As a child, Laura Barber was convinced she was going to be an astronaut. She studied the stars, planets, moons and rockets. She slept with pictures of the Challenger crew around her bed. Even when she watched the shuttle explode in her grade school class, she wasn't swayed.
Laura took every class that her tiny rural school could provide and even took 6 am satellite-based math classes, knowing she was advancing her chances for success in college. In her sophomore or junior year, she got hold of an astronaut candidate application. It was the first real sorrow that dashed her dream. It stated that people applying to the program must be at least five feet, five inches tall and have nearly perfect eye sight. Laura was prescribed her first pair of glasses when she was five and at five feet, three inches tall, all the genetics for height went to her sisters.
"In true teenage girl fashion, I was crushed. Everything I worked for was taken away," said Laura. "But with a few reminders from teachers and my parents, I decided to focus on the science of the mission and not on the space flight so I could still be involved with space exploration."
She decided to attend Eastern Oregon University to study physics. She intended to continue her education in Fairbanks, Alaska, to study upper atmospheric physics and other topics related to the aurora. But life happened. She married her husband in her junior year and graduated while she was seven months pregnant with their first child. Alaska would have to wait.
"It took a little while to adjust to a life without academics, but I loved the time I had with my son and husband," said Laura. "I knew I made the right choice, but still missed my old dream."
She was given a chance to re-focus when the superintendent of her old high school was in need of a science teacher with school starting in just a few weeks. She was granted an emergency teaching license and was given full responsibility for the middle and high school science classes. Because it was only an emergency credential, she would need to gain a full teaching license in order to keep her job permanently.
"It was a lucky search that led me to WGU, and I was instantly intrigued by the program and the fact that I never would have to attend class on a campus," said Laura. "I was working and had a growing family and needed something I could complete on my time and at my own pace."
Now having earned in master's of arts in teaching science, Laura has taken one step toward her dream of exploring space, but in a wonderful alternative way. Now, as a teacher, her most valuable accomplishment has been working with NASA's THEMIS program. It allows her to help interpret NASA activities and accomplishments and explain it in ways young schoolchildren can understand.
What the future holds is a mystery. She is working towards a certificate in metrology; however, just the other day she heard that NASA is accepting applications for the astronaut candidate program, but with welcome requirement changes. This time, corrective eye surgeries are acceptable and the new shuttle has adjustable seats.
Barber earned hew Master of Arts, Teaching, Science Education degree.
As a young boy in Africa, Wilfrid Ky always dreamed of getting a degree in computer science. Originally from Burkina Faso, West Africa, Wil came to America in 1999 on a student visa, speaking only French. "I soon would find out the true meaning of learning to survive in America," said Wil. "Not only had I been just recently been exposed to a whole new language and culture but now I had to contend with learning a whole new career and a future way of life for me in computer science."
He spent long nights learning English with help from his wife. Wil graduated with his associate's degree in computer science in 2003. "I finally felt a bit of relief knowing that my dream was possible," said Wil. "I knew that the sky was the limit and that doors would start opening for me."
At that time Wil was working full time as a network engineer, but was determined to further his education. He enrolled at WGU to work on his bachelor's degree in information technology concentrating in networks design and management. Working full-time, Wil needed something that was flexible and affordable. He completed everything he needed in just under a year.
Wil currently lives in Seattle with his wife, Belinda. He works at Microscan as a network administrator and is in charge of maintaining close to 40 servers. Headquarters and employees worldwide rely on these servers to perform their day-to-day job duties. Ky earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
The trip to Salt Lake City from New York was exhausting, but the journey Lisa Santiago experienced to get to graduation would be one she will never forget. Lisa was traveling to Salt Lake City for WGU's summer graduation ceremony for which she had been chosen to be a graduate speaker. She delivered her speech to 100 other graduates in her primary language, American Sign Language (ASL).
Lisa was born and raised in New York and attended a special school for deaf students until the sixth grade. She was mainstreamed into the public school system and learned the importance of having specialized teachers for hearing impaired students. This experience stayed with Lisa through most of college, until she found WGU. "I had become frustrated by the lack of support services at other universities, such as professors not being able to meet to clarify concepts, assignments, ideas and tasks," Lisa says. "However, I was determined to earn my degree and decided to look on the internet for an online college or university."
Lisa has worked as a teacher's aide in a school for the deaf for over ten years. Now, having earned her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies degree, Lisa can now have her own classroom.
"Even though I am deaf, I am very proud of myself because I have proven that I am capable of earning a very challenging degree just like people who can hear," said Lisa.
