Program for WGU Indiana's Inaugural Commencement Ceremony. The Governor of Indiana, the Honorable Mitchell E. Daniels, delivered remarks. This commencement was held at the Indiana State House in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Dawn Hanson was selected as the graduation speaker for WGU Indiana's first commencement ceremony on October 27, 2010. Dawn is from Greenfield, Indiana and earner her Bachelor of Science, Nursing degree.
Program for the August 19, 2011 WGU Indiana Commencement. The Governor of the State of Indiana, the Honorable Mitchell E. Daniels, delivered remarks. This commencement was held at the Indiana State House in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Jody Sloan was selected as a graduate speaker for WGU Indiana's August 19, 2011 commencement. Jody is from New Castle, Indiana and earned her Master of Business Administration, Management and Strategy degree.
Sarah Autumn Callahan was selected as a graduate speaker for WGU Indiana's August 19, 2011 commencement. Sarah is from Monroe, Indiana and earned her Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
WGU Indiana's 2011 Commencement Remarks was delivered by The Honorable Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr., Governor of Indiana. WGU Indiana's 2nd Commencement was held on Saturday August 19, 2011at the Indiana State House in Indianapolis, Indiana.
WGU Indiana graduate Mary Carney (Master of Science, Nursing Education) of Lebanon, Indiana, speaks about the journey to attaining her Master's degree at the October 20, 2012 WGU Indiana Commencement ceremony.
Program for the 5th WGU Indiana Commencement. The President and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, Jamie Merisotis, was the Keynote Speaker. This commencement was held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Program for the 6th WGU Indiana Commencement. The Lieutenant Governor of Indiana, Sue Ellspermann was the Keynote Speaker. This commencement was held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
WGU Indiana graduate Lisa Stahley (Bachelor of Science, Business Information Technology Management), speaks about the journey to attaining her degree at the September 26, 2015 WGU Indiana Commencement ceremony.
WGU Indiana graduate Tim Ehlerding (Master of Business Administration, Management and Strategy) speaks about his journey to attaining a degree at the September 26, 2015 WGU Indiana Commencement ceremony.
WGU's Indiana's 2015 Keynote/Commencement Address was delivered by The Honorable Sue Ellspermann, Lieutenant Governor of Indiana.
WGU Indiana's 6th Commencement was held on Saturday, September 26, 2015 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Order of Events: Processional; Music Provided by Candlewood Strings; National Anthem sang by Carly Brooke; Welcome and Opening Remarks by WGU Indiana Chancellor, Dr. Allison Barber; Commencement Address by the President and CEO of Indiana University Health, Dennis M. Murphy, MHA; Graduate Speakers are Lindsay de las Alas, Shelby Dirrim, Dwight F. Schonfeld, and Nina R. Patterson; Conferral of Degrees by WGU Indiana Chancellor, Dr. Allison Barber, Graduate names read by WGU teachers College, Student Mentor, Lori Ellwanger; Closing Remarks by WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Recessional.
WGU Indiana's 7th Annual Commencement was held on October 15, 2016 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Program for the 7th WGU Indiana Commencement. The President and CEO of Indiana University Health, Dennis M. Murphy, MHA, delivered the Commencement Address. This commencement was held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
WGU Indiana's 2016 Commencement Address was delivered by the President and CEO of Indiana University Health, Dennis M. Murphy, MHA.
WGU Indiana's 7th Commencement was held on Saturday October 15, 2016 at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
WGU Indiana graduate Dwight F. Schonfeld (Bachelor of Science, Information Technology Management) from Salem, Indiana speaks about his journey to graduation at the October 15, 2016 WGU Indiana Commencement ceremony.
WGU Indiana graduate Lindsay de las Alas (Bachelor of Science, Business Management) from Indianapolis, Indiana speaks about her journey to graduation at the October 15, 2016 WGU Indiana Commencement ceremony.
