Minds We Meet – Interviewing Students Like You!


Carla Knipe is an AU student currently living in Calgary, Alberta, although she was born and raised in Castlegar, British Columbia. Carla works part-time for the Calgary Board of Education as a meal supervisor (aka “lunch lady”) in an elementary school, a job that she assures us is “a lot more difficult than it looks.” Carla is in AU’s BA program, majoring in English.

The Voice Magazine recently interviewed Carla via e-mail about school, creativity, and trying to decide what you want to be when you grow up.

Which program are you in at AU? Describe the path that led you there.
I am on the home stretch of completing my BA with a major in English, minor in Humanities (15 credits to go!). This is my second round of university studies; my first round was after high school in a traditional bricks-and-mortar university where I was working toward a combined BA/BEd in Secondary Education. For complicated reasons, I dropped out before finishing, and the combined degree meant that I came away with no qualifications. I ended up marrying my husband, living overseas, had a son, worked in retail (which is its own kind of education!), then moved my family back to Canada in 2008. I got a lot of life experience but not completing my degree was always a huge weight on my shoulders. After my family got settled in Calgary, I found out that I could transfer and complete my BA through AU and I felt such a sense of hope and confidence for the first time in a long time.

What do you do like to do in your leisure time?
I enjoy volunteering. For three years I was on the Board of my community association, including serving as our community newsletter Editor. I recently gave that up though, because it was taking up a lot of time and I needed to concentrate on studying. I still love being our community’s Little Free Library steward and I don’t want to give that up. I ride my bike, I try to read books that I don’t have to read. I have a lot of craft projects that I hope to complete but my university studies take priority.

What happens after you finish your education?
I genuinely don’t know. I feel like I’m back in my 20s, trying to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
I haven’t had one particular person that I could call a mentor, but I am curious and learning has always been important to me. My writer instinct takes bits and pieces from a variety of sources and I mentally file them away for inspiration. I particularly admire the “everyday heroes” who see a need and try to leave the world in a better place?but who often don’t seek out the publicity for doing it. Right now, the women I’ve “met” on the AU Student Moms Facebook group are inspiring to me; they are all amazing for juggling what they have to in order to make studying work and do it with such flair!

What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
That’s a tough question as there are so many! I’d say Temple Grandin. She has taken a huge negative (Autism) and turned it into a massive positive not just for her, but for many others as well. She is also not afraid to be herself.

Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like? Dislike?
Studying through distance learning is good for me because I can just get on with the work. I don’t have to travel to attend classes, I can simply open a book or my laptop. However, the biggest challenge as a parent is trying to find a big chunk of uninterrupted studying time in the midst of everything else. I’ve discovered there are numerous opportunities for procrastination that present themselves like hey, that laundry needs to be done! I also dislike the fact that opportunities for interaction with other students or instructors are limited. One thing I miss about a face-to-face class setting is a group discussion of a work of literature or debating a concept; you just don’t get that in a distance learning setting.

Have you had a time when you wavered about your education?
The shock of dropping out of university the first time around really affected me. I thought I was sure of what I wanted to do and I’d worked toward that goal while even in high school so when that was removed I felt extremely alone and discouraged. I questioned everything, including my intelligence. However, my experience with AU is that it took the isolation I felt in my situation and turned it around for me, so that I become empowered by it.

What’s your most memorable AU course so far, and why?
I’ve just finished HUMN 360, East Meets West. It was a course completely out of my comfort zone, and it was not easy but I’m glad I was able to allow myself to challenge my worldview.

Describe the proudest moment (or greatest accomplishment) in your life.
Other than my family, I’d have to say that moving overseas and living in Northern England was pretty huge. I was the only Canadian I knew of in the area and there was quite a bit of culture shock. I definitely learned how to fight my corner!

Have you given up anything to go to AU? Was it worth it?
When I got the distinct inner nudge to complete my studies through AU, I was starting to lean toward a freelance writing career. I realized that I just didn’t have the time or energy to do both well and I realized I had to make the difficult choice between the two. I’m hoping that once I complete my degree, new opportunities will present themselves and all the threads of things that I’ve done will somehow weave themselves together.

If you were the new president of AU, what would be your first project?
AU has been a true pioneer in Canadian education, but I feel its voice has been drowned out of late. It’s time for AU to reclaim that voice. I would create opportunities for both AU instructors and students to shape education in Canada. By that I mean, we are all proof that the traditional definition and practice of post secondary education doesn’t necessarily work for everyone and there are many creative ways to get to where you want to go. I would like to see AU explore those paths, to speak up more about why AU is a crucial part of the learning culture in Canada. There is tremendous opportunity right now, I feel, for AU to help change the environment of post-secondary learning, both in Canada and beyond. The dialogue of what learning as a whole means for us living the 21st century, especially now because of technology, needs to open up.

If you could easily acquire one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to not be afraid try new things?and be good at them!

If you were trapped on a tropical island, what 3 things would you bring?
A toothbrush, lots of paper and writing utensils, and a good bed (I’m very practical that way!).

Describe one thing that distinguishes you from most other people. (What is unique or remarkable about you?)
I try to be an encourager of others. I love listening to other peoples? stories, because we all have our own unique and interesting story to tell. We are all “doing life” together so I have learned that instead of putting each other down, we’d all do so much better if we would build each other up.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
I have had a lot of hard knocks in life. I look back and I think, how did I survive all that? I’ve learned to never, ever give up. There is always a way through the hard stuff, but It’s not often quick or easy.

What do you think about e-texts?
I’ve been lucky that I (fingers crossed!) haven’t come across them yet. If I did, I would be extremely unhappy. I don’t have an e-reader for my recreational reading and do not intend to get one. To me, print books are still relevant.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?
It’s been variable. I find that all of them tend to just let the student get on with what they’re doing and It’s up to the students to seek out that interaction. The tutors I’ve had so far don’t tend to be proactive but some tutors are more engaging than others. I find communication between students and tutors needs to be improved in general; perhaps by use of more discussion forums online, or conference calls, or whatever. I feel more engagement would greatly benefit the educational experience for students.

Where has life taken you so far?
As mentioned before, I lived in Northern England?mostly in a town called Warrington, which is between Manchester and Liverpool?for a dozen years. We didn’t get to travel in Europe that much, though, which is something I regret. My husband and I were just starting out so we were always saving up for something. I also had to work weekends so it was hard to take the time off. We are starting to see more of Canada and the US now and I hope that can continue. I’d rather spend money on experiences rather than “stuff.”

What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
I always have a few books on the go. Among my current ones, I Am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai. It was a Christmas present but I’m only just finding the time to get to it. I’m also re-reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot. I generally prefer non-fiction over fiction.

Final question: what do you most hope to do or accomplish this summer?
Summers always tend to revolve around activities for my son. But this summer I am making a conscious effort to take some time for some self-care. I bought some of those “colouring books for grownups” which I want to delve into, and I might teach myself some Zentangle (I am a non-drawer so this is something completely new for me.) Maybe I’ll finally start working on my family genealogy project.

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