Santiago earned her Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies degree.
Joanna Goslin, a 24-year-old mother of 3, shares the challenges and rewards of earning her business degree online through nonprofit Western Governors University at WGU's Winter Commencement. Goslin, who lives in rural Oregon, traveled to Salt Lake City to accept her diploma and speak at graduation.
Joanna Goslin earned her Bachelor of Science, Human Resource Management degree.
Leila Crouse, a public health educator from Southern California, was able to complete her Masters degree online through Western Governors University while working full time and caring for a family of six. Selected to speak at the WGU Winter Commencement, Crouse shares her experiences and talks about the benefits of earning her degree online through WGU.
Leila Crouse earned her Master of Science, Health Education degree.
Scott Saunders has a special way to mark major milestones in his life—he gets a tattoo—and thats precisely what he did when he completed his degree in Information Technology from Western Governors University. Scott was selected by the online, nonprofit university to speak at its winter commencement, which was held on January 24 in Salt Lake City. Scott is an IT supervisor for the State of California who worked more than 60 hours a week while he earned his degree. To celebrate completing his degree, Scott headed to the local tattoo shop and had a graduation cap, diploma, and his graduation year inked on his left bicep, a lasting reminder of his hard work and achievement.
Scott Saunders earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
Shari Davis, a Las Vegas substitute teacher battling cerebral palsy, had three goals when she enrolled in online, nonprofit Western Governors University about 2 years ago: to finish her degree, have a classroom of her own, and improve her physical condition. When she walked to the podium to deliver her commencement address at WGUs Winter Commencement last month in Salt Lake City, Shari had met all three of those goals.
Shari Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies degree.
Dolores Northrup had been in the nursing profession for 12 years but needed a degree to further her career. During WGU's 2009 Commencement, she shared how WGU helped her accomplish that goal.
Dolores Northrup earned her Bachelor of Science, Nursing degree.
Tammy Ramsey, a mom and wife, shares her journey of earning her teaching license to become a provider for the family when her husband was unable to work.
Tammy Ramsey earned her Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies degree.
Michael Varno of Georgia, earned his bachelor's degree in Information Technology online at Western Governors University, and spoke at WGU's July 2010 commencement ceremony in Salt Lake City. He shared his story of accelerating his online IT degree program while working full time.
Michael Varno earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
Jozelda Porter was selected as a student speaker for Western Governors University's 2011 Winter Commencement Ceremony. Jozelda is a teacher from Jackson, Tennessee.
Jozelda Porter earned a Master of Science, Educational Leadership degree.
Bob McMillen was a student speaker for WGU's 2011 Summer Commencement Ceremony in Salt Lake City. Bob is from Beaverton, Oregon, and graduated with a B.S. in Information Technology-Networks Administration.
Phyllis Maclin was selected as a student speaker for Western Governors University's 2011 Summer Commencement Ceremony. Phyllis is from Paducah, Kentucky, and graduated from WGU with a MBA in strategy and Management.
Julie Laub of Kaysville, Utah, speaks at online university Western Governors University's commencement ceremony in Atlanta, February 11, 2012. Julie earned her teaching master's degree online through WGU's competency-based online education model, and was hired to teach chemistry at a local high school.
Julie Laub earned her Master of Arts in Teaching, Science Education degree.
Earning her nursing degree online was scary for Karen Marchand-Singleton, a self-described "older student" from Beaufort, South Carolina. But with the help of "angels among us," including her husband and her Western Governors University mentor, Karen succeeded and now has her BSN, thanks to the online nursing college at WGU. She shared her inspiring story at WGU's February 2012 commencement in Atlanta.
Karen Marchand-Singleton earned her Bachelor of Science, Nursing degree.
http://www.wgu.edu - Keith Sosebee of Lafayette, Georgia, earned his bachelor's degree in Information Technology-Networks Design and Management online at Western Governors University. He spoke at the online school's February 2012 commencement in Atlanta.
W. Keith Sosebee earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
Elaine Pacoy of Van Nuys, California, and graduated with her B.S. in Nursing (BSN) from online university Western Governors University. She spoke at WGU's 23rd commencement ceremony in Salt Lake City on July 14, 2012, where more than 3,300 graduates were celebrated.