WGU Indiana graduate Nina R. Patterson (Master of Business Administration, Healthcare Management) from Whiteland, Indiana speaks about her journey to graduation at the October 15, 2016 WGU Indiana Commencement ceremony.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb addressed graduates at the WGU 2017 regional commencement, hosted by WGU Indiana. The commencement ceremony was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. WGU Indiana Chancellor, Dr. Allison Barber introduces Governor Holcomb. And WGU President, Scott Pulsipher closes the video.
Transcription of video:
Dr. Alison Barber: Good morning and welcome to our 2017 WGU Commencement. We're thrilled to have you here. If you are from Indiana, and you're a Hoosier, it's great to see you. Yes, we love our Hoosiers. And if you're from out of state, welcome to the great state of Indiana, thank you for coming. [Applause]
On behalf of the entire university, we welcome our honored graduates. We admire your tenacity, your grit, your determination, and we applaud your completion. We also extend a welcome and a Hoosier warm welcome to all of our family and friends who are here, and those who are watching via live stream on the web. Thank you for joining us today.
I'm honored to be joined here today on the stage by some special guests. Of course, Governor Holcomb, who we'll hear from shortly. I welcome my WGU faculty members, and friends, our president, Scott Pulsipher; Dave Grove, Pat Partridge, Melissa Flores, Dr. Linda Gunn, Dr. Jan Jones Schenk, Joan Mitchell, and Warren Junium. Thank you for joining us today. [Applause]
Graduates, I wish you could see what I see, because right behind you I see a crowd of family, and friends who, if I were to guess, you might be sitting at the front of this auditorium because they're sitting at the back of the auditorium. And I'd like to invite all the family and friends who are here today to support our amazing graduates, would you stand up so we can recognize your amazing support? [Applause]
WGU is honored to be recognized as a military friendly school, and I'd like to take a moment to recognize our graduates who are in the military, the reserve, active duty reserves or veterans. Would you please stand so we can recognize you? [Applause]
Our military community are wearing a patriotic ribbon, so you'll note them as you see them in the lobby as well. And we appreciate your service.
It's hard to believe that 18 years ago, Western Governors University enrolled its first student. And today, we are proud that we have over 94,000 graduates around the country. Today, we are recognizing 500 of you. Half of receiving your master's, half receiving your bachelor's degrees. You've come from 26 states. The furthest has come from California. Our youngest graduate today is 18, our oldest graduate today is 67. [Applause]
So if you're sitting in the crowd and you're wondering if you can do it, you can do it too. You know, only 34 percent of Americans have a bachelor's degree, so you've set yourself apart. Only 8 percent of Americans have a master's degree, so you are poised for success because of what you have accomplished, and we're proud to celebrate that with you today.
When you enrolled in WGU, we made you a promise. And we said we would help you achieve your dream. Not our dream your dream of degree completion and career success. And so I applaud you for accomplishing that dream today, and I thank you for letting us be on the journey with you. Today is our best day at WGU and you make it so. Congratulations, graduates. [Applause]
So graduates, you know our education model is competency based. If you aren't familiar with competency based education, really simply put, it lets you use your prior learning and knowledge to accelerate to your goal. If competency based model were a politician, it would be Eric Holcomb.
As a life long Hoosier, the Governor developed competencies of hospitality, and respect for all citizens. As a veteran of the United States Navy, he formed his competencies of patriotism, discipline, focus, and teamwork. As a trusted advisor to former governor Mitch Daniels, and the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats, the Governor developed experiences in the importance of responsible governing. And as Lieutenant Governor, he deepened his knowledge about the diverse needs of Hoosiers, and the role of government leaders to shape policies to meet those needs.
So it comes as no surprise that when the governor decided to run for governor, he was able to bundle all of those competencies from his previous jobs, and all of his learning and experience to mount a successful campaign. What is a little surprising is he did that all in 106 days. From the time he announced to the time he became our governor, 106 days. Now, you want an example of using your competencies to accelerate to your goal? It's our governor.
