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New Member Spotlight: Western Governors University

Institutional Profile

Western Governors University

United States of America


In 1997, the member governors of the Western Governors Association founded Western Governors University (WGU) with five central concepts:

  • Responsiveness to employment and societal needs
  • Focus on competency-based education
  • Expanding access
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Development of a technology infrastructure

WGU remains true to these roots with a principal mission to “expand access to post-secondary educational opportunities by providing a means for individuals to learn independent of time or place and to earn competency-based degrees and other credentials that are credible to both academic institutions and employers.”

Utilizing competency-based higher education (“CBE”), WGU, as the pioneer in this modality, can serve learners in ways that traditional institutions cannot. CBE is an approach to education that separates verifiable knowledge attainment (learning outcomes) from the completion of Carnegie units (so-called “seat- time”). Successful program completion depends on a variety of assessments through which students demonstrate their competence in a specified set of knowledge, skill, attitude, and performance indicators at a pace that is appropriate for each individual. 

Deans: Sean Atkins, Executive Dean, College of Business; Mitsu Frazier, Interim Academic Dean, College of Business; Ted Cross, Associate Dean, Graduate Programs, College of Business

GBSN Ambassador: Michelle Love, Academic Program Chair, College of Business

Network Engagement

Western Governors University’s College of Business will support the GBSN mission by engaging with the GBSN community around topics such as competency-based education, skills-based curriculum and assessments, and distance learning to expand access and improve the lives of individuals and families. WGU’s approach is driven by the following five (5) principles:

  1. Obsessive, Unified Approach to Success – College departments work in solidarity through cross-disciplinary teams to ensure educational quality and student support in every course and every program.
  2. Learning – the unshakable belief in the capacity of every student to master complex competencies and advance their fluency in the language of business, markets, entrepreneurship, and leadership.
  3. Market-driven programs – the pursuit of relevancy and quality in all the academic offerings to ensure that students not only satisfy current market requirements, but also that they drive future developments in their area of interest.
  4. Flexibility and Individualization – creating programs that respond to each learner’s needs in mapping out knowledge and skill attainment at the individual’s appropriate pace with timely support.
  5. Improvement and Innovation – relentlessly pursuing continuous improvement to make data-driven decisions that will increase credential attainment by students and constantly seeking opportunities for improvement and innovations to increase positive outcomes, access, and affordability, with a dedicated focus on students from under-served populations.

Institutional contributions to the network platform in the first year

Western Governors University participated in the December 2020 annual member’s meeting and we look forward to continuing to engage with the community through the monthly Collab meetings, annual conference, and Cross-Border webinar series. We welcome collaborative projects and partnerships with other member institutions.

Institutional engagement with fellow GBSN member institutions

WGU’s College of Business will look to collaborate with partners and other members of the network in mutually beneficial ways and in ways that further the mission of the GBSN. We would welcome discussion of new opportunities with fellow network members. We hope to learn from GBSN members about best practices in creating meaningful programmatic development and gain fluency in the common global language of the Sustainable Development Goals. To reciprocate, WGU hopes to provide opportunities to discuss deployment of relevant programs through our modality at scale with affordability and increased access as drivers. Together the member institutions can develop tools and strategies to expand the collective mission to address pressing social and economic issues through business education.

“Western Governor’s University’s mission is to positively impact lives by creating pathways to opportunity. GBSN membership will connect the mission of WGU to a global network of businesses and schools. Through collaborative efforts we will be able to leverage best practices in online and competency-based education to reach a greater audience.” -Dr. Ted Cross, Associate Dean, Graduate Programs  

The biggest challenge facing management in your community and how the institution addresses this challenge

Western Governors University seeks to reduce barriers to high quality, industry-aligned, affordable education across the United States. Employers need qualified candidates with verifiable, skills-driven credentials, and learners need customizable pathways to attain in-demand credentials independent of time and place. Through a centrally managed curriculum with competencies tagged to labor market insights, delivered online where learners complete credentials at a pace aligned with their learning, we provide learners with opportunity they may not have access to otherwise. The majority of our students are non-traditional and/or come from under-served populations.

We are working to develop innovative products that address access and equitable attainment, creating pathways between talent and opportunity.

Program Highlight: Western Governors University MBA program

The MBA program at Western Governors University is an affordable, high quality program that allows students from a variety of backgrounds to upskill and prepare for leadership and management roles in a variety of industries. A fully online competency-based program, students move through the curriculum at a customized pace based on their background and learning needs as they demonstrate competence. More than 80% of students complete the program within 24 months, and with low flat rate tuition per 6-month term, the more quickly students move through the program, the more affordable it becomes.

Not only is the program affordable and accessible, but each competency is tagged to rich skills descriptors (RSD) aligned with labor market data. Working with skills drawn from over 400,000 job postings in the U.S., we documented the in-demand skills students attain as part of each competency. As a university, we are in the process of building out a more robust achievement architecture where through competencies built from clusters of in-demand skills, students earn badges and other credentials en-route to degrees. In partnership with various other educational institutions and employers via the Open Skills Network, we are working to better align talent with opportunity to benefit both learners and employers.

GBSN promotes the expertise and interests of our members by providing a platform to communicate news and open opportunities to global audiences and share how they are innovating in management education to the benefit of their colleagues around the world. The New Member Spotlight series serves as a way for new member schools to introduce themselves to the network.