In six years, WGU Indiana has changed the face of higher education in Indiana, introducing competency-based education that fits the needs of today’s new majority of non-traditional students. Since the non-profit university launched in Indiana in 2010, more than 3,900 graduates have obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees, helping to address the state’s workforce needs in business, IT, health care and education.
This year, more than 1,200 students have graduated and 349 walked in WGU Indiana’s largest commencement ceremony to-date held at 10:30 a.m. at the Indiana Convention Center, 100 S. Capitol Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46225.
Keynote speaker Dennis Murphy, president and CEO of Indiana University Health joined Chancellor Allison Barber in honoring the 349 new alumni participating in the ceremony.
Since its founding in 2010, WGU Indiana has made convenient and affordable higher education available to working Hoosiers. Demand for its competency-based programs in business, healthcare, education and information technology can be seen in the year-over-year growth in WGU’s statewide impact.
“WGU Indiana graduates come from all across our state with diverse experiences, but the one thing they have all demonstrated is a self-inspired drive to complete their college degree and improve their lives,” said Chancellor Allison Barber. “Each year our graduating class has grown larger, and each year I’ve had the pleasure of greeting hundreds more Hoosier families that have been positively impacted by WGU.”
The keynote address was delivered by Dennis Murphy, the president and chief executive officer of IU Health. His address focused on the difference a college education can make in the lives of WGU Indiana graduates. Himself a first-generation college graduate, Murphy spoke directly to the life-changing effect of a college degree.
“A college degree has become an increasingly important prerequisite for achieving your professional goals and ambitions. As technology continues to advance and the world becomes ever smaller, your education will be critical to making you qualified for the many well-paying, middle and high skilled jobs that our economy is producing.”
The corporate partnership between IU Health and WGU Indiana has enabled 522 employees to attend WGU Indiana over the last six years. Additionally, IU Health has graduated 21 double-graduates (those who have obtained both bachelor’s and master’s degrees).
Sharing the stage with Chancellor Barber and Dennis Murphy were four graduates selected to address their class. Among those speakers were:
- Lindsay de las Alas (Indianapolis) – Lindsay tried traditional college, but it didn’t fit her needs. As a single mom of two young children, she worked full time at a low-paying job and had no college degree. Lindsay decided to give WGU Indiana a try, knowing that with a college degree, she had a chance to fulfill her dream for a better life for her and her children. She graduates today with a degree in business management, and recently started her own business: The Indie Doula.
- Shelby Dirrim (Bremen) – After two years of traditional college and two degree changes, Shelby realized that traditional college was simply not for her. She found WGU Indiana and was inspired to follow her dreams of becoming a strong businesswoman. With the support of her family, her friends and WGU Indiana, she gained the confidence to become an independent musician and market herself on Music Row in Nashville. Shelby is self-employed as a musician, and in her spare time she helps teach special needs children at Meadows Edge Elementary in Mishawaka, Indiana through music.
- Dwight Schonfeld (Salem) – Dwight started and stopped college at traditional universities numerous times. As veteran who has seen immense challenge in his personal life, he conditioned himself to accomplish his degree one class, one paper, and one test at a time. Dwight was finally able to achieve his college degree through WGU Indiana and has put his bachelor’s degree in IT management to use as an IT team leader at a Fortune 500 company in Indiana.
- Nina Patterson (Whiteland) – Nina dreamed of becoming a nurse as early as the second grade. She earned her BSN in nursing and began her career in health care, but soon she found a new focus that drove her even further. In 2014 she went back to school through WGU Indiana to earn her MBA in health care management. Over the past three years, Nina worked three jobs while raising three children, but after a long journey she is graduating. Nina currently works at Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin, Indiana.
Members of the Class of 2016 earned 808 bachelor’s degrees and 427 graduate degrees, representing a 34% growth over last year’s record-breaking class. WGU Indiana also recognized 21 graduates who earned both their bachelor’s and master’s degree in the last 12 months.
The Class of 2016 by the numbers:
- Total graduates: 1,249
- Undergraduate degrees: 817
- Graduate degrees: 432
- Average age of graduates: 41
- Average degree completion time (undergraduates): 29 months
- Percentage of first-generation college students: 47%
About WGU Indiana
WGU Indiana is the state’s nonprofit, online university. Using a competency-based model that allows students to accelerate at their own pace and curriculum developed with input from leading employers, WGU Indiana offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Business, Education, Information Technology and Healthcare Professions, including Nursing. WGU Indiana has awarded 3,700 degrees and has more than 4,700 students currently enrolled. In 2012, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education recognized WGU Indiana and its Reaching Higher, Achieving More agenda for its excellence in academic quality. The university was also recognized as one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies of 2013. In 2014, WGU’s secondary teacher preparation program ranked first among 2,400 schools for quality by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ). According to a study conducted by Gallup in 2016, WGU graduates are more likely than those from other U.S. universities to have the jobs they want, feel engaged at work, and have an emotional attachment to their alma maters.