Zak Wallace is an AU student from Fort Frances, Ontario, in the Bachelor of Management Program. Originally from Duluth, Minnesota, Zak balances his studies with family life (3 kids, plus one on the way) and managing 17 apartments. He works full-time as an Outcomes Support Facilitator, helping adults with developmental disabilities.
Zak was recently interviewed by The Voice Magazine about school, work, and life in general.
Describe the path that led you to AU. What was it that made you realize you wanted to go back to school, and what pushed you into the program you’ve signed up for?
I had never taken any education after high school. Although I knew it would be a smart thing to do, I never made that jump. My wife and I have always planned to own and operate our own business and I thought this was the time to get the knowledge and understanding I would need. As I looked around at different online schools here in Canada (since our little town only has so much to offer) the one that kept coming up in my research both online and word of mouth was AU. As I looked through their programs I found what would suit me best. It was history from there. I registered and enrolled within the same month. Because I always enjoyed taking on the task of team leader through school and work, being a manager or running my own business intrigued me. I will learn what I need to know through this program to achieve that.
What do you do like to do when you’re not studying?
Besides spending time with the family, odd jobs around the house, and working, I like to play video games on my computer or IOS devices. I spend lots of time playing Counter Strike Global Offensive or World of Tanks Blitz. I also enjoy making models?anything from tanks and trains to cars and planes.
What are your plans for this education once you finish? How does it fit in with where you want to go?
With the idea of starting a business with my wife (who is studying to be an aromatherapist and herbalist,) knowing how to manage and run a business will be crucial. I figure this degree can help me through life no matter what job I’m in.
Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
My father had the most influence on my decision to get an education. He is a professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth in biochemistry and toxicology. Knowing how an education can help in the long run and how it has served him and his students?this was huge for him. Although he planted the idea in my mind he did not push me to it. He let me make the decision on my own and welcomed it with open arms.
What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
If I could pick one famous person to have lunch with it would definitely be Steve Jobs. Our family grew up with Macintosh computers and as soon as iPods, iPhones, and iPads came out we were there to pick it up. I would love to pick his brain about the incredible ideas he and his team had throughout the years. To be able to ask him what his idea for the future of Apple would be and how they planned to achieve it would be amazing. I would also like to talk to him about the disease that affected him so much and how he was not only able to work through it but keep positive and motivated. This man has had such an enormous impact on so many people’s lives in a positive way and I would need to be able to say thank you for that.
Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like? Dislike?
So far I enjoy the online learning experience. I like being able to do what I want when I want with the time I have to do it. If it is a slow day I’m able to do more than is required, then on days I’m super busy I’m able to slack a bit and catch up later. I have found some of my courses to be a bit confusing. You start by reading the study guide, it tells you to go and read pages 39-72 in the textbook. So you then look back to the study guide which tells you to complete exercises 1.7 and 1.8, which are not in the textbook but on the website. I find myself trying to figure out what I am supposed to do for the course rather than focusing on the material itself. Over all, though, I would not be able to take a program like this had it not been online.
When was the point where you wavered the most about whether it was worth it to continue your schooling, and what made you decide to keep going?
I have found that at some of my busiest times when I am so caught up in work and family life and rushing to get caught up with school before the end date that I wonder if this was the right decision. Life usually calms down a bit and I am brought back to reality: gaining this education will only benefit my family and me in the long run. I signed up and made the commitment and, like anything else, I need to finish what I have started.
What’s your most memorable AU course so far, and why?
I am still early in my program so to pick a favourite course is tough. I would have to say Introduction to Management, ADMN 232, was fun. It allowed me to open my mind to what managers see and think instead of the employee or union perspective. I took this course by itself so I was able to focus fully on it. I scored rather well and will remember the first university course I took.
Describe the proudest moment in your life.
As a father of three and one on the way I would have to say the births of my children all made me very proud. Besides that, the moment that made me feel very proud was when my wife and I closed on our first home. We lived with two children and ourselves in an apartment and always felt crammed. We were not able to pick the paint, flooring, or yard set up. Knowing that now we would be able to do what we wanted with the new house made both of us very happy. I felt as if I could do anything for my family now.
