Just as Athabasca University is unique among Canadian universities because of its distance learning format, The Voice is unique among university publications. There is no reporting of campus concerts or sports teams, and no opportunities to take photos of students just hanging out in campus gathering spaces because those just don’t exist with the AU experience. Distance learning is perhaps more isolating than traditional universities, but that doesn’t need to be. AU students have their own stories and perspectives of what it means to be part of the AU community and on the path of university education just the same as those students studying in other universities?It’s just that our stories are a bit different.
But this is why The Voice Magazine is even more important than “traditional” university newspapers and magazines. Other than convocation, writing exams and the odd grouped study class, there is very little opportunity for the AU student body to physically congregate and bond with each other. Social media provides that on some level, and its major advantage is that it is immediate, but discussion of relevant issues on that platform is mostly short and fleeting.
The Voice Magazine has had a long history at AU, going back all the way to 1993, but it has been somewhat on the fringe of student life and has had to fight to be recognized in students’ consciousness. There have been times when the publication was in danger of closing altogether, but it has managed to keep going.
Now It’s is undergoing something of a renewal. This year, it became a member of Canadian University Press, or CUP. Being part of this organization is great because it allows the magazine to tap into more resources and network with other campus publications (despite the lack of a proper newsroom, beat reporters, and editorial meetings to plan future issues). After quietly soldiering on for so long, it is attracting more writers like myself who really want to see the publication succeed and grow, and who want to report on the issues that matter to AU students and supporters.
But this cannot be done without more support. It needs input from more contributions such as Letters to the Editor, photographs, and feedback. It needs more diversity from AU students willing to share their expertise and learning experiences with others. It needs backing from AUSU, the university administration, and all those who have a relationship with AU, including alumni.
The Voice Magazine is aptly named because it is the voice of AU students?your voice. The trait it shares with campus publications from traditional universities is that it is a key student communication tool. I look forward to my own personal journey as a writer but I am more excited to have a part in building up The Voice Magazine as it continues to grow and, hopefully with your help, it can fully encapsulate what being a student at Canada’s distance learning university is really like. As part of the writing team, I ask that you spread the word about The Voice Magazine?tweet it, share it on your social media profiles and take the readers’s survey. But I hope that you continue to read your student magazine and that you are entertained, enlightened and just a little bit surprised each week.
Carla is a Calgary writer whose guilty pleasure is reading magazines. She has a stack beside her bed that she will get around to tackling?eventually.