I could share many more attributes about Governor Holcomb, but let me offer one final thought. Our governor is a believer in the WGU mission, and a supporter of all we do. So it is a true honor for me to introduce my friend, and the 51st governor of the great state of Indiana, Governor Holcomb. [Applause]
Governor Eric Holcomb: First and foremost, good morning to the graduates and to the WGU faculty and staff, and all the friends and family that have come from all over the country to be with us this morning, to celebrate the 2017 WGU graduating class. Good morning to one and all. That is an understatement. It is a great morning. It is a great morning in Indiana, and I'm just thrilled to be with you this morning to celebrate with the graduates and to share the stage with WGU president, Scott Pulsipher, and Indiana's chancellor, Alison Barber and all the gathered WGU leadership here on stage, and throughout the hall.
By the way, you know, I haven't shared this with you, Scott, but I tried to hire Alison Barber like 18 times and she keeps saying no, so I don't know what's in the water or what you're feeding her, or what incriminating evidence you have, but I just can't seem to pry her away from WGU. And I consider myself fortunate that she has stayed and she continues to lead this charge. There is none more important in our state at this time.
Because I too remember just a few years ago, when we were celebrating on a day just as this occasion, and there were seven seven graduates that day. And I called those seven "pioneers" because they truly were blazing a new trail for so many since, like yourselves, to follow.
Today, over 5,000 students, graduates, just here in Indiana have earned their degrees from WGU. You've all collectively just grown by leaps and bounds in such a relatively short period of time. And I know, I hear it, on a regular basis that WGU always, and rightfully so, gives most of that growth credit to you, the students and the graduates.
But I did want to just highlight how profusely grateful we are to the leadership at WGU. It is this is making such a positive difference in families in our state, and indeed, all across the country. And that's the why we are doing it. But the how that you are doing it is what is just so impressive to me and so many other onlookers. WGU continues to be visionary and is transforming the very model of higher education. Always, always for the better of the person, that Chancellor Barber spoke to just earlier, by making this whole experience and this step in your journey always student centered, or should I rather say "careerist centered."
But again, most of all, I'm most honored to be with you, the graduates. This is indeed a very special day for our state and for our nation. You know, I realize that commencement speakers are expected and supposed to provide some inspiration, but I will just confess to you, secondly, that it is you that I derive so much inspiration from, from my perspective because of your hard work, because of your determination, because of your perseverance.
I understand half around the country half of you are earning advanced degrees. A quarter, 25 percent of you graduating are changing lanes, changing careers. And this degree is enabling you to do that. Another quarter percent are pursuing a degree for the very first time. And so, I was asking myself, what is the common denominator to all of this? It's, I believe, that you all best understand that a relevant education, a relevant education is the most fulfilling and the best way onward and upward, and the best way to expand your horizons and the best way to build a bridge to your future opportunities.
And at this time, we need a lot of bridge builders. Now, I fully realize, and just knowing a few of the stories, narratives, I fully realize that you all took many different paths to get to this page in your life. But you've all arrived here this morning, shoulder-to-shoulder, equipped and ready to write that next chapter in your life. Because you've found a way, I believe, to pursue a career in which you're passionate about. And today you take a giant, a giant leap forward in your life. And it's going to, in many cases, change your family tree forever, and that is legacy building.
For some of you, you don't need me to tell you this, but for some of you, when your son or daughter sees their mom and dad in cap and gown, their expectations are instantly changed forever. Now they too expect to go to college. And that's a generational cycle of lower expectations being broken and raised up. Or maybe you'll convince a co worker or a neighbor, because you did this, that in fact, they can too. And you will break a cycle of what has been indecision in someone else's life.
You broke it because of this WGU experience and this degree. It's truly your golden ticket to success, and it's going to enable you to chart your course, your own path, and fulfill your own destiny to determine what that destiny is, and nothing that I can think of is more invigorating than that. That's why Indiana is so proud to have WGU in our Hoosier state. And I know that I can speak for my fellow gubernatorial cohorts that they too feel exactly the same way with WGU in their state.