Elaine moved with her family to the United States from the Philippines when she was 18 years old, as her parents saw here the opportunity for Elaine and her brother to earn a better college education and a brighter future. Elaine started her first American job just a few days after arriving in the States and has worked full time ever since, including while attending community college to become a registered nurse and while earning her BSN at WGU. The Los Angeles hospital where Elaine works recommended WGU for her continued education, and earning her BSN helped her earn a raise. She plans to continue to advance at work, applying what she learned at WGU, and to return for her M.S. in Nursing degree soon.
Jonathan Allen is from Streamwood, Illinois, and graduated from Western Governors University's online Business college. A single father of a teenage son, Jonathan found his WGU degree program served two purposes: The degree gives him the credentials he needs to advance in his career and build a more secure future for himself and his son, and the shared experience as students helped bring him and his son closer together. Jonathan plans to follow up his bachelor's degree with an MBA from WGU, and he aspires to start his own independent consulting firm.
He shared his story as a graduate speaker at WGU's 23rd commencement ceremony in Salt Lake City on July 14, 2012.
Sapan Desai is from Chicago, Illinois, and lives in Durham, North Carolina. He graduated from online university Western Governors University with his MBA in Healthcare Management from WGU. A successful surgeon and faculty member at Duke University and the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Texas Medical Center, Sapan had already earned his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees before coming to WGU. He is also CEO of a rapidly growing health information technology company and found that he needed to learn to "speak the language of business" and obtain other business skills and knowledge—a need that he was able to fulfill at WGU. He credits his MBA training with successes at Duke and the University of Texas at Houston that have led to his promotion as faculty.
Dr. Desai shared his story as a speaker at WGU's July 14, 2012, commencement ceremony in Salt Lake City, where he received his diploma.
Valerie Velez-Hall, of Taylorsville, Utah, earned her B.A. in Special Education from Western Governors University's online Teachers College. The first person in her family to earn a college degree, Valerie took an unorthodox path to higher education. After high school in her native New Jersey, she received a full scholarship to Rutgers University but opted instead to accept an invitation to travel with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus as a clown. Today, she works at an accelerated learning charter school, but has aspirations for a career in education to include administration positions like principal and superintendent. Her next step toward that goal: retuning to WGU to pursue her master's degree in teaching.
Valerie shared her story as a graduate speaker at WGU's commencement ceremony in Salt Lake City on July 14, 2012.
Christopher Dann of Port Orange, Florida, tells the story of earning his B.S. in IT degree online at Western Governors University as a speaker at WGU's winter 2013 commencement ceremony at Atlanta's Philips Arena, Feb. 9, 2013. Chris is the father of three teenage boys, a busy football dad, and working IT professional who was finally able to earn his degree thanks to WGU's flexible competency-based learning model.
Christopher Dann earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
Cora Edwards of Tampa, Florida, shares her funny and touching story of moving to the United States from England with dreams of making it big - and then realizing that dream by earning her MSN-Leadership and Management degree online at Western Governors University. Cora was a speaker at WGU's winter 2013 commencement ceremony in Atlanta, Philips Arena, February 9, 2013.
Cora Edwards earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Leadership and Management degree.
Online Master's in Mathematics Education graduate Monica Virgil of Montgomery, Alabama, earned her degree through hard work and dedication - and it helped her open her own math tutoring business, a dream come true for her and her family. She shared her story as a speaker at WGU's winter 2013 commencement ceremony at Philips Arena, Atlanta, February 9, 2013.
Monica Virgil earned her Master of Arts, Mathematics Education degree.
Rochester Hill, Michigan, resident Nicki Nelson shared her story of losing her hope of a college degree after becoming a teen mom - and then realizing that dream years later thanks to WGU at the February 2013 commencement in Atlanta's Philips Arena.
Nicki Nelson earned her Bachelor of Science, Human Resource Management degree.
Alex Sandoval Jr., a Western Governors University Class of Summer 2013 B.A. in Special Education graduate from San Diego, California, grew up in a neighborhood plagued by gangs, violence, teen pregnancy, and other barriers to academic success. He also faced a rare and debilitating vision problem that nearly derailed his education as an adolescent. But Alex was also equipped with something else: A determination to succeed, and the knowledge that education was how he would get there. Today, thanks to WGU, he has his teaching degree, and he vows to use that degree to give back to the community he grew up in, ensuring education is the path to a better future for kids growing up where he did. He runs an after-school program at his local middle school—and last month, the principal of that school offered him a teaching job for the upcoming school year!
Alex Sandoval Jr. earned his Bachelor of Arts, Special Education degree.
