Event to Celebrate Graduates and Employer Partnerships. Keynote by artist and author Erik Wahl.

Western Governors University (WGU) is set to hit a new milestone with the largest commencement event in the university’s history at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, on Oct. 27. Over 2,700 graduates will be recognized, while more than 13,000 guests are expected to attend.

“Commencement is the stage where we celebrate our graduates’ accomplishments and witness their dreams transforming into reality,” said Rick Benbow, WGU regional vice president. “This celebration reflects the hard work and dedication of our graduates and is a shining testament to the limitless potential that WGU has unlocked within every one of them.”

WGU is an online, nonprofit university created to expand access to in-demand bachelor’s and master’s degrees for, among others, working adults and traditionally underserved student populations. Of the graduates to be celebrated during the commencement event in Las Vegas, 78 percent are considered underserved, including first-generation college students and students of color. Their average age is 38; many worked full-time and raised families while earning their degrees.

Internationally recognized artist, TED speaker, and bestselling author Erik Wahl will deliver the commencement keynote address. During his address, Wahl will discuss personal creativity while he paints stylized portraits of iconic figures. His message will focus on the importance of embracing innovation and creativity in a rapidly changing world.

The ceremonies will honor a diverse group of graduates, with special recognition given to Kevon Pascoe, the first person to earn a degree through the innovative partnership between WGU and the KFC Foundation. Of the new WGU enrollees, 40% are part of collaborative employer programs. In addition to earning an MBA from WGU, Pascoe worked night shifts at KFC while also serving as an assistant logistics officer in the United States Marine Corps.

“My experience at WGU was nothing short of phenomenal. The degree of support I received from my mentor and instructors was unmatched,” Pascoe said. “These high-caliber professionals constantly prioritized my needs and allowed me to capitalize on the university’s self-paced approach, directly impacting my success. In addition to an already unique experience, I was the first graduate of the 100% tuition covered partnership between the KFC Foundation and WGU, making it magical. I’m forever thankful to WGU and the KFC Foundation for bringing to fruition my lifelong dream in the manner it was delivered.”

Additionally, five graduates will speak during the commencement festivities:

  • Leah Chansa; Roseville, CA; M.S. Nursing – Leadership & Management
  • Brady McNulty; Roseburg, OR; B.S. Cybersecurity & Information Assurance
  • Heather Anderson; Herriman, UT; B.S. Business – HR Management
  • Sabrina Robinson; Albuquerque, NM; M.S. Nursing Education
  • Lisa Petersen; Bountiful, UT; M.S. Educational Leadership

The festivities will span two days, with a commencement ceremony for all graduates scheduled for 4 p.m. PST Oct. 27. Two convocation ceremonies are set Oct. 28: 9:30 a.m. PST for graduates from the College of Business and College of IT and 1:30 p.m. PST for the Leavitt School of Health and School of Education.

During the ceremonies, graduates will use the hashtag #WGUgrad to share on social media how they’re celebrating.

About WGU
Established in 1997 by 19 U.S. governors with a mission to expand access to high-quality, affordable higher education, online, nonprofit WGU now serves more than 158,000 students nationwide and has more than 343,500 graduates in all 50 states. Driving innovation as the nation’s leading competency-based university, WGU has been recognized by the White House, state leaders, employers, and students as a model that works in postsecondary education. In just 26 years, the university has become a leading influence in changing the lives of individuals and families and preparing the workforce needed in today’s rapidly evolving economy. WGU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, and featured on NPR, NBC Nightly News, CNN, and The New York Times. Learn more at wgu.edu