Natasha Pittman

What's in a name? Why are we called Western Governors University? Our name tells the story of our founding—a story that dates back to 1997, when a group of United States governors came up with an innovative answer to a question of growing concern: How can we ensure more of our residents have greater access to a college education that fits their schedule? That meeting of the Western Governors' Association marked the beginnings of a new national university.

From the beginning, we were designed to be different. The United States governors who founded WGU knew that the college student of the 21st century would be different from students in the past. For millions of working adults, the dream of pursuing a college education could only become a reality once the boundaries of time and place could be removed. Overcoming this challenge was at the heart of the WGU idea.

It was the mid-1990s, and a new technology was quickly emerging: the internet. As more and more Americans were able to get online, the possibility of an "anywhere, anytime" education became a reality. And more than simply delivering traditional, lecture-based learning via modem and monitor, our founders recognized that technology could be used to fundamentally change the way college students learn. Harnessing the power of the internet and our innovative new learning model—competency-based education—WGU revolutionized the way students learn, master concepts, and progress to a degree.

As a nonprofit, online university founded by governors, WGU is different. But even beyond the unique story of our founding and the foresight of our founders, WGU is different for a more fundamental reason: We do education differently.

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