Diana Rexroat Cardenasis a Phoenix, Arizona, resident who has earned her bachelor's degree from Western Governors University's online College of Business as part of the Class of Summer 2013. A mother of four, she tried and tried again to earn a college degree, but traditional educational models never fit her lifestyle. In fact, WGU was her seventh attempt at a bachelor's degree. Her success story was driven by more than a commitment to bettering her life and her family's—it was driven by a promise she made to her father just before he passed away. His sense of humor and his pride in her kept her motivated to get through her tasks and earn that long-delayed dream of being a college graduate. And she did it!
Diana Rexroat Cardenas earned her Bachelor of Science, Finance degree.
WGU Class of Summer 2013 graduate Erica Martin-Coleis from Bushkill, Pennsylvania, and earned her B.S. in IT—Security from Western Governors University. Her first foray into college education was in the performing arts, but through her years of working in various fields she recognized the "computer nerd" hiding inside her. But she spent 15 years working jobs that didn't lead where she wanted to go, always "allowing life's distractions to stop me." WGU gave her the opportunity to earn her degree despite those distractions—and her mentor helped her stick with it when the going got tough. Now she has that long-awaited bachelor's degree and is coming back to WGU to earn her master's.
Erica Martin-Cole earned her Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
Kathleen Cadman, who has earned her MSN—Education as part of Western Governors University's Class of Summer 2013, is from Ogden, Utah. Kathleen is a world traveler, having just recently visited her 100th country. Some of that travel has been for work; others, for fun. And much of it has been to do volunteer work related to her passion for health care and improving the lives of peoples around the world. Through it all, she was able to work on her schoolwork and stay on track to graduation no matter what country she was in. Her degree has already translated to new success stories for Kathleen: After graduating, she accepted a position as a full-time assistant professor of Nursing at Weber State University, and she has been accepted to Johns Hopkins University's Department of International Health for a post-graduate certification in Global Health.
Kathleen Cadman earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Education degree.
Crystal Howard is a military nurse living and working on a remote Indian reservation in Zuni, New Mexico. She chose Western Governors University because it was recommended to her by one of her nurse officers, despite her initial uncertainty about attending an online university for a graduate-level degree. During her time at WGU, she was deployed to help with the relief effort for Hurricane Sandy. During that busy and hectic time in her life—in a place with severely limited Internet access—she worried about falling behind in her studies. But working with her mentor and thanks to WGU's flexibility, she was able to stay on track toward her graduation goals. And the things she learned in her WGU program served her well through the challenges of working with the Russian-speaking community devastated by the hurricane, despite the language and culture being completely foreign to her. Today, she is the second-youngest nurse on her staff, but she's one of only two with an MSN degree. She's also the first in her family with a bachelor's degree, let alone a master's. She shared her story as a graduate speaker at WGU's Winter 2014 Commencement at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center on February 8, 2014.
Crystal Howard earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Leadership and Management degree.
Growing up in a poor area of upstate New York, Marvin Perkins received no support or encouragement from teachers and counselors to attend college. However, a college education was his dream, so while on vacation in Southern California he decided to stay there and go to school. It was there where he met a woman and became a father—but three years later, they divorced, and he was awarded custody of his young son. A single father with heavy work responsibilities, he decided his dream of college would have to wait. Over the years, he managed to grow in his career and become very successful, achieving a six-figure salary and ultimately deciding that he may not need a degree after all. Then the economy crashed and he found himself unable to get a job without a degree. Thanks to Western Governors University, he now has that degree--and a successful career. Marvin shared his story as a graduate speaker at WGU's Winter 2014 Commencement at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center on February 8, 2014.
Marvin Perkins earned his Bachelor of Science, Business Management degree.
Earning her bachelor's degree in Health Informatics from Western Governors University was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to complete a college education for Merit Sowards, a mom from Bradenton, Florida. And her degree has already opened new doors for her: Immediately upon completing her professional practice experience (PPE) as a WGU student, she was hired by the hospital where she had done her PPE work. Merit shared her story as a speaker at WGU's Winter 2014 Commencement at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center on February 8, 2014.
Merit Sowards earned her Bachelor of Science, Health Informatics degree.
Tracy Anderson, of Petersburg, Virginia, was a para-educator for more than 16 years before earning her bachelor's degree in special education from Western Governors University. She had always planned to go to college but life soon got in the way and her dream was put on hold. Several years later, as a single mother and caretaker for three elderly family members, she decided to return to school to fulfill her dream. She chose WGU because it allowed her to use her work experience in her schoolwork. Three days after graduating from WGU Tracy was hired as an eighth-grade special education teacher. She is continuing her education at WGU and started the Master's in Learning and Technology program this January. Tracy shared her story as a graduate speaker at WGU's Winter 2014 Commencement at Atlanta's Georgia World Congress Center on February 8, 2014.
