Inspiration by Graduation
By Chancellor Angie Besendorfer
On June 24th I had the honor of celebrating 512 graduates of WGU Missouri. This is my favorite event of the year. As I reflect upon the weekend festivities, I am truly inspired. I’m inspired by our graduates, the support of their families, their connections with the WGU Missouri faculty, and by how our staff comes together to create such wonderful events that make everyone feel special.
It is great to interact with our WGU Missouri graduates because they are real people pushing ahead while the normal work and family activities of life continue to move. These graduates are plate spinners who can keep it all going while focusing on a big goal. During Commencement weekend, we celebrated their win … the achievement of an often long sought after degree.
This graduating class is filled with many great individuals with inspiring stories. These Missourians are heroes and overcomers. They have fought for our country and fought cancer. They have raised children and cared for parents. They have reached a milestone, joining a group of only 34% of Americans with a college degree.
They did this and did it fast. Through the WGU Missouri competency based learning model, the graduates were able to complete their degrees at their pace. Their average time to graduation for bachelor’s degrees was 2 years and 2 months. The average time to complete a graduate degree was 1 year, 8 months. Forty-three percent of the graduates represent the first generation in their family to complete a college degree. The average age of our graduating class is 39, with our youngest graduate being 21, and our oldest being 66. These adults are ready to embrace the rewards of a college degree.
It is so much fun for me personally to see the celebrations of families. I especially enjoy the look of pride in the eye of the children of our graduates. These kids have watched their parents study, worry and work hard to earn this achievement. The modeling these parents have done for their children is a priceless investment in their future as well. It is also wonderful to see how moved the parents of the graduates are. I love being able to speak to these parents. They often share with me how long they have hoped for this day for their son or daughter, usually commenting that they always knew they could do it.
A WGU Missouri commencement isn’t like any old commencement. It is not just a rite of passage highlighted by a boring ceremony. It is a celebration that everyone present can feel. It is a celebration for the whole family. In addition, our WGU Missouri faculty have the opportunity to be inspired by the graduates and celebrate the work we do to make this possible refilling our buckets for another year. The other shared feeling is that we all can see the bright futures of our graduates and their families. I look forward to celebrating these successes with them as WGU Missouri alumni.