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Without a guide, students can feel lost and confused on the winding pathway to their degree. The lack of direction can lead students to burn out, and in the worst cases, drop out of school.

No matter how eager the student may be to start their program, when reality sets in, they find themselves weighed down by other obligations outside of school. It’s a feeling that one student, Tom, became all-too familiar with during his first attempt to pursue a degree at a traditional college.

“When you’re 18 and you’re enrolling in your first college, you’re like, ‘I’m gonna be out. I’m gonna have a career,’” Tom said. “And then things come up and you get married and you have kids and you take time off. And by the time you’re 35 years old, you don’t think it’s going to happen.”

Life got in the way of Tom pursuing a career in teaching. When he was able to return to college, this time at WGU, he was worried that history may repeat itself. After all, college is a big undertaking to navigate alone, no matter how old you are.

But this time, Tom was not alone. Like every student at WGU, Tom was assigned a mentor. WGU mentors are faculty members who help students navigate the currents of college curriculum.

WGU employs over 1,600 mentors to work one-on-one with our students.

“I believe it was my first week when I spoke to my mentor, Cody,” Tom said. “Over the past four years, she has really kept me accountable. I would’ve struggled a lot more if I didn’t have a program mentor.”

Climbing the Mountain

Cody enjoys guiding her students through getting their degrees. She likens it to climbing Mt. Everest.

“I have been up and down that mountain hundreds of times. I know the path. I guide them to the top of the mountain,” Cody said. But no mountaineer could climb Everest alone, just as no student can get their degree alone. 

“If you were gonna go climb Mount Everest, you wouldn’t just charge up the mountain by yourself,” Cody said. “They gather their team: they’ve got course instructors, they’ve got their student success people, they’ve got field experience. These are all the people that go up the mountain. They help carry the luggage, they help with the maps, they have the food.”

Cody helps students coordinate with their team at WGU. Mentors don’t stop at school work, though–they support students through personal challenges too.

“It’s somebody that you can talk to, somebody that you can vent frustrations to,” Tom said. “Not only does she help with the ins and outs of what class you have to take, what projects are coming up, what paper you have to write, but also she’s there to encourage and to help in other ways.”

Cody knows that the students she guides have life experience outside of college; WGU students aren’t traditional college students, after all.

“These are working adults who have lives,” Cody said. “I’ve had students go through divorce. I’ve had students who’ve lost their job and I’m with them through all of those hard moments. They are living life and they’re still getting their degree. It’s not going to be picture-perfect or cookie-cutter. They’re going to accomplish it, but I need to work within their individual situation.”

Reaching the Summit

With Cody’s guidance, Tom followed the pathway to the top of his mountain, ending his climb with teaching hours in a kindergarten classroom. He sent Cody a photo of him and his colleagues to celebrate.

“Tom is this really big guy and with a bunch of these little kindergarteners wearing the Care Bear pajamas in the classroom,” laughed Cody. “‘This is why I do this,’ I thought, ‘this right here.’”

Tom believes Cody and the supportive faculty at WGU were instrumental in his climb to complete his teaching degree. 

“WGU is the only reason that I was able to graduate college,” Tom said. “It truly is. I couldn’t do a traditional school and the only way that I could graduate WGU was through working with my mentor, Cody.”