I see WGU campuses literally as legacy launch pads all over the country, located exactly where you live, your exact address. And when you move, WGU moves with you. And we need more launch pads in this country as well, because to quote Noble Laureate Bob Dylan, "the times, they are a changing."
Think about it. For a kindergartner starting school today, 60 percent of the jobs that will need to be filled when they graduate from high school, 60 percent of those jobs don't exist today. Again, that's the why WGU is so important. It gives access, it gives affordability, and it's aligned with what our workforce needs currently are. That's what I call Triple A access, affordability, and alignment, just like Indiana's state credit rating, by the way. [Laughter] Couldn't help myself. But I will add a fourth, I'll add a fourth A agility.
WGU and certainly you, the students and the graduates, WGU is agile. Providing you, the students, again, the flexibility to meet and become equipped for those jobs of not just today, but five years from now, and 15 years from now, and 20 years from now. Let me put it in perspective for you.
Today, there are, as Chancellor Barber mentioned, 94,000 WGU graduates. And right now, as I speak, there are 92,000 unfilled jobs throughout the state of Indiana. So I've got a crazy idea for you I want to pitch. Now, I know there are a number of folks here today, graduates, and friends and family that traveled great distances to be here, and there are a number of folks watching on live stream that aren't from Indiana as well. There's 26 different states here with us. And as your host, if you're out of towners, I hope you've enjoyed your stay thus far, and I hope you're spending a lot of money while you're here, [Laughter] and I hope you're experiencing our authentic Hoosier hospitality.
But I don't think it's not so crazy after all. Here is my not so crazy idea for you. If you're not from here, move here. [Laughter] I mean, literally, not virtually you can do that too, but I mean literally move to Indiana. I want every single WGU student graduating today that doesn't live in Indiana to move here because our state needs you and we want you. We need more highly skilled workers, more disciplined, more dedicated, more "don't take no for an answer" experts in your fields, more problem solvers, more multi taskers, more programmers, more nurses, more teachers, more cycle breakers. We need more everything and I'm looking at it right now. Indiana wants you, and Indiana needs you.
I have employers asking me every single day about our workforce. In fact, everywhere I travel in the state, in the country, and around the world business leaders are asking me about how equipped our workforce is. If we're able to meet, and then exceed their expectations. WGU graduates, you are the answer, you are the answer to that question. Because we all know that this degree that you've earned, that you are exactly the hard working, highly skilled folks that they're looking for. And it's in part my job, our job, Indiana's job, to connect you to walk across that bridge with you. So, that's the pitch. You move to Indiana, and you'll have a good job.
But wait, that's not all. Low taxes, we've got it. We were just rated best in the Midwest, top 10 in the country. Low cost of living, we're in the top four in the country, we've got that box checked. Thriving cities? I hope you've felt a vibe, all that's going on around you in our capital city. Vibrant rural communities. There's some incredible stuff that's going on out there that's not just changing our state and our nation, but changing the world in our rural communities, scattered all across this great state. And if you move here, we'll even throw in a basketball hoop for your new house, so. [Laughter]
I could go on and on and on and on, but I'll stop there. But just, please, give it some thought. Mull it over. And wherever you... end up, on your next step, and the step after that on this journey, just know how incredibly proud of you we are. And incredibly thankful that you didn't settle along the way. And you're sticking close to what you're truly passionate about. I cannot wait. We're going to hear some compelling stories. And I can't wait to hear the next story, and the next story, and the next story and how just infectious your experience has been on the community, on the society around you.
I see a lot of talent in this room. I see more wisdom than a tree full of owls. I had to get that in there too. And I know that you are now on the path to accomplishing some extraordinary things for yourselves, and for your families. And if you could do it all here in Indiana that would be great too. We want you. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this absolutely unforgettable day, and congratulations on this well earned, well earned accomplishment. Congratulations graduates. [Applause]
Scott D. Pulsipher: Graduates, please accept our sincere congratulations. All of us at WGU are so proud of the accomplishments, and we welcome you into our now 94,000 strong alumni across the entire United States. I will extend my personal gratitude to each of you who have decided to actually make a difference and change your life. It is truly inspiring to be a part of this, and it is wonderful to see the inspiration that comes from each and every one of your stories.
