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Class of 2015
Alumni Spotlight
Graduation Celebration
Career Checklist


Volume 5  |  Issue 3

October 2015



Congratulations to all of the Western International University (West) graduates who celebrated their commencement on September 26 at the Phoenix Convention Center. Highlights of the commencement ceremony included an inspiring speech by keynote speaker, Arizona State Senator Bob Worsley, energy entrepreneur and founder of SkyMall, and comments on the value of education by this year’s student speaker, Master of Public Administration* graduate Jesse Cuilty (also featured in our Alumni Spotlight, below).

Two faculty members were honored for their contributions to the university: Michelle Turner received the student-nominated Distinguished Faculty Award, and Elizabeth Groh received the President's Award.


Arizona State Senator Bob Worsley serves Legislative District 25 in Mesa. He is the Vice-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee and also sits on the Transportation and the Commerce, Energy & Military committees. After earning his Bachelor of Arts in Accounting at Brigham Young University, he started his career as a CPA with Price Waterhouse in Phoenix and became an audit manager before he left to start ExecuShare. He founded SkyMall in 1989. In 1999, he was recognized as Arizona Retail Entrepreneur of the Year. In 2002, he founded and now serves as CEO of NZ Legacy, a land, mineral and renewable energy development company. In 2013, he founded and now serves as CEO of Novo Power, a renewable energy provider. Senator Worsley and his wife Christi actively support numerous social, charity, youth, and religious organizations.

In his address to the Class of 2015, Senator Worsley urged the new graduates to develop three things he has found essential in his eclectic career as a self-proclaimed serial entrepreneur: Vision, strategy and grit. “Going back to school was visionary for each of you, and your achievement today may be the most important inflection point in your personal lives and for your families,” noted Worsley. “But now today, what is the vision for the balance of your life?”

The senator quoted his wife Christi’s motto, “Think forward and work backwards” as a roadmap to developing strategy. “Decide what do you need to do, starting today, to begin moving toward your vision, and this is your strategy”, said Worsley. “Execution of a plan to achieve your vision should fill each day of your life.” He noted that lifetime achievement is not a magical series of actions. All actions have consequences, and grit is critical; you have to put in the hard work to build your character. “You used grit to get here today, and now you will need grit to reach your life vision.” Worsley stated. “Make choices and daily actions to get you there.”

In closing his address, Senator Worsley challenged the graduates to “Think forward and work backward. Begin with the end in mind; formulate an exciting vision for your career; wake up each day and execute toward that vision with grit and determination. Many of you have started to do it today by achieving this degree. May God bless you with bold and positive vision, the ability to strategically plan your actions toward that vision, and the grit to get after it every single day.”

Jesse Cuilty began working in public service after a 20 year career in the trucking industry. An inductee of the Golden Key and Delta Mu Delta honor societies and a member of West’s International Speakers Toastmasters club, Cuilty told her fellow graduates about her family’s educational journey and the personal challenges she overcame in order to earn her education. A hearing loss at the age of nine made school difficult for her, both academically and socially, but she never gave up on learning.

“The value of education is not just the ability to provide economically for oneself and one’s family, as important as that is,” noted Cuilty. “Education also provides an opportunity to learn about ourselves, each other, and the world around us.” Cuilty credits a professor who mentored her with helping her learn to transform her experience of injustice into a positive force for change.

As Cuilty related, “The true value of education has been the powerful combination of academic knowledge and life experience that empowered me to make a difference and help people in ways I could not have imagined as a young person struggling to get through school.” She told her fellow grads, “Each one of us who will be walking across this stage has traveled a unique journey to arrive where we are today. We have been encouraged by guiding lights along our way. Supported by family and friends, we have overcome barriers great and small to celebrate this monumental achievement. My fellow graduates of the Class of 2015, the torch has been passed to us. Now it is our turn to pass on the value of education.”

To view the full commencement ceremony, visit https://youtu.be/XR-J_as9uis. Senator Bob Worsley’s introduction and speech can be found at time marker 10:45; Michelle Turner’s award and remarks are at 31:00; Elizabeth Groh’s award and remarks are at 36:00; and Jesse Cuilty’s introduction and speech are located at 44:00.

2015 West Commencement - President Tracy Lorenz

Civil Rights Investigator
Arizona Attorney General's Office
Phoenix, AZ

Jesse Cuilty, who earned her Master of Public Administration (MPA)* and addressed her fellow graduates of the Class of 2015 at West’s commencement ceremony, talked about the power of education to prepare students for leadership and service. She credited those mentors who have influenced her education throughout her life—from her professors to the grandmother she never met—and shared some of the challenges she overcame to reach her goal of earning a graduate degree.