What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
I have not given up too much to take courses at AU. I miss some time with my family, and I don’t have as much time to play games or work on hobbies as I did before. It’s a far cry from saying I regret the decision because of this?I chose to follow this path and having the support of my family only makes it easier.
If you were the new president of AU, what would be your first project?
If I were president of AU I would definitely make sure the student union had what it needed to continue to support the students and be there if they need help. I would also make sure we settled the whole e-text debate. No matter what the result, closure would be nice. Knowing that we will pay less for an eBook then a textbook, and having the option to choose one or the other, or both for some.
Describe your earliest memory.
One of my earliest memories would have to be when I was around eight, and I was in our family attic that we had as our games room. It had a ping pong table and foosball table and gymnastics mat. My brother’s friend, who was around 16, was trying to teach me how to do a flip onto the mat. He held me while I jumped; I hesitated and tried to not go head over heels. He continued to try to guide me through the flip and I caught my arm and it broke right there. From then on I always gave him a hard time about breaking my arm? everyone else in the room would always give him a funny look, thinking, “why would you break a child’s arm?”
If you were trapped on an island, what 3 things would you bring?
I would have to say a baseball cap (I never leave the house without one,) a Leatherman (this would allow me to use the knife and other tools to build shelter,) and a soccer ball (not only to put a bloody hand print on and talk to it every day, but to keep myself busy physically and mentally.)
Describe one thing that distinguishes you from most other people. What is unique or remarkable about you?
One thing that makes me stand out is that I have always been thought to be 6-8 years older than I am. Not only because the way I look but the way I carry myself. I have never seen it but I have had people assume I was 30 when I was 22. Even today coworkers can’t believe how young I really am. Good thing, I guess?
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
My mother always told me “it’s not if you CAN but if you SHOULD.” I think about this all the time. I can eat that extra dessert or I can spend this extra money on something I want, but should I? If the answer is yes then you know you have made the right decision. If the answer is no then you may want to rethink the situation.
What do you think about e-texts or the plans to make the university follow a call-centre model?
I am okay with the e-texts idea if it will mean cheaper tuition. I think along with this there needs to be the option for students to choose what format their texts are in. Some have access to e-readers while others may not. I know some people who just can’t handle reading on a screen as it causes eye or head issues. There needs to be a way that the school can offer e-texts to those who want it but can continue to send a text book for the others. As far as AU going to a call centre model, I don’t agree with this idea. I think most of the students who use their tutor agree that it is more personal. With the call-centre model people will be in the middle of an assignment with a question and have to wait for their call to be returned. This means they will have to put what they were doing aside in order to have their questions answered. Changing students to a number instead of a name will only depersonalize AU and may deter current or future students.
How do you find communications with your course tutors?
I enjoy the communication with tutors. Most of the time it’s them contacting me to make sure everything is going well and to extend their hand if I need any help. I find questions get answered in a timely fashion and it’s nice to hear from people who have been in the same spot us newer students are.
Where has life taken you so far?
Work mostly keeps me in town, but it has given me several opportunities to travel within Ontario for courses. As a child my father used to travel on a biweekly basis. I was able to see many different places like Mexico, Portugal, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Jamaica. With our soccer club I was able to stay with a host family in Sweden for a week as well. I think traveling to some of these places grounded me as a kid. I learned how some people have to live without the things we think we NEED. As well as seeing how genuinely kind some cultures are, where they would give you anything and everything they had to show hospitality.
What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
When I don’t have my nose in a textbook and I feel like reading you will usually find me with a John Grisham book. I have followed his career since I was young. However, right now I am in the middle of reading The 8th Habit by Steven R. Covey. He originally wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He is an expert when it comes to organization in life?knowing how to make yourself self-effective in order to get the important things done first. I would recommend both of these books to anyone and everyone.