And even while we have 90,000 plus students today, we strive to ensure that every individual has a personal experience, that they have the opportunity to have the support and the guidance and the instruction and the counseling and that individualized experience that ensures that each of you have the potential to achieve the goals that you've set for yourself as well as that as you attain your degree, that you also find a path to new opportunity and to allow you to change your life.
For many of you, earning your diploma is the fulfillment of this lifelong goal. The academic degree you have earned at WGU will surely 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 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.
Some time ago I was asked this simple question: Scott, do you love the world in you, or do you love you in the world? And at first I didn't understand the point of the question, but as I contemplated that, I started to realize that in fact, our world would be a much better place if we in fact loved ourselves in the world because we see ourselves uplifting those around us, that others with whom we associate are better because of our association with them. That we see the opportunity to truly become selfless.
In fact, selflessness in many ways, might be the truest characteristic of one who understands their true identity. And so I encourage each of you to also develop a sense of loving yourself in the world, and the great things that you can do in it.
Learning is a lifelong journey, and one that is now a habit of both your mind and your heart. I urge you to continue your journey, to reach out to others in pursuit of their dreams. Identify meaningful ways to contribute to your communities, and to your neighbors, to your families, 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 a minute and as is the sign of the time, if you have a phone on, and I've seen some of you taken already, a selfie with the governor. So, if you could, get out that phone, and let's actually take a selfie, if you would. So I'm gonna ask Chancellor Barber, and Governor Holcomb to get up here with me, and we're gonna get all of you in our selfie, but you should stand up and take a selfie so you can get the crowd behind you in that picture as well.
Okay! So, [Applause]. Now make sure you take advantage of all the social platforms out there and tag that with the hashtag WGUGrad. Again, congratulations to all of you. It is truly a wonder experience for us to be a part of this, and it is inspiring to all of us, and I'm sure it is inspiring to you, and to your family, to your friends.
And now, I ask that we simply remain seated until our graduates have filed out, and congratulations again, and thank you. [Applause]
Order of Events: Processional, Music provided by Candlewood Strings; National Anthem sung by Sophie Rosenbaum; Welcome and Opening Remarks by WGU Indiana Chancellor, Dr. Allison Barber; Commencement Address delivered by the Governor of the State of Indiana, the Honorable Eric Holcomb; Graduate Speakers were Sean Copeland, DeAnna Klingbeil, Michael Updike, Heyde Mitchell; Conferral of Degrees by WGU Indiana Chancellor, Dr. Allison Barber; Closing Remarks by WGU President, Scott D. Pulsipher; Recessional.
Program for the October 21, 2017 Western Governors University Commencement in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Governors of the State of Indiana, the Honorable Eric Holcomb delivered the Commencement Address. This commencement was held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
WGU graduate DeAnna Klingbeil spoke at the WGU 2017 regional commencement in Indianapolis.
DeAnna Klingbeil earned her Master of Science, Nursing Leadership and Management degree.
Transcription of video:
DeAnna Klingbeil: Good morning. It really is quite symbolic, and pretty awesome that all of our family and friends are sitting behind the graduates this morning because really, you guys have been the ones that have behind us during this whole journey. So I just wanted to take time to say thank you so much.
I've always wanted to be a nurse. When I was little, my dad would appease me by lying on the couch as my patient. I would take his temperature, bandage him up, and kiss away his pseudo pain. When I got older, my mom encouraged me to sign up to be a candy striper at the local hospital, and I loved it, pinafore and all.
Even so, it took me years to get my associate's degree in nursing. Fear of math, chemistry, this theme followed me for years; signing up for bachelor's programs, and then withdrawing.
