Minds We Meet – Interviewing Deanna Roney

Deanna Roney is an AU student who lives in Houston BC, a small town of about 3500. She’s enrolled in the BA program with an English Major, and she balances her studies with helping her husband run their own business.

Deanna was recently interviewed by The Voice Magazine about school, work, and the great outdoors.

You mentioned that you and your husband have your own business. Describe what you do.
My husband contracts out and is selling heavy duty equipment and does pilot car services as well, both of which take him on the road a lot. If it is close to home I like to go with him; AU gives me the freedom to do this as I have on several occasions done schoolwork in the middle of a logging block. I usually can’t go too far with him though as we have a small pack of dogs at home. I take care of the books for the company, which was a learning curve all in itself for me.

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 heard about AU a year or so before I looked too seriously into it. My mom was actually the one that had pointed it out to me initially. It wasn’t until I had ankle surgery and was laid up on the couch for 12 weeks that I started to get really bored. When I was younger I used to write all the time. I wrote a few stories when I was in elementary school, one I remember distinctly in grade 4, and I started to want to get back into that, just doing something I was passionate about and not just a dead end job. I had looked first for just the odd course but eventually found myself on the AU website, and made the decision that if I was going to do it I might as well do it right!

What do you do like to do when you’re not studying?
Pretty much anything outdoors. This summer I took a week and kayaked the Bowron Lakes Circuit, which was incredible. I also love river fishing for salmon and steelhead (Houston is well known for its steelhead fishing.) Also hiking, and in the winter snowshoeing and sledding in the mountains.

What are your plans for this education once you finish? How does it fit in with where you want to go?
That is a good question; I am not totally sure. I would love to find a way to write, in what context I have not completely figured out yet, but this is a work in progress. I am focusing on taking courses I enjoy and finding my way from there. I have looked into several grad program options and that may be one route I take. But we will see at the end of this which way I jump.

Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
My husband and my parents play a huge role in my desire, and ability, to learn. I am not sure I would have taken the plunge if it wasn’t for their support.

What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
I would have to say Emily Carr; I find her fascinating. She lived a life against the grain, especially for the time. I think she would be incredibly entertaining and knowledgeable. I read the book, The Complete Writings of Emily Carr, and feel that she would be the type of person you would learn so much from in a simple conversation, and you may not realize it until you find yourself in a situation that requires it.

Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like? Dislike?
So far it has been great?I love being able to be self-paced. I have no issue disciplining myself to my studies. It is a process I actually enjoy, and when I start to feel burnt out I can take a day or two off. The only thing I could say I dislike is the feeling of isolation. You don’t have the same sense of community as you do in a bricks and mortar university.

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 am just hitting my half-way point, and I am happy to say I have not wavered yet!

What’s your most memorable AU course so far, and why?
WGST 333, Goddess Mythology, Women’s Spirituality and Ecofeminism. I loved this course. It was great to look back and see where some of our traditions came from and how some images of goddesses were distorted and destroyed. The Minoan snake goddess, for example, was turned into Medusa. I just found the entire course to be fascinating and it didn’t really feel like I was working on a course.

Describe the proudest moment in your life.
Our wedding day: it was awesome to have almost my entire extended family there to celebrate our day with us, as well as his family and our friends. I have never had as much fun as I did that day. Wonderful to have the support of so many.

What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
I don’t think I have had to give up much to go to AU.

If you were the new president of AU, what would be your first project?
I would listen to the students’ concerns about the way the university is thinking about going when it comes to the call centre model and e-texts. Students have some very serious concerns when it comes to this transition and I strongly believe they need to be heard. I know AUSU is working very hard on this and I really appreciate everything they are doing.

If you were trapped on an island, what three things would you bring?
Assuming the island has the essentials to live?food and water etc.?I would bring my husband, my dogs (this totally counts as one thing!) and a good book.

Describe one thing that distinguishes you from most other people.
I’m not too sure how to answer this one. I am very dedicated and typically once I set my mind on something it is getting done one way or another. Some may call that stubborn (ha!) but I am not sure this is unique?

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
Trust your gut! This seems redundant I am sure, but I have doubted myself many times, and only when I learned to put myself first and trust my instincts did things seem to start working out better. This is in life as well as in AU-life. I remember one course?a history course?I was unsure of a paper I was going to send in. So I sent it to a friend, who graduated with a history major, for help. Turns out the edits were not ones my tutor liked, and I should have stuck to the original. It was the difference between an F and an A. That was the biggest reminder to trust myself.

What do you think about e-texts or the plans to make the university follow a call-centre model?
This causes me stress. I can only hope I am done before these take effect. Though I hope they never do for future students. With an English paper, it is not so cut and dried?a lot of it is what the tutor wants and is subjective. I do not feel a call centre style would be beneficial to this style of course. As for e-texts: I just finished a course that had a few e-texts and one physical text. After the first unit I scrapped even trying to read the e-texts and hoped I was getting enough from what I had printed. I couldn’t print the book in order to read it as you are only able to print 10%. This was frustrating for me. I had paid good money for the course and wasn’t getting everything out of it. Reading the texts online was a waste of time, I couldn’t focus on the information in a big enough way that I could retain it. And it took me much longer to attempt to read the works as I would have to reread pages in an attempt to retain it.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?
My tutors have been wonderful. I have had a couple that I have not gotten along with well, and some communication errors, but everything worked out in the end. I had a wonderful tutor for ENGL 395: when I would call to talk to her about a book it was like talking to a (very well informed) friend.

Where has life taken you so far?
In high school we made a trip to Europe for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. That was an amazing trip. Since then, I have done lots of backpacking in Jasper, Banff, Yukon, as well as the West Coast trail, and in the Stein Valley.

What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
That running joke that says an English major has no time for reading? It’s true. It has been awhile since I picked up a book to read for pleasure, I usually have a book I have to read and feel too guilty if I pleasure-read instead. However for the past while, when I need a break from studies I will read a bit of The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath.