Scott Bach Hansen. Scott, in the house? There you go. [Applause] Scott's a first generation college graduate, a minister, a father of three, and a husband. Those are just a few of the things that define aspects of who Scott is. After Scott's father lost his battle with cancer, he dropped out of college and made work his primary focus. Three promotions later, he found himself in charge of hiring employees required to have a college degree; a degree he didn't have himself.
Following a shake up at his company during the recession, he was left without a job. He found it difficult to even get an interview, and he knew that he needed to earn his post secondary degree. Scott enrolled at WGU, and today serves as Director of Business Development for an international engineering firm. Scott says he is proud to finally add "college graduate" to those other descriptors. Scott, congrats. [Applause]
So these are two stories. There's a story behind each and every one of you, and we are here today to celebrate those stories, to celebrate the journey that you've been on. So congratulations. [Applause]
Number two, I want to thank you. By taking the challenge you have, and by surmounting them, you are already making an impact. Your degree will have an impact on your lives to be sure, the data are very clear. You will earn more, have more and better career opportunities. You will statistically improve your health and sense of wellbeing. But you will have an impact in other ways as well. Be proud of the example that you're setting for others.
I remember well, watching as my father balanced work and family to gain his degree. Those were the days mind you, when distance education meant long trips in the family station wagon and assignments mailed to and from a distant campus. But even today, I know how important watching him was, for me, in shaping the way that I thought about my own education, and later, about education policy, but that's another story.
So, for your sons, daughters, spouses, cousins, nephews, neighbors your journey will be a part of your family's trajectory, and your community's trajectory, and will impact their ideas of what is attainable. You will truly lift as you rise.
You will also expand the impact that you have on your workplace, whether that's a hospital, a school, a business, a non profit, or heaven forbid, government. [Laughter] The knowledge you've acquired will make those better organizations not just because of what they do and what you do there, but how they do it and how you help those organizations be better as well as do better. You will inspire those who work with you, and those who work for you, to continue their own educational journeys. Perhaps right here at WGU.
And you will have an impact on your communities. Not only are you called on, but you take on additional responsibilities in the communities in which you live. We know from research that individuals with associate's and bachelor's degrees take leadership roles in their local towns and cities, and volunteer in non profit organizations, and importantly, in the day to day interactions that define who we are as an inclusive and generous democracy.
So, for all of these things, I thank you. But I want to thank you and WGU for one more thing: Thank you for showing us the future. Scott talked about the demographics of this class. Let me put that in the context of the rest of the nation. A moment ago I compared you with so called traditional students. Well, guess what, that formulation is outdated and outmoded. Most college students in America today are like you.
The average college student is between 25 and 28. 1 and 5 is over 30. Don't know how many are over 80, but we'll figure that out. More than half are financially independent of their parents, 1 is 4 is caring for a child or a parent. The majority work full or part time, and many stop out for periods of time while finishing their degree. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, in aggregate, 73 percent of students enrolled in college today fall into one or more of those categories.
So we're not talking about traditional and non traditional students anymore, we're talking about the new normal student. That is the future of higher education. You are the future of higher education in this country.
Yet too much of our higher educational system is organized around the notion that a college student is an 18 year old who gets dropped off in the family minivan at Leafy State University. He or she moves into the dorm, and four blissful years later, they march across the stage for a diploma in an education that somehow will last them for their lifetimes. It's fantasy. [Laughter] Well, okay, it's not fantasy, but it is a narrow slice of what higher education is today.
One of the things that makes your journey so important is that you have challenged this system. You have prevailed against its imperfections, and you have partnered with an institution that just sees the world differently, sees the world through the lens of the new normal student and has built programs and systems that reach students where you are, on your own terms, at your own pace, with rigor, support, and flexibility.
Western Governors is unique because it's designed to remove so many of the barriers students at other more "traditional" institutions face. WGU offers students flexibility to learn at your own pace. WGU has pioneered a unique and powerful faculty model that gives you access to the right support from the right person, at the right time. WGU has created a pricing model that enables you to complete your coursework in a way that doesn't break the bank. WGU has built a competency focused curriculum that focuses on learning outcomes rather than class time.
And WGU students are given invaluable resources to put to work on behalf of their success. Whether those are state of the art distance learning technology, advanced curriculum models or that truly dedicated faculty I mentioned a moment ago.
And this model is working. WGU boasts a graduation rate 11 percent higher than other institutions serving adult learners. The levels of student graduate and employer satisfaction regularly outpaced the national average. Student debt levels of graduates have been steadily decreasing. Let me say it again, they're decreasing. [Applause] Yeah, that's right. And employment outcomes for graduates are at 96 percent.
So the education that you have worked to achieve here at WGU has not only been flexible, it's not only been done in a way that is student focused, but it is excellent. This is a high quality degree of which you, I hope, are very proud.
At ACE, we're trying to do our part to encourage a climate where transformative models like WGU can thrive and where every student in this student has access not just to any old higher education, but to quality higher education.
As a country, we can do more to support innovative practices and innovative institutions. Institutions that increase access, affordability, and completion across the nation, particularly for students who have not been served well by the old system.
New normal students, from whatever background, low income students, students of color, first generation students, and Americans from rural communities where education resources are sparse they all need a high quality higher education and it's high time that this country provided it.
That's the WGU story. And that's your story. Our friends here in Washington should take note. [Applause]
Third, and finally, I want to give you a last homework assignment. Take the square root of 73, divide it by 12. Now, is your time to take what you've learned and make us all better.
Remember the obstacles you've overcome to get here, and help others overcome theirs. Mentor others. Speak out for causes you believe in. Your success and the knowledge that you've gained here are powerful examples of what's possible, and powerful tools for change. You're transforming yourselves, your families, and your communities. And yes, you are the one whose are setting the example. You are the ones who will go back to your loved ones, your jobs, and be the face of success in this country.
You are what America was designed to produce and to celebrate. And I am hopeful for our future, and our nation's future because of you, because of what you have done, and what you will do. The truth is, everything you've done to get here today is noteworthy. But what you will continue to do from this day forward is going to change this nation for the better. Your stories, your journeys are not done yet. Thank you for letting me be here today. Good luck, and congratulations. [Applause]
Scott D. Pulsipher: Thank you, Ted. And now we have the privilege of hearing from two graduates. They are Danielle Smith from Yonkers, New York, who is receiving her Bachelor of Science and Information Technology Management, as well as Nicole Ibarra Vogel from Ashburn, Virginia, who is receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Special Education. Please join me in welcoming first to the lectern, Danielle. [Applause]
Danielle Smith: Prior to enrolling at WGU, I was on a quest to become a business analyst. I wanted a shiny title to go along with the work I was already performing at my current position. Far too long I pursued the position, submitting multiple applications, sitting through four interviews and sadly, I never received the promotion. I have to admit, I felt defeated.
It was clear that despite having the work experience, lacking a bachelor's degree kept me from attaining this new position. How was I ever going to get there? I honestly felt like going back to school was nearly impossible. At this stage in my life, I was juggling so much from work, to managing the affairs of a disabled parent, to being a significant other, and most importantly, a mother to three children.
The average age of WGU students is 37, many of which have families who require much of their time. I know I stand with many of you when I say the thought of going back to college brought about uncertainty, and uneasiness. But I am so fortunate to have a good friend, and work colleague, Marty Henderson, who calmed those fears.
Marty is the reason I am here today. He referred me to WGU. I'm proud to say that Marty earned his second degree from WGU, a master's degree. And if it weren't for this hurricane, he would've walked earlier this morning. Other than being one of the best business consultants I know, he is one of my biggest supporters.
In addition, my company, Anthem Blue Cross, places true value on a college education, provided me with tuition assistance. I have been at this company for over 11 years and I'm truly thankful to be part of a company that promotes a "one company, one team" mentality while making all efforts to help their employees reach their true potential.
In life, we are aided in many different ways and mine is no better or worse than the next. It is what we do with those aids that is truly important. They must never be taken advantage of.
As many of you know, WGU provides program mentors that are pivotal to our success. Cathy [Garington?]was my mentor and was wonderful, constantly reminding me to take a breath whenever I felt overwhelmed. I joked with Cathy, I promise to rest when I'm done.
That has always been an attribute of mine that I'm proud of. I work hard to successfully accomplish my goals. Though I cannot take credit for all that I am I came from two hardworking parents, one of which who grew up in segregation in the mid 40s and early '50s in Warrington, North Carolina. A parent who spoke about having to sit on the back of the bus, going to a segregated elementary school, and had a separate entrance at the movie theater.
I am grateful for my parents who instilled this hard work ethic. I cannot recall a day when my parents missed a day of work no matter how tired they were. I loved getting up with my father, watching him get ready. Every morning 5 a.m., he would trim his beard, put on his suit, carry his suitcase out the door by 6 a.m. He never missed a beat. And he never complained.
Or my mother, every night, tired as she would be, leaving the house at 11:30 p.m. just to make it to her nightshift at midnight. I was always told I had to work twice as hard to get half as far.
WGU allowed me the opportunity to put this work ethic to use. As an adult student I loved WGU's model which allowed me to advance at an accelerated pace. Ten months and four days. This is how long it took me to complete [applause]
Ten months and four days. This is how long it took me to complete my degree at WGU. Some may be dismissive at how quickly I finished my degree thinking it came easy. But I smile and say, "10 4 4 5." Ten holidays passed while I was in college which is always a time for family to celebrate. I missed them all. Four hours I promised to my family each day. Four hours I'd dedicate to studying, and five hours' worth of sleep. All of this on top of working a demanding job. I know many of you can relate. I was on a mission to complete school and get my family back to equilibrium state.
