Scholarship helps women ready to make a greater impact in the workplace and their communities.
When Dana Ralph decided run for Kent City Council in 2011, she had to provide information for the voter’s guide. She wrote down that she owned her own business, served as chair of the city’s Land Use and Planning Board, and was named president of the Kent Arts Commission. She also mentioned she was a longtime member of the PTA.
Dana knew she could help lead her hometown and would make a great councilwoman. The voters agreed and elected her to the City Council that year — where Dana has served ever since.
Still, as time passed and despite her success, Dana thought back to the voter’s guide. She was still bothered she had to leave one answer blank on that questionnaire: postsecondary education. She hadn’t graduated from college.
“About halfway through my (first) term, I spent a lot of time wishing I had a degree,” says Dana. “Conversations would come up about where people went to college. I would change the subject.”
Dana describes herself as “a bit of a problem-solver”, so — even with a career, family, and position in public office — she decided to pursue a degree. “I knew I wanted to go back to school,” she says, “but it would take a very flexible, unique program to work with my crazy schedule.”
After researching her options, Dana realized WGU Washington would be an excellent fit. The university’s model is tailor-made for busy, working adults. It’s online and competency-based; that means, with faculty guidance, students can study and learn when it’s convenient for them — and move through the course content at their own pace. With her family’s support and encouragement, Dana enrolled.
“I started work on my bachelor’s degree with 10 transfer credits,” says Dana. “My amazing mentor, Kalin Briggs, and I mapped out a (study) plan together. I worked hard. I studied in the middle of the night and on weekends — and I graduated quickly!”
As an elected official, Dana provides an example to driven, self-starting professionals. And it’s because of students and alumni like her that WGU Washington has launched the WGU Women in Leadership Scholarship. The scholarship – worth up to $2,000 ($500 per term up to four terms) – is intended for women ready to make a greater impact in the workplace and their communities.
That’s what motivated Dana. In fact, after earning her bachelor’s, she re-enrolled to WGU Washington and graduated with a master’s in Management and Leadership in 2015.
“With my education, I’m able to participate more intelligently in my role as a city councilmember,” says Dana. “I can make more-informed and intelligent choices as a business owner and elected official — as well as a working mom and community volunteer.”
Dana embodies the importance of lifelong learning, especially to this region. For the Puget Sound area to remain competitive in a global economy, more and more working adults need college educations. In fact, according to the Washington Business Roundtable, a more skilled and educated workforce could create 160,000 new jobs, reduce unemployment by two percentage points, and generate nearly $800 million in new tax revenue across the state.
Dana and many other elected leaders recognize WGU Washington as part of the solution to get people the jobs and salaries they want – and keep the region economically strong.
“Recently, I was talking with a group of electeds about the growing demand in our region for a skilled workforce. While the conversation generally centers around students coming out of college, I was happy to point out that there is an untapped market in adults that may have chosen a nontraditional path.
“WGU Washington provides a wonderful opportunity for adults to gain new skills while applying their real world experience. Employers are looking for employees that can hit the ground running and that perfectly describes the university’s graduates.”
And that perfectly describes Dana and how she’s leveraged her education to open several new doors of opportunity for herself.
Next up for Dana Ralph: She’ll be on the ballot when Kent elects a new mayor later this year. And when she provides information for the voter’s guide ahead of that election, she’ll be able to proudly declare she’s a graduate of WGU Washington.
To learn more about WGU’s Women in Leadership Scholarship and how to apply, visit washington.wgu.edu/lead2016