Tell us about your job.
I work at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, Civil Rights Division, as an Investigator. I conduct investigations of alleged violations of federal/state Civil Rights Act, Fair Housing Act, and Americans/Arizona Disabilities Act relating to housing, employment, public accommodations, and voting. I obtain testimony and documentary evidence and analyze the totality of the evidence for patterns that show discriminatory intent, or in some cases, disparate impact affecting specific groups of people. I engage in conciliation efforts between parties, participate in community outreach and write lengthy investigative reports. I also train and mentor junior investigators and serve as acting Compliance Manager when needed.

Why did you decide to pursue your degree at West?
I actually had an application in process for a different university when I learned about West’s MPA program. In making my decision, I took into account cost, class sizes and practitioner versus theoretical programs. West won out on all three counts. As a mid-career public service professional, it was particularly important to me to learn from instructors who are professionals in their respective fields, who can provide real world examples and insight into the challenging and complex problems we face today.

What did you enjoy most about your West experience?
Knowledgeable faculty, all respected practitioners in their fields, and caring committed student advisors have made my education at West absolutely amazing and prepared me for greater leadership and service in the future. Professors who believe in not only teaching academic material, but also in connecting learning to students' lives in meaningful ways, transform and inspire us to make significant contributions. I am also a West Mentor, and enjoy offering assistance and encouragement to students who are navigating their way through school and wish to grow professionally in the public service sector. West has contributed much to my educational and personal journey, and I am proud to be counted among its alumni!

Achieving this accomplishment required great commitment. What provided you the most motivation to succeed during your education?
Desiring to grow professionally and prepare for greater leadership and service opportunities in the future is primarily what motivated me to work hard and successfully complete the MPA program. My educational journey was not without its challenges, however. Midway through the program my mother became very ill and was put on hospice. I had to devote a lot of time to my elderly parents, from packing them up and relocating them to Phoenix to assisting them with everyday needs. Between caring for my parents, working full time and tending to my own family responsibilities it seems that I spent many nights—the middle of the night—writing papers. I thought about taking a leave of absence from school, but I knew that my parents’ needs would only become greater as time went on. My motivation to successfully complete the program shifted from professional to personal; I wanted my parents to see me graduate, an accomplishment of which I knew they would be particularly proud, especially my mother who had little education yet contributed so much to mine. She cheered quietly from the sidelines and always encouraged me to do and be whatever I wanted, so long as I did my best. Even though I had never had the opportunity to meet her, I also wanted to honor my grandmother’s devotion to education that she passed on to her children, and which my dad passed on to me.

What would you tell a friend who is thinking of going back to school?
The first thing that I would tell any prospective student is that West is an outstanding school and offers an excellent education that will help them grow professionally and personally. I would tell them how enjoyable and personalized the small class sizes are, the convenience of the online learning format and of the cost effectiveness of obtaining a degree. I would also tell them about the rigorous coursework and the helpfulness of the faculty and student advisors who are committed to helping students succeed.

What is your perspective of the global aspect of a West education?
Our world has become so intertwined and complex that an educational program would be incomplete if it did not include a global perspective. West does a great job in this area, from the coursework in its programs to the contributions of the diverse students in class discussions. As a civil rights investigator who interacts on a daily basis with people from various national origins and cultures, I found West’s global curriculum and especially the Global Communication course invaluable. It really helped me to understand how we are all tied to culture and place and how that affects our thinking, doing and decision making. This understanding has helped me to tailor my communication efforts so that I can more effectively assist clients.

To view Jesse's commencement speech, visit https://youtu.be/XR-J_as9uis time location 44:00.

Jesse Cuilty


West alumni, faculty, Board of Trustees and administration members welcomed some of our newest graduates from the Class of 2015 and their guests to our Tempe campus for a celebration reception on the evening prior to commencement.

Nearly sixty people gathered to celebrate our grads' achievements and enjoyed refreshments along with camaraderie and networking. Our new grads and our professors appreciated the opportunity to meet one another face to face after working together in the online classroom environment. Pictured at right are Tiffany Noecker, Class of 2015, and her husband Dan talking with West Provost, Dr. Ben Pryor. You can view the event photo album on our West Facebook page.