The path I took was riddled with exhaustion, tears, and self doubt. But it was necessary. I had to carve my own path just as all of you. I believe the sacrifices that we made, and the struggles we endured is what college is all about. Being a student at WGU I had to learn how to learn, how to be self sufficient, and how to produce only quality work.
WGU taught me to understand my limits and to know how to know that to be successful, you must be prepared to fight through those challenges. I'll forever be determined to better educate, train, and develop myself for the future. We all come from different backgrounds, yet we're here as one.
In life, happiness is not always guaranteed. There will be ups and far too many downs. But today, we stand proud with the understanding that one thing this life cannot take away from us is our knowledge.
Throughout this experience I have come to learn success comes when opportunity meets preparation. I started at WGU September 2017 and earned my degree July 5th, 2018. Tomorrow morning, bright and early, 7:30 a.m., my family and I will embark on a new adventure as we relocate down to Georgia in pursuit of the shiny job title as a business analyst. [Applause]
So if you ask me, "Will my degree at WGU help me attain the position I am looking for?" My response is simple, "Without a shadow of a doubt." [Applause]
Nicole Ibarra Vogel: Good afternoon, graduates and guests. We've all had the debate with ourselves at one point or another throughout our lives. Some of us have struggled trying to answer it, others are still trying to figure it out, while some have never had a doubt about it. The questions are simple, easy to understand, yet can take a lifetime to answer. What's my dream job? What do I want to do with my life? How do I want to leave my imprint on this world?
I struggled with these questions as I grew up, as many of you probably did too. A lawyer, a veterinarian, and a baker were only a few of the career choices I fiddled with as I went through grade school. But the one that just wouldn't go away was that I wanted to be a teacher.
Many people have had similar responses to this realization. "Why would you want to be a teacher? They don't get paid very well. Those kids are bigger than you." [Chuckles] These, along with a variety of other questions and comments are things a lot of educators have heard before. But this career isn't about the money, it isn't about knowing we have a solid 9 to 5 job. It's not even that we get a "whole summer off" which we all know isn't true.
I work in special education because I know I'm making a difference in a child's life. This career path is about knowing that the work I'm doing be it difficult or easy, is going to make a child's tomorrow better for them.
When I relocated to Virginia from Florida over six years ago, I applied for my first employee position in a school system. I was a paraprofessional that worked with students to develop important life skills. Skills such as paper shredding, book sorting, dishwashing and mail sorting; everyday skills that would help my students live a life of their own.
When I began the job, I knew I would never leave the field. I remember thinking to myself, "Yup, this is my passion, this is where I need to be." I'd been working in a variety of special education positions for over four years when I realized I wanted to do more for these students. I wanted to teach them. I wanted to help figure out which learning styles worked best for each specific student. Students who were my very own. But I couldn't do that with just an associate's degree. I needed to get a bachelor's degree.
This is when I found out about WGU from a very good friend of mine. I knew it wasn't going to be easy, not by any definition of that word. After being out of school for several years, I struggled to get back into that mentality. But once I got the hang of it, I was gone. Hit the ground running became my mantra for the next two and a half years. With a full time job, a part time job, a two hour minimum daily commute, seven to eight courses per term for a year and a half, and up to seven practices and state tests in the span of two months, it was definitely a lot of work.
I was tired. There were days I wanted to cry, or I just wanted to stop. Days when my anxiety had won. But I'm standing here in front of you with my fellow graduates to show you that hard work does pay off. [Applause]
Sometimes you see the results of hard work immediately, like the immediate gratification you experience when you see the result of an assessment. Other times, you're surprised by those results because you forgotten you ever put work into it.
As educators often do, I think about my former students. One student in particular sticks in my mind. When I think of her, I remember working tirelessly to help her study for an important social studies test. We worked together on this for several weeks. When her teacher returned the graded exam, she was ecstatic that she had passed with flying colors. She eventually graduated, left the school, and my life, but not my thoughts.
Since then, I have often wondered how she was doing. I am happy to announce that she is thriving in the real world. She is working and enjoying her job, attending classes at a local college, and is an independent and thriving member of society. It warms my heart to know that years later, she remembers all the hard work and effort we put into her grades to ensure she was keeping up with the rest of her classmates.
Because of the hard work that I put into my degree at WGU, I now have my own classroom where I know that I can help so many more students like her. I can be there to support them, help them learn, and allow them to thrive in ways I could never have imagined. I'm able to help my kindergarten class transition from being with their parents full time, to starting their educational journeys in school.