Tracy Anderson earned her Bachelor of Arts, Special Education degree.
Jeffrey Rahmlow graduated with his network administration degree online from Western Governors University to better his life, break out of a dead-end job and make a future for his family of nine. He celebrated his success as a commencement speaker at the online, nonprofit, accredited university's 27th semiannual commencement in Salt Lake City on July 12, 2014.
Jeffrey Rahmlow earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology - Network Administration degree.
Jenny Bascos earned her master's degree in nursing online from Western Governors University and is committed to using her skills and knowledge to continue making a difference in healthcare at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center, where she works. Her commencement address at the nonprofit university's 27th semiannual commencement ceremony in Salt Lake City on July 12, 2014, contrasted the innovation in healthcare today with the meager settings in her home country of the Philippines, where she began her career.
Jenny Vivian Bascos earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Leadership and Management degree.
Kara Nelson earned her special education degree online at Western Governors University at age 38 -- because "life happened, and not as expected." She celebrated her success as a commencement speaker at the online, nonprofit, accredited university's 27th semiannual commencement in Salt Lake City on July 12, 2014.
Kara Nelson earned a Bachelor of Arts, Special Education degree.
Patricia "Bliss" Knight grew up in a one-room log cabin, doing homework by kerosene lantern and dreaming of being an airline pilot in a day when girls were not encouraged to dream such dreams. More than 50 years after high school, Bliss is now an MBA, thanks to Western Governors University's online MBA program. She runs a nonprofit that she started as part of her capstone project, and she teaches flying lessons on her remote ranch in Arizona. Bliss shared her story as a speaker at WGU's 27th semiannual commencement ceremony July 12, 2014, in Salt Lake City.
Patricia Knight earned her Master of Business Administration, Management and Strategy degree.
Bryon Denton, MSN—Education, Danville, Illinois, overcame an early childhood marked by physical limitations and barriers to learning to become a master’s-educated nurse, a single father of a special needs son, and an air-med nurse.
Bryon Denton earned his Master of Science, Nursing - Education degree.
Cindy Krupinski, B.S. in Business—IT Management, Livonia, Michigan, whose goals of earning her bachelor’s degree took 16 years to come to fruition, shared her story of years of being dogged time and time again by tragedy and trial—and finally earning her triumph.
Cindy Krupinski earned her Bachelor of Science, Business - Information Technology Management degree.
Dale Boolton, B.S. in Business Management, West Chester, Ohio, tried time and time again to make college work for him but kept being derailed by life and a lack of confidence in himself, until WGU gave him the tools not just to earn a degree but to be truly engaged in learning—for the betterment of his own life as well as that of his family.
Dale Boolton earned his Bachelor of Science, Business Management degree.
Lissete Rico, M.A. English Language Learning, Lehigh Acres, Florida, dropped out of high school because of violence but refused to become a statistic—and today, thanks to determination to fulfill her dreams, she is a teacher with a master’s degree and the knowledge that she can do whatever she sets out to do.
Lissete Rico earned her Master of Arts, English Language Learning (PreK-12) degree.
Andi Petty of Las Vegas earned her bachelor's degree in Marketing Management from WGU after a lifelong struggle with self doubt, which began with her mother telling her, "You'll never go to college." As a young woman with the responsibility of caring for her two teenage sisters, a career marred by starts and stops, and a future clouded by uncertainty, Andi looked to an online business degree at WGU to give her the security she needed and the career she was dreaming of. She shared her story at WGU's August 2015 commencement ceremony, held on August 15 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
Andrea Petty earned her Bachelor of Science, Marketing Management degree.
His whole life, Chris Cox of Atwater, California, had been told, "You can't do that!" His cerebral palsy had set physical limitations, but his mind was strong and he had academic and career goals he was determined to achieve. With the help of his mentor—who was himself overcoming debilitating mouth cancer—and a robust support system at WGU, he earned his bachelor's degree in Information Technology. He and course mentor Mike Peterson shared Chris' story at WGU's August 2015 commencement ceremony, held on August 15 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
Chris Cox earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
Iraida Guadalupe of Brooklyn, New York, wanted to be a teacher since middle school. The daughter of hard-working, supportive parents who wanted her to have the academic and career success they had not had the opportunity to achieve, she was determined to realize her full potential. Losing her parents and suffering major health setbacks herself and in her immediate family all threatened to derail her dreams, but she stuck with it and is now a brand-new fifth-grade teacher. She shared her story at WGU's August 2015 commencement ceremony, held on August 15 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
Iraida Guadalupe earned her Bachelor of Arts, Interdisciplinary Studies (K-8) degree.
