Women in Leadership: An Example to Driven, Self-Starting Professionals

Dana Ralph When Dana Ralph decided run for Kent City Council in 2011, she had to provide information for the voter’s guide. She wrote down that she owned her own business, served as chair of the city’s Land Use and Planning Board, and was named president of the Kent Arts Commission. She also mentioned she was a longtime member of the PTA.

Dana knew she could help lead her hometown and would make a great councilwoman. The voters agreed and elected her to the City Council that year —– where Dana has served ever since.

Still, as time passed and despite her success, Dana thought back to the voter’s guide. She was still bothered she had to leave one answer blank on that questionnaire: postsecondary education. She hadn’t graduated from college. “About halfway through my (first) term, I spent a lot of time wishing I had a degree,” said Dana. “Conversations would come up about where people went to college. I would change the subject.”

Dana describes herself as “a bit of a problem-solver”, so — even with a career, family, and position in public office — she decided to pursue a degree.

“I knew I wanted to go back to school,” she said, “but it would take a very flexible, unique program to work with my crazy schedule.”

After researching her options, Dana realized WGU Washington would be an excellent fit. The university’s model is tailor-made for busy, working adults. It’s online and competency-based; that means, with faculty guidance, students can study and learn when it’s convenient for them — and move through the course content at their own pace. With her family’s support and encouragement, she enrolled.

“I started work on my bachelor’s degree with 10 transfer credits,” said Dana. “My amazing mentor, Kalin Briggs, and I mapped out a (study) plan together. I worked hard. I studied in the middle of the night and on weekends — and I graduated quickly!”

As an elected official, Dana provides an example to driven, self-starting professionals. And it’s because of students and alumni like her that WGU Washington has launched the WGU Women in Leadership Scholarship. The scholarship — worth up to $2,000 ($500 per term up to four terms) — is intended for women ready to make a greater impact in the workplace and their communities.

That’s what motivated Dana. In fact, after earning her bachelor’s, she reenrolled to WGU Washington and graduated with a master’s in Management and Leadership in 2015.

“With my education, I’m able to participate more intelligently in my role as a city councilmember,” said Dana. “I can make more informed and intelligent choices as a business owner and elected official — as well as a working mom and community volunteer.”

Next up for Dana Ralph: she’ll be on the ballot when Kent elects a new mayor in 2017. And when she provides information for the voter’s guide ahead of that election, she’ll be able to proudly declare she’s a graduate of WGU Washington.

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