STUDENT: Beth Nixon
Beth Nixon has her hands full: four kids aged two through eight, full-time studies, a disabled husband, aging parents, and strong involvement in volunteer work. How does the accounting student manage it all?
In this week’s profile, Beth speaks realistically about her interests, long-term personal goals, and family issues?and how she juggles all these competing responsibilities. Regardless of what’s on her to-do list, she feels a balanced lifestyle is essential to sanity!
Beth, who earned her Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) years earlier, became interested in upgrading to an accounting designation after her long commute to work became tiresome. ?I tried to find a way to get a job closer to home, but they all seemed to be a difficult fit,? she says. ?Either I didn’t get paid enough . . . or I had to take on an hour commute.?
?AU answered my prayers?literally,? Beth says. She was already familiar with Athabasca and distance education, having taken several AU courses for her BBA degree. She enroled in AU’s University Certificate in Accounting program, and completed it this past September. Now She’s studying for a University Certificate in Advanced Accounting, and eventually plans to transfer her AU courses into a provincial accounting designation.
For Beth, having a sense of balance and perspective is key to keeping it all together. ?All my decisions are about my kids and how I can still meet my goals and my goals for the whole family,? she says. That attitude creates a more balanced, focused life than she experienced while working full-time with a long commute.
?Part of my decision to come to AU full-time was for my health . . . my other life was so crazy it was killing me,? she says. ?I had no time for myself, little time with my kids.? She adds, ?Just working before was creating a life of fast food dinners, running the roads, and not a lot of fun.? Although she’ll have student loans to pay in the future, she feels It’s worth it. ?Not having time with my kids while they are young would be worse,? she says.
Beth is happy with distance education and the flexibility it gives her. ?For me, going to AU is all about the lifestyle and flexibility I can have while taking care of my kids, parents who are older and live nearby, and while dealing with a husband, who while is great, is limited by disability,? she says.
The possibility of studying anywhere means She’s been able to integrate her class work into whatever new challenges her life brings. For example, this past year her father had serious health problems. ?I was the gal at the hospital with the stats or auditing textbook!? she says. And because she lives in a rural area?halfway between Moncton and Saint John, New Brunswick’she doesn’t need to worry about commuting. ?Not having to travel has been great!? she says.
Cutting out the commute has also allowed her to become involved in volunteer work. Her association with the Canadian Injured Workers? Society, an advocacy organization, hits close to home: her husband broke his neck in a work-related incident 11 years ago. ?We are lucky he can walk,? Beth says. ?But he suffers from chronic pain, muscle spasms, and memory problems . . . so on a bad day he can’t look after the kids.?
Based on their difficulties trying to obtain compensation for the accident, Beth is anxious to help change laws to protect workers and their families. ?One of the tragedies of getting injured at work is that if you have a long-term injury, Worker’s Compensation Boards generally do not pay you,? Beth says. ?Instead of business covering the costs, the general public does through Medicare, CPP, etc.? She’s heard countless horror stories from workers unable to collect long-term compensation, even when they’ve been permanently disabled. ?[It’s] horrible,? she says. ?[It] tears apart families . . . I tell [my husband] he’s lucky to have me!?
Worker advocacy isn’t Beth’s only volunteer interest. She also works with the Fundy Renewable Energy Park Action Committee, a local initiative trying to bring in a ?green? industrial park?one that uses only renewable energy sources. ?[It] is good news stuff!? says Beth, who chairs the committee.
Currently, Beth is enroled in five courses. Once She’s finished, she’ll take four province-specific courses with the CGA?also offered online?and will return to AU to finish the final course needed for the Advanced Accounting Certificate. At that point, she’ll choose a specific accounting designation and continue with the process.
The accounting designation process is more complicated than one would expect. The designation is more of a professional certification than a college accounting course, and sometimes Beth is frustrated by others? lack of understanding. ?I tell people there’s almost as much training to become an accountant in Canada as it takes to be a doctor!? she says.
Even after all coursework is completed, there are still additional requirements: a certifying exam, and two years of experience, which has to meet certain standards. ?Accounting designations need more respect!? Beth laughs.
Beth’s long-term goals are in place, but how does she juggle school and family? It’s not easy. Sometimes, she admits, her studies get put on the back burner.
?My dad had two very serious health crises since I started . . . it was very difficult to focus on my studies,? Beth says. ?I have had to take two course extensions over . . . the last 12 months.? But She’s staying positive; life may get in the way of studies temporarily, but in the long-term She’s confident things will work out. ?I just have to do my best,? she says. ?And I am making progress.?
One strategy that helps is power-studying: making the most of short time periods available. ?I take the text with me,? she says. ?If I am heading for the grocery store . . . I read the text for 15 minutes before going into the store.? When her children go to Cubs or Brownies, ?I drop them off and go park in a parking lot and study for an hour,? she says. It works well for her: ?[In] those short studies I can pick up as much as I do in a whole afternoon sometimes.?
Beth feels that the concept of small steps is important for all students, and That’s her strongest piece of advice. Most AU students come to the classroom with many different responsibilities that the typical 18-year-old student doesn’t have to deal with. ?Cut yourself some slack,? Beth says. ?Doing one step at a time is better than not doing any!?
She compares it to beginning an exercise program. ?One 30-minute walk isn’t going to make a big difference,? she notes, ?but if you keep doing it, you have success!?