West Commencement Reception 2015

Career Search Checklist

Many new graduates are eager to put to work the skills they acquired while completing their degree programs through seeking a promotion at their current job or transitioning to a new career. Whether you’re a recent or seasoned grad, you’ll need to do a little bit more homework (bet you thought you were done with that!) to get ready to launch and manage your search. Kathryn Scahill, NCC, DCC is a professional career coach and university Director of Career Coaching. Read on for her checklists covering the three main components in an effective job search strategy. Remember to make use of your West career resources—OptimalResumeTM and Career Coaching—along the way. Find them by logging in to west.edu/alumni and clicking the Career Tools link.


1. Planning the Job Search: Job Search Checklist

Create Your Personal Marketing Materials – Prepare your resume, cover letter, and a writing sample. Notify your references of your search and gather their contact information. Order your education transcripts (if needed).

Organize a Job Search System – Manage your search—keep records of employers to whom you sent resumes, contact information, research on potential employers, and any other items related to your search.

List Your Contacts – Start with your family, friends, acquaintances, fellow students, professors, and other professionals. These are all persons who you can contact to help you in your search, either with leads, openings or other information.

Identify Employers – Make a list of employers of interest and begin researching these companies.

Identify Resources for Job Postings – Identify websites, newspapers, associations, professional newsletters, and other sources of job postings.

Prepare for Interviews – Even before you get an interview, conducting mock interviews with a career coach or with your friends or a mentor will help polish your presentation. It’s essential to practice!

2. Conducting the Job Search: The Multi-faceted Approach

Conduct Informational Interviews – Gather information from your contacts, fellow West alums, and other persons in your field of interest.

Attend Job/Career Fairs and Conferences – At some job fairs, interviews are conducted on site. You can also make new contacts and identify new employers of interest.

Apply to Job Postings – Use both online resources and print resources, and customize your resume and cover letter when you apply to each position of interest.

Network: Build and Maintain Your Contacts – Attend events and join LinkedIn®, a professional networking site to expand, manage, and organize your network. On West’s LinkedIn groups, you can connect with alumni, students, and even some of our faculty members. Keep in touch with your network and let them know how your search is progressing.

Volunteer - Build Your Skills – Consider volunteering in an industry of interest, or volunteer to staff or plan an event for your community or current employer. This is a great way to network so you can give something back, instead of feeling like you are only taking from your network’s wealth of information/assistance.

3. Managing Your Job Search

Follow-up with Employers and Leads – The job search is an on-going process. If you do not hear from an employer after 2 weeks of submitting your materials, call or email to find out about the status of your application. If your contacts have given you leads, investigate those leads and set up appointments for informational interviews.

Write Thank-you Notes – After each interview, meeting, or lead received, be sure to send an email reiterating your interest in the position and thanking the interviewers.

Continue Researching Employers – As you research employers and refine your search, remember to update your resume, cover letter, references and writing sample(s) as necessary.

We hope these checklists will prove helpful as you work on moving toward the next step in your career!

Career Checklist
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How about helping a friend, coworker, or family member to reach his or her educational goal? Do you remember how you felt when you reached one of the most satisfying accomplishments in your life? Think back to your first class at West—the nerves, the commitment, and the excitement of the journey ahead. Now think back to your pride on the day you walked across the stage at commencement, or when you opened your mail and received your West diploma. What a joy it would be to inspire and support someone else starting on this new journey!

Here at West, our alumni are a vital part of who we are and who we will evolve to become. You make the West Alumni Connection a true community, and we value your recommendations. Introduce someone you know—who, like you, desires to reach their academic and career goals—through the West alumni referral program. Share the joy today!

Link up with the West alumni community on LinkedIn®, and you'll have an instant direct connection with other like-minded professionals. You'll be able to join or start a discussion, share your profile, track down valuable resources, find or post job leads, and more. Join us on LinkedIn now.

The weather is cooler, but the deals are red hot! Fall is full of savings for West alumni. Go to our University Marketplace website and check out the discounts on practically everything you use! To see how you can get in on the savings, login to west.edu/alumni and click on University Marketplace.

As you move, get married or make other changes in your life, remember to let us know. Simply update your West Alumni Connection profile whenever there are any changes in your contact information.

If you just graduated, welcome! Use your preferred email and the password "welcome1" to login and start taking advantage of all that the West Alumni Connection has to offer. Be sure to change your temporary password and update the information in your profile. If you have any questions, please email for assistance.

Hue Haslim
Alumni/Career Resources &
Senior Director, University Engagement

602-429-1078 or hue.haslim@west.edu

Alumni Reenrollment
866-948-4636 or inquiries@west.edu




*For more information about this program, including on-time completion rates, the median debt incurred by students who completed the program and other important information, please visit: http://www.west.edu/online-degree-programs/public-administration-mpa

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