Then I found WGU. WGU provided just the right amount of structure, yet independent type of study that I needed. The day I finished my bachelor's program I thought, "What a relief. I'm never doing that again." [Laughter] I think it was less than a year later though I did sign up for the master's program.
WGU taught me how to fight for patient advocacy, optimize patient outcomes, and present to stakeholders policy changes that we as graduates developed.
Today, I'm an outpatient psych nurse at an OCD/anxiety clinic. We are currently making a board with pictures of ourselves attempting to conquer some of our greatest fears to show the patients that we too can self improve. One of the patients flew up in a hot air balloon. Another faced her fear of spiders, and yet another even hugged a clown.
Today, when I'm done, my picture is going to be on that board for two reasons. One for public speaking [Applause] and another for being in this graduating gown with my master's hood. [Applause]
The funny thing about fear is that we usually aren't afraid about what we state we are afraid of. Kids aren't really afraid of the dark, they're afraid of what's in the dark. I wasn't afraid of math or chemistry, or any of the assignments they put in Taskstream. I was afraid of the humility of failing. I was afraid that I wouldn't succeed. But we all did it and pretty soon we're going to be walking up on this stage getting our diploma, so congratulations [Applause]
So in closing I just want to say, continue to take leaps and expose yourself to all your fears. Thank you. [Applause]
WGU Indiana graduate Heyde Mitchell spoke at the WGU 2017 regional commencement in Indianapolis.
Heye Mitchell earned her Master of Business Administration.
Transcription of video:
Heyde Mitchell: One in three women and one in four men are either in, or have been in an abusive relationship. Take a look around you and really take in what that means, and let me say it again: One in three women, and one in four men are either in, or have been in an abusive relationship.
During my 14 months with WGU, I have been beaten, yelled at, sleep deprived and shot at by my now ex husband, all while raising my two girls. I was being abused by my husband by every means necessary: Financially, verbally, emotionally, and physically. I wanted to be freed from this life. I explained to him, I was working on myself, and if he didn't start working on himself, he was gonna get left behind.
That's when I decided to go back to school, and chose WGU because of it being online. I could do my schooling first thing in the morning before my girls would even get up, so they didn't feel like I was taking time from them. I chose to get my MBA through WGU in hopes of a promotion at work. With that, I wanted to get done with the MBA as soon as I could.
Halfway through the degree I was on track to finish within 12 months. That's when my husband went further than he had ever gone and tried to kill me. He tried to shoot me. Not once, twice. The second time my husband tried to shoot me, he had been drinking all day. I asked him to go to bed because I knew if he hadn't, he was going to get angry.
He didn't listen. I had to take my two daughters away from him. I asked him to please go to bed and sleep it off while we drove around in the car for a while. The second attempt of coming back home, I told the kids to stay in the car while I checked in on their dad. There was a fight. I was able to push him onto our bed, and told him to go to sleep. He looked me straight in the eyes and said, "I don't love you, I don't care about you. I'm going to kill you."
He threw me over the bed, and I hit our dresser. He went running into our closet, grabbed the rifle, and pointed it at me. I pushed the rifle away, pushed him back into the closet. I ran out to the car with him following behind me. I got into the car, locked the doors. He put his foot under the car to stop me and said, "Now what, you gonna run over my foot?" I said, "Watch me." I ran over his foot and never looked back. [Applause]
This is when I knew I needed to end this relationship sooner rather than later. We had been married for 17 years and I knew this was not going to be an easy task. See, I'd been married to him since I was 18 years old. I needed to be independent for the first time in my life.
I finished up my MBA within 14 months, my mentor Amy, was with me every step of the way. I was going through an ugly divorce, and trying to go to school. Amy kept me going and kept me on pace by holding me accountable for the progress that I was making and did some hand holding when I was struggling.
