It’s been a privilege to witness the immense growth of WGU Indiana. My professional higher education journey actually began with WGU Indiana in 2010, the year it was established as the first WGU state affiliate and the eighth state university in Indiana. I served for four years as general manager of WGU Indiana operations. It is my honor and privilege to serve as Chancellor as we celebrate our 10th anniversary.

WGU’s first decade has been filled with great triumphs. For example, in 2010, 128 degrees were awarded. Today, WGU Indiana serves more than 5,600 Hoosiers, has awarded degrees to more than 10,100 graduates and has alumni and students in all of Indiana’s 92 counties. The commitment of WGU Indiana staff to student success is reflected in those achievements. 

We wouldn’t be having such a celebration without Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana. Governor Daniels understood that WGU’s affordable, student-centered, competency-based model could reshape higher education, and in turn create new, life-changing opportunities for busy, working, adult Hoosiers who wanted to complete their bachelor’s degree or earn graduate degrees. He established WGU Indiana in 2010 as WGU’s first state-based model with the mission to provide Hoosiers with a quality, affordable online education. And WGU Indiana remains the state’s only nonprofit, accredited, online university. 

As a team, WGU Indiana has helped countless students overcome their own challenges in obtaining a degree — and subsequently securing and maintaining a job afterward. I’m proud to be part of an establishment that strives to ease those financial burdens that are often tied to earning a degree. More than 70% of WGU Indiana’s students come from underserved populations. Recognizing that great need, WGU Indiana recently launched its 10th Anniversary Scholarship, where 10 newly enrolled students will be awarded $10,000 scholarships throughout 2020 (which equates to nearly a “full ride” with WGU Indiana).

What We’ve Learned

We’ve learned a lot in 10 years at WGU Indiana, often leading the way for WGU’s other seven state affiliates. Online learning, still a relatively new concept, can at times have an illusion of embarking on a higher education journey alone. This is far from the community we’ve established at WGU Indiana as our students are connected to faculty through our unique mentoring model. Students benefit from personalized support that caters to what each of our students need to be successful.

Being independent in your journey doesn’t mean you have to be alone. The key benefit of pursuing a brighter future through WGU Indiana is that the journey is built with the foundations of flexibility and affordability. We want our students to succeed. Face-to-face interactions may not happen as often as in other higher education settings, but the lines of communication are always open. Our faculty mentors are committed to empowering our students to succeed. As we continue to innovate and apply what we’ve learned, one thing never changes:  our students are our priority and at the center of everything we do. 

A Call to Action as We Adapt to our Changing World 

The novel coronavirus pandemic has challenged us all, and the need for social distancing in the past several months has highlighted the necessity of reliable high-speed internet access for all. Unreliable or a lack of access to the internet at home amplifies disparities of access that exist in our communities. Whether you are a student who attends an online university like WGU Indiana, a student of any level whose ground-based school has been moved online, or you are suddenly working from home, reliable high-speed internet has been a critical need for your success. Yet, there are 666,000 people in Indiana who live without access to a capable wired internet connection. 

As we continue to celebrate our 10-year anniversary, I’d like everyone to understand that having access to ongoing, reliable internet access should not be a luxury. Our adult learners, who often work a full-time job while pursuing a degree, deserve equal access to online resources — no matter where they are in the state. It’s time for us all to speak up and let our leaders know they’re supported when it comes to finding solutions to shrink the digital divide in our state.

COVID-19 was unprecedented for the higher education community, but we’re not alone in needing to quickly pivot to adapt to our new ways of working, living and studying. As access to broadband internet is the key to propelling our students forward and helping them succeed, we all need to work together to ensure access for all. 

We’re at a unique point in history where each of us can make a difference. I urge you to seek out challenges and address them. I have no doubt that higher education will continue to evolve and that our students and alumni will lead positive change in the next decade and beyond. Here’s to 10+ more years of learning, innovating and succeeding!