Growing up, Jen Evans of North Ogden, Utah, wanted to be a truck driver. Then, a compassionate nurse who cared for her at a low point in her life changed her perspective, changed her plans—and changed her life. Today, Jen has a master's degree in Nursing thanks to her own dedication, the inspiration of that nurse all those years ago, and WGU. She shared her story at WGU's August 2015 commencement ceremony, held on August 15 at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City.
Jennifer L. Evans earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Leadership and Management degree.
Adrienne Saulsberry of Hephzibah, Georgia, was working at a nuclear site, a job that paid well and provided security for the future. Still, she always dreamed of finishing her chemistry degree—but her local colleges simply wouldn't fit her busy schedule as a working adult. Then, when federal sequestration resulted in budget cuts for her plant, Adrienne was laid off. She saw the blessing in disguise and devoted herself to completing her degree. She found WGU, where she earned her B.A. Science Education, and now she has fulfilled her lifelong dream of being a teacher.
Adrienne Saulsberry earned her Bachelor of Arts, Special Education degree.
It may have taken him 27 years, but Brett Ford of Charlotte, North Carolina, finally has his bachelor's degree—and the promotion he deserves that came along with it. And it all started when he saw his wife working on her dream of becoming a teacher. Juggling work, life, family, and school, together, they both became college graduates.
Brett Ford earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
Marc Miranda of Clifton Park, N.Y., was in a career rut—and he wasn't afraid to tell his boss as much. He soon found himself unemployed, and with that extra time, he decided to take advantage of WGU's competency-based model and earn his MBA in just six months.
Marc Miranda earned his Master of Business Administration degree.
When military spouse and veteran Sarah Aronack took over as Director of Nursing at a small rural hospital in Lower Alabama—a hospital that provided crucial services to a poverty-stricken community she had grown to love—the things she learned at WGU helped her rescue the hospital from losing its federal funding and shutting down.
Sarah Aronack earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Leadership and Management.
"Today is My Someday" - Amanda Suni Lisonbee 2016 WGU Summer Commencement Speech at Western Governors University in Salt Lake City, Utah. July 16, 2016
Amanda Lisonbee earned her Bachelor of Arts, Special Education degree.
Right out of high school, Donna began a career with SkyWest Airlines and worked her way up to become the marketing director. When she was newly married, both her and her husband were laid off from their jobs in the same week. They settled in Cedar City, Utah, where she volunteered with the Shakespeare Festival for a year before being hired as their marketing director. Donna enjoyed career success but could only advance so far without a degree and with the encouragement of her employer, she enrolled in WGU’s business management degree program. In the middle of her studies she was diagnosed with cancer, but Donna wasn’t going to let that stand in her way of earning a degree. She continued on and entering her 3rd term at WGU was deemed cancer-free. Thanks to her degree she is now the Executive Director of the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service at Southern Utah University.
Donna Law earned her Bachelor of Science, Business Management degree.
Although Ron has now completed his third degree, his B.S. Health Informatics is the first that meets a growing need in the country for more health informatics professionals. After spending the last few years in Korea working in healthcare as an acupuncturist, Ron wanted to return to the United States and tackle this newly found career path in health informatics. He thrived in WGU’s self-paced model while interning with the Louisiana Public Health Institute. This fall, Ron will begin the health informatics master’s degree program at the University of Washington.
Ronald Buie earned his Bachelor of Science, Health Informatics degree.
"We are the hard workers. The problem solvers. We are the time managers and overachievers. We are the overcomers, up at dawners, never-give uppers. We are caretakers, moms, dads, daughters, sons. We’re brothers and sisters. We’re employers and workers. We are WGU."
Sarah married her high school sweetheart at the age of 18 and moved to New York City with plans of pursuing a career on Broadway while her husband went off to serve in the Navy. Soon after her arrival in the Big Apple, Sarah received news that she was expecting the couple’s first child. She faced struggles as a young mother and recalls the day they were completely out of formula and diapers, feeling hopeless with only 36 cents in their bank account. Determined to improve her situation, Sarah decided right then and there that it was time to pursue a college degree. After earning her bachelor’s degree in 2013, Sarah began working as a nurse in an addiction center with long-term plans of becoming a nurse educator. She enrolled in WGU’s M.S. Nursing – Education program the same year and now utilizes the skills she has obtained at WGU to help educate those she works with. This degree will help her achieve her dream of working as a nurse educator in the future.