On a Monday in February, I received notice that my divorce was final. Tuesday, I received notification from WGU that I had finished my MBA program. Wednesday, I received a promotion. [Applause]
WGU allowed me the flexibility and accountability needed for me to become a success story. The confidence that WGU has given me has allowed me to share my story and start a domestic violence awareness program at my place of employment with over 10,000 employees. [Applause]
We are all we are all success stories. Share yours and be a motivation as others are going through the same thing. Thank you. [Applause]
WGU Indiana graduate Michael Updike spoke at the WGU 2017 regional commencement in Indianapolis.
Michael Updike earned his Bachelor of Science, Information Technology degree.
Transcription of video:
Michael Updike: Hi. My name's Michael and I'm an alcoholic. [Laughter] May 12th, 2010 is the day after I checked myself into Fairbanks Hospital for the second time. And it's the first day of my continuing sobriety. I'm one of those people you heard about, maybe you know someone like me. I could not make myself stop drinking, not for long periods anyway.
It's something I had struggled with since right after high school. I had had the chance to go to a lovely, expensive liberal arts college where I flunked out very spectacularly. After, I had some jobs. I worked in warehouses, I waited tables. I knew that I didn't like doing those things really, so I decided I wanted to work with computers. I had a natural aptitude for it.
I tried a local community college and I did not finish. I earned a couple of IT certifications somehow, and I managed to have something resembling a career in the field, a technician job here, and a consulting job there. But my drinking never really allowed me to advance much. By May 11th, 2010, I wasn't capable of almost anything anymore. The small business I had helped to start had never succeeded. I was in a state of complete and utter despair that is hard to describe.
There's a saying amongst recovering alcoholics though, that the people in church don't want to go to hell, and the people in AA have been there, and don't want to go back. There is truth in that. So I went to Fairbanks Hospital to dry out, safely get through acute withdrawal symptoms, and then I went to live in a sobriety halfway house called The Progress House.
I learned how to pray. And one day, after many months of working the 12 steps of AA, I found that a miracle had occurred: The desire to drink had left me. Since I still had a home [Applause] thank you.
Since I still had a home to return to, I did. I thought about the opportunity to go to college that I had squandered in my youth, and I became determined that I would find a way to earn a degree. I found out about WGU on the Internet and I saw that it was fully accredited, so I made a leap of faith and took out federal loans and I got started.
I managed to get a better job working as a help desk analyst, and that business I worked for went out of business. I had started dating since I got sober and my girlfriend, Kenna, worked for a little school called the Oaks Academy. I hadn't heard of it before, but she said they desperately needed IT help. So I got a part time job there and I got their antiquated technology working well in fairly short order. And soon, a few months I believe, I became their first full time Information Technology Director. [Applause]
My girlfriend, Kenna, and I got married and we had two beautiful children, all the while I stayed sober. And at night, when everyone else was asleep, I worked on my WGU education. And I'm still the IT Director for the Oaks Academy.
Since I began working there in 2011, our school has grown from one to three campuses, and we've gone from being the best kept secret in education to being highly regarded nationally. I'm proud that I had a role to play in that and I'm proud to continue to serve as their IT Director, now with a four year degree from WGU.
My education at WGU helped me take their technology infrastructure to new heights of sophistication using inexpensive hardware and open source software. Our technology infrastructure is now second to none. And each year, I have the privilege of innovating, improving, and rethinking how our school can best leverage IT to further its mission to be a Christ centered school that exists to provide a rich, classical education to children of diverse racial and socioeconomic backgrounds, preparing them to succeed in a rigorous secondary educational program, and to demonstrate spiritual, social, and emotional maturity.
Thank you. I'm really proud to be a WGU night owl. [Applause]
WGU Indiana graduate Sean Copeland spoke at the WGU 2017 regional commencement in Indianapolis.
Sean Copeland earned his Bachelor of Science, Business Management degree.
Transcription of video:
Sean Copeland: Well, I told myself today that I wouldn't cry, and I also put a lot of extra deodorant on, and both have failed me. So, if opening by talking about bodily fluids isn't a winner, I don't know what is. My comments will be short, and bright. So you can thank me in advance for that.
