Walgreens to open 'WAG U,' a top-of-the-line learning center for Walgreens employees

DEERFIELD, Ill. — Walgreens on Friday will open the doors to "Wag U," an internal education center replete with technology-enhanced classrooms, a mock drug store and video-conferencing capabilities. The new learning center will be the base of operations for employee educational programs offered online and in regional locations nationwide. 

"Investing in your professional development is good for you and good for Walgreens," Walgreens' chief executive Greg Wasson states in the opening letter of the 2013 course catalog. "Several years in the making, Wag U is the result of thorough analysis, research and planning on the part of its board of governors, the Human Resources learning and development team and countless others across our organization who have developed and planned course offerings and learning experiences specific to Walgreen core competencies."

The Walgreens learning and development team will be led by Warren Lindley, divisional VP organizational design and effectiveness. Bruce Bryant, Walgreens SVP, will serve as dean of Walgreens University. "Over my 42-plus-year career at Walgreens, I’ve seen how learning is a real game-changer," noted Bryant in his opening remarks to students. "Wag U’s curriculum is designed to help each of us stay on top of our game—no matter where we work in our organization."

With the opening of Walgreens University, the company is doubling its annual investment in employee education and development. More than 100 courses will be available through one of the few corporate training programs to offer college credit for certain classes, including pharmacy technician training and management and retail fundamentals. U. S. companies overall increased spending on training and development 12% last year, the highest growth rate in eight years, Walgreens noted citing Bersin by Deloitte, a human resources consulting firm. That’s a reverse of recession-year spending in 2008 and 2009, when such investments dropped by 11% both years.

“To meet our company goals, we need a workforce that learns and grows every day through opportunities available when, where and how each individual needs it,” stated Kathleen Wilson-Thompson, chief human resources officer. “We aim to be the best in our industry for employee education and training, and among the best of all major American corporations."

Education providers to Walgreens University include Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, offering a customized MBA program; University of Maryland University College; Webster University; the University of Phoenix; and DeVry University, Keller Graduate School of Management. Tuition discounts of 10% to 25% will be available to many Walgreens team members, and UMUC’s 25% discount will also be available to employee spouses and dependents. Team members will also have access to non-credit management courses offered online from Harvard Business Publishing, a subsidiary of Harvard University. 

Weather permitting — snowfalls may total as many as 7-inches overnight in Chicago — Wasson and Wilson-Thompson plan to be on hand for the inaugural ribbon cutting of the center Friday morning.