Sarah Biermann earned her Master of Science, Nursing - Education degree.
WGU 2017 Summer Commencement Speaker Erin Bishop. Erin Bishop earned her Bachelor of Arts, Special Education (K-12) and Master of Education in Instructional Design degrees.
Transcription of video:
Kristen Gibson: WGU paved the way for me to live a life I never thought possible. WGU paved the way for my children to live a life far different from the life I experienced growing up. WGU paved the way and adequately preparing me for a career that I love. The home I grew up in was one that was plagued with addiction and poverty, trials and obstacles seemingly around every corner. My mom a single mother of four young children had out in the workforce other than that of her GED. Money was tight and bills were paid according to their importance. Our schooling was put on the back burner. As a child I had many extra responsibilities placed on me that centralized keeping our household afloat rather than being able to focus on my academics.
As I grew older I lost myself and I developed an extremely low sense of self-esteem. At one point in high school I moved out of my house to escape the environment I was in. Working part time while trying to make ends meet and keeping my grades up was challenging to say the least. Crunching numbers I realized I could dropout, go to work full time and make more money to sustain my way of life. Not looking at the longevity of the situation, this is what I did, I dropped out. I dropped out until a life saver showed up, my teacher Mr. Jones. He refused to give up on me. He refused to let me repeat the cycle. Mr. Jones saw my true potential and didn't want me to continue on without seeing it myself. He encouraged me to get reregistered. He took it upon himself to work out a plan with the school counselor. Knowing my situation he also had the counselor discuss different options available to me to graduate a little early if I was willing to put forth the effort. Mr. Jones sent a clear message to me that day and that was that I was worth it.
I wish this is where I could say I got my life back on track, but it's me, my life is all about trial and error. The second half of my senior year I found out that I was pregnant. What was I going to do? How was I going to do it? When I told Mr. Jones I fully expected a lecture of disappointed about my life choices, but there was none of that. He helped me figure out the rest of my schooling and he did it all without complaint.
I was able to finish my senior year just a little ahead of my class and obtain a full-time job with been knits in order to pay for all my medical expenses. Following the birth of my son, I had a job, but I did not have a career. I was struggling and I knew that my son deserved better, yet college seemed so far out of the realm of possibility. Growing up I always admired people that obtained college degrees because to me that was something that seemed so rare. I had the perception that only certain types of people were able to successfully go to college and they weren't like me. They were better. They grew up in the most stable of homes. They were smart and intelligent. These were the people that had the resources readily available, everything that I didn't. I checked into it and quickly realized how demanding a college schedule was especially with a little child while working full time. It seemed impossible. One day I went back to Mr. Jones to visit him. I tier any told him about the guilty felt knowing the trials that I faced were self induced, yet they impacted the life of my child. I felt like a failure.
As Mr. Jones sat there with me and my son, he reminded me of all the strength and resilience that I had. He reminded me of all I had already overcome. He looked at me and said something that clicked. Erin, you can do hard things. After a failed marriage and attempts at other colleges I heard about WGU. By this point I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a teacher. If it weren't for Mr. Jones I wouldn't have even graduated high school. I felt if I could at least be one child's someone, that could be my way of giving back. Sorry, I'm kind of getting choked up because Mr. Jones, this isn't part of my speech, he is still so humble and insists that he didn't do much, but 14 years later he's sitting here with his family in the audience. I wasn't going to cry. He's going to hear about that later.
Earning my bachelor's degree in 2013 from WGU was one of the hardest yet most rewarding things I had ever done. Little did I know what I did for my master's. My grandparents helped me with my children. My exstepfather and his wife opened their hearts and home to me and my children while I was student teaching. Days were long. Nights were short. And break downs happened. I missed my children. I missed being a mom. I can't put into words how great it felt when I was offered my first teaching job before I even officially graduated. After being in the classroom for about a year I had this insane idea that maybe just maybe, I could go back and earn a master's degree. I mean, I earned my bachelors, right, master's is going to be that much harder. Yeah, I was wrong. It was harder, a lot harder. There were many late nights studying just to have the alarm clocking off four hours later. There was many times my mentor spent more time on the phone helping me, encouraging me. I can be kind of bratty. I can be kind of feisty and every time I had a moment, she handled it like a champ. Sometimes she even gave me some tough love, letting me know that I might have actually been wrong. Maybe it wasn't the evaluator's fault after all. Many times she would say, Erin, you can do this. You can do hard things just as Mr. Jones had so many years ago.