I, like many of you, have had kind of an on again, off again relationship with education. In high school, I was valedictorian. In college I took the kind of "C's get degrees" approach. And eventually I was like, "No thanks, Tom Hanks," and I dropped out.
Well, unlike most, I was fortunate enough to find my way into a successful career, which I'm still employed. But I felt like I'd kind of shorted myself in some way by not completing a degree. And I feared that one day, not having that education would hinder me. And in fact, that day came. And shortly therefore, I started researching options. And the two barriers that I kept running into were time and expense. Reasons to not do something find you so easily. Particularly when it's something that requires work, something that can be hard.
So many online programs that were supposedly built for working adults, I mean, they still had extremely rigid schedules. And the cost led me to question the ROI. See, now that I'm a business graduate, I can just throw around terms like "ROI," right?
Then I started hearing about WGU and honestly, my first thought was, "Is that real?" Because it sounded too good to be true to me. And sometimes when something feels or seems too good to be true it can be hard to trust, hard to kind of lean into. But WGU brought two solutions to the two problems that I had, time and expense. So instead of "No thanks, Tom Hanks," I said, "Yes, please, Socrates," the solutions were there, and I just had to embrace them.
And the solution focus permeates this institution. A joke among my friends when I started every new term was, "Was this going to be the term that I tried out for the football team?" So we may not have the athletics to be proud of, but we have things like this to be proud of. I heard a story of a fellow student, she was really great. Great student. Wrote these awesome papers. And suddenly, I mean really pretty drastically her work began to slip. Just the papers were weird, like weirdly formatted and crazy grammatical errors.
And her mentor reached out and said, "What's going on? How can we help you?" Well turns out, this lady had just, in the snap of a finger, became a struggling single mom. Her husband walked out on her, and took the family laptop. And she had resorted to typing her papers on her iPhone. That kind of determination was in her. And the solution oriented institution from which we're graduating today, said, "How can we help her?" And as I understand it, Chancellor Barber said, "Let's send her a loaner laptop today so that she can complete her degree on time." And she did. [Applause]
Not only does having this degree empower me, but this solution oriented culture inspires me. I host a morning radio show on B105.7 here in Indianapolis. A shameless plug. You can turn that on in your car on the way home. And I have an agreement with my boss that was largely inspired by my time at WGU. I will not bring a problem to him unless I also bring a solution. And I try to embrace this concept in my personal relationships too. I mean, imagine if you brought this with your work, your marriage, any relationship. If you were just tossing out solutions all the time, people might like to spend more time with you as opposed to somebody who is just pointing out problems, right?
So consider that as you leave here today. Anybody can point out problems, but only top performers, and in the world of online education, only night owls can present adequate solutions.
So thanks to Chancellor Barber, her team. Thanks to my mentor, Rusty for being a great cheerleader. Thanks to my dog, Brady the golden doodle who was a wonderful classmate. I feel like that he should get a degree as well because he sat there with me during every class. And thank you I'm sure that we all have this person too, that we can think of today who, I heard someone put it this way, that we really should write their name in invisible ink on our diploma as well. So thank you to that person who has been and who continues to be, who I hope continues to be, my biggest fan.
Thank you so much for all of the times that you kept seeing me until I was big enough to see myself. And I love you a whole lot le bit. It's like a little bit, except a whole lot. Congratulations to my fellow graduates. [Applause]
Program, with list of graduates, for the October 21, 2017 WGU Commencement in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Governors of the State of Indiana, the Honorable Eric Holcomb delivered the Commencement Address. This commencement was held at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Western Governors University Graduate Name Book which contains the names of WGU graduates that graduated from June 30, 2017 through December 31, 2017. Note: This is not an exhaustive list of WGU graduates.
Western Governors University Undergraduate Name Book which contains the names of WGU graduates that graduated from June 30, 2017 through December 31, 2017. Note: This is not an exhaustive listing of WGU graduates.