WGU Washington’s First Commencement
It was a glorious day as WGU Washington celebrated its first commencement on April 21, 2012. WGU Washington, which was established by the state legislature on April 22, 2011, had 236 graduates from 38 of the state’s 39 counties. Fifty-two of those graduates were on hand to walk in the commencement ceremonies at Bell Harbor International Conference Center in Seattle.
Graduates spoke of finally finishing the degree they had always wanted to improve their financial future, qualify for promotions, and gain crucial expertise in their profession. Many of our graduates also finished their degrees because they wanted to serve as role models for their children. Very touching moments occurred when a son "high-fived" his dad after he received his degree, and later when a child broke the silence with a "Yay, Mom!"
Moving speeches—see the videos below—were given by graduates, an inspiring keynote address from Norman Rice, President and CEO of the Seattle Foundation and a former mayor of Seattle, and a congratulatory message from WGU Washington Chancellor Jean Floten, who said WGU Washington enabled students to "earn their degrees while balancing work, marriage, kids, dogs and mortgages."
The Graduating Class at a Glance:
- 127 undergraduate degrees; 109 graduate degrees
- 73 graduated in business; 36 in healthcare professions; 17 in information technology; 110 in teacher education
- Average time to graduation: two years, three months
- Average age: 39 (the youngest was 21, and the oldest was 61)
- Almost two-thirds female
- 35% were the first members of their families to receive a college education
"We did it!" student speaker Melissa Ruth, a mother of three who got a job at Lockheed Martin almost immediately after completing her MBA in IT Management, said. "We succeeded. We stuck to our goals."
Stacey Gregory of Longview, also a speaker, received her bachelor of science in nursing. She said WGU Washington's flexibility and her mentor, who charted her progress from the beginning of the program to the end, helped her finish her degree in the face of intense challenges and emotional obstacles, including the loss of her father.
"I can tell you that WGU was the right choice for me," she said, adding that her mentor offered immense support in difficult times. "I felt like I had a whole team of cheerleaders rooting for me."
Friends and fellow Franciscan Health System nurses Peggy Coltrin, 52, of Federal Way, and Linda Dyson, 58, of Tacoma, received Master of Science in Nursing degrees. Both said their education put "the why" behind what they did daily and provided a greater depth of knowledge.
After commencement, the graduates and their families boarded a ship and sailed around Puget Sound, the perfect end to a beautiful and heartwarming day. Congratulations WGU Washington Class of 2012!