As a teacher, we have long hours, take our work home early, and stay late. We often find ourselves asking: Is it worth it? The answer is absolutely. [Applause]
Scott D. Pulsipher: Thank you to Danielle and Nicole. It is wonderful to know that Danielle ten months and four days, apparently you were the pacesetter for this graduating class. That is incredible. And it's just interesting and valuable to note, just the benefit or the power of habit that she saw her parents establish for her, and that truly translated in her ability to put in the work to achieve the success that she has now achieved. Nicole, thank you also for being such a great representation. That love of another helps us overcome all, and I have a special place in my own heart for those who are entering into special education and others as I have my own brother who has down syndrome. But those that have recognized the worth of every individual is truly a wonderful calling in this life. So thank you to both of you, and to all of you. [Applause]
And those at WGU who know this of me, that I will tell all of you that it is okay to cry sometimes. So when you are feeling struggling, or feeling that struggle and you're down and you're having to do all that work, and you don't feel like it's enough, it's okay to cry. And then we pick ourselves up again and we keep going. So thank you again.
We will now have the opportunity to recognize each of our bachelor's degree candidates, or graduates. Would the candidates for bachelor's degrees, post baccalaureate degrees and teacher preparation endorsements please rise, including those of you, by the way, who are watching this via our webcast wherever you may be. Please stand up. [Applause]
All of you stand up there. All of you candidates for bachelor's, you can all stand up at the same time. There you go. Thank you. Okay.
Upon the favorable recommendation of our faculty, and the authority vested in me, by the board of trustees, and the member governors of Western Governors University, I hereby confirm upon you the bachelor's degree or endorsement you have earned to include the Bachelor of Arts, the Bachelor of Science, or the Post Baccalaureate Teacher Preparation endorsement, with all the rights and privileges thereto appertaining. Congratulations. [Applause] [cheers]
You may now move the tassel from the right to the left side of your mortarboard. Congratulations on this important achievement. [Applause] [cheers]
Please be seated for the moment. And I'll introduce the following leaders from each of our colleges who will now present the diplomas to our graduates. Dr. Rashmi Prasad, Academic Vice President, College of Business; Dr. Molly Nordgren, Academic Program Director, College of Health Professions; John Balderree, Vice President Academic Operations, College of Information Technology; and Dr. Deb Eldredge, Academic Vice President, Teacher's College.
Dr. Rashmi Prasad: Will the graduates from the College of Business, starting with the first row, please come forward at the direction of the marshals to be recognized individually.
[Reading of names]
Scott D. Pulsipher: Let's hear it one more time for our graduates everyone. [Applause] [cheers] All of us here at WGU are so very proud of you. And we welcome you into our community now of alumni, who are 119,000 strong.
I want to share with you just a couple of closing thoughts if I may, and I imagine that many of you that might know this person, Mr. Rogers.
There's a wonderful documentary out about this man's life, and the incredible inspiration he was for so many. And he says, "From the time you are very little, you've had people who have smiled you into smiling, people who have talked to you into talking, sung you into singing, loved you into loving. Let's just take some time to think of those extra special people. Some of them may be right here. Some may be far away. Some may even be in heaven. No matter where they are, deep down you know they have always wanted what is best for you. They have always cared for you beyond measure, and encouraged you to be true to the best within you."
While each of us at times may experience uncertainty, trial, disruption, and the resulting stress. Even now sometimes the whole world may seem like it's in commotion, and I offer you the inspiration of Mr. Rogers' mother. She says, "When you encounter something scary, always look for the people who are helping. You will always find someone who is trying to help."
May we follow their example and always find the positive. Seek to understand before being understood. Work to mend rather than tear down. Help others to feel and realize their inherent worth. Uplift and inspire them. Invite and encourage them to be a better version of themselves. Love them and love will be returned.
The documentary concludes with the following: "It is not hard to answer the question what would Mr. Rogers do? The most important question is: What will you do?" For many of you, earning your diploma is the fulfillment of a life long 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, dare to discover, and follow your passions and whatever you choose to do, do it as well as you possibly can, and great things will follow.
Learning is a life long journey and one that is now a habit of both your mind and your heart. I urge you, as you continue on your journey, to reach out to others in the pursuit of their dreams, identify meaningful ways to contribute to your communities and your neighbors, and help us find our way as a united country, to a brighter pathway for our children, and our children's children.
Now let's take one last moment and as consistent with the time, let's celebrate this with a selfie. [Chuckles] So if you have your phone on you, and I've seen them out there. So, pull out your phone. I'm going to invite Ted up here with me, and we're going to take a selfie as you take a selfie. [Applause] [cheers]
Now, as you share that with friends through social media and with family, loved ones who weren't able to be here with you, make sure you use the hashtag WGUGrad. This now concludes our commencement ceremony. Let's hear it one more time for our graduates. [Applause] [cheers]
We ask that you please remain seated. Please remain seated until our graduates have filed out. Thank you, and have a great day.