Life has a funny way of throwing you curve balls. Often things don't go as planned. There probably isn't one graduate sitting in this audience that didn't experience a trial or hardship during their schooling process. Life can surprise you by bringing people into your life from the most unexpected plays at the most unexpected times. Graduates you are here because you branched out and allowed yourself to do hard things. Continue to shine and continue down the path of success. Feel proud.
WGU, thank you for helping me through life's journey. Since graduating, I have been able to purchase my own home, different vehicles, take my children on multiple vacations where we get to create lasting memories together, and last but not least I was offered a district position as a behavior specialist. I will forever be grateful and indebted to my cheerleaders along the way. If it weren't for them I wouldn't be here and I want to be me. Congratulations to you all.
WGU 2017 Summer Commencement Speaker Kristen Gibson. Kristen Gibson earned her Master of Business Administration degree.
Transcription of video:
WGU President Scott Pulsipher: Now we have the privilege of hearing from two graduates. They are Kristen Gibson, a master of business administration and Erin Bishop, a master of education in instructional design. Please join me in welcoming first Kristen to the lectern.
Kristen Gibson: I'm definitely shorter than the doctor. Good morning everyone. Thank you all for having me today. So I have a question. Who here has ever been lost, raise your hand? Okay. Nearly everyone. Wives, if your husband refuses to raise his hand, raise both hands. Okay. Yeah, that's better. If you're anything like me, then you've already been lost two times today just getting to your seat. Hello, my name is Kristen Gibson and I get lost all of the time. I can get lost just about anywhere doing just about anything using Google maps, street signs, you name it. So it's no surprise to say at one point or am I felt a little lost in life. I've been working since I was 16 years old and like any teenager at first was a means to an end. I worked because I wanted to go to the movies and if my mother said with whose money, I wanted to say mine. In my early 20s I needed money for taco Tuesday and parking tickets. In my mid-20s my cousin Susan told me about WGU. She was a graduate and told me to check it out. I half-heartedly wrote it down on a piece of paper and true to lie life I lost it. I'd been working small jobs for years, but it just didn't feel right. It didn't fit the idea and the dream that I had for myself. At that point I knew that I was lost. I didn't know what to do or where to go. That's around the time I tapped into my personal compass. Some people call it the true north. Others can call it their true center. I didn't know a lot of variables at the time. I only knew how I wanted to feel, valued, happy, useful. And I used my personal compass to orient myself. Two years after my chat with Susan I miraculously found the paper and took a step in the right direction. So many of us had to explain what WGU was to our families, friends, and peers. It's an online school. Yes, it's accredited. Yes, the degree is real. No, I can't cheat. My life hasn't been traditional by any means. Working three jobs to put myself through undergrad, so why did my education have to be. It seemed pretty straightforward until the first time I had to take a proctored exam. What do you mean they'll be watching me the whole time? Wait. I have to put on pants. But for each of us in this room we made it work. Whether it was waking up at 5:00 am to get some studying in, staying up late while everyone else was asleep or printing out cohorts schedules and guides from work we made things happen. Whenever I did feel lost in a course I again used my personal compass who by now had a name and a face. My men Jeremy little.
Life doesn't stop just because you're going to school and you're bound to get lost along the way, but I knew my mentor Jeremy would get on the phone and say hey, this is were you should be going. I found myself reassured as I progressed to a degree. By day I'm a travel coordinator. By night and sure he'd say I was Carmen San Diego, I'm always on the move. Between scuba diving a 100 feet under water through a Sunday Ken airplane or being hopelessly lost in France. With my mentor I was able to stay connected and keep up with my goals. When I started my job it was only a temporary position. I had no idea what the expectations were or where it could go. Because of WGU I was able to take what I learned in my degree program and turn a simple job into a stable career. Both the president and the CFO of my company quickly became impressed with my analytical skills and noticed that I was applying to my work what I was learning in school. I've since been promoted, given a supervisory role, a raise and asked to create an entire department around my individual position. It's the competence and the confidence I now have that has made me become invaluable to my company. I'm not lost the anymore because of this sense because of WGU. The compass can look different for everyone. It can be in the face of your child, the smile of a spouse, the knowing look of a parent or the support of a friend. Whatever your compass is, it all guided us to Western Governors University along our path to our true north and congratulations graduates, we did it.