Anne Turner is an AU student from Nanaimo BC. She is in the Master of Arts Integrated Studies program at AU and has just completed her seventh course. Anne received her BA degree from Vancouver Island University in 2012 and is an artist as well as an advocate for persons with disabilities.
The Voice Magazine recently interviewed Anne by e-mail. Here’s what she had to say about school, learning disabilities, and Emily Carr.
First of all, whereabouts do you live? And have you always lived there?
I live in Nanaimo B.C. I have lived in several provinces in Canada including Nova Scotia, and Ontario. I returned to my home town almost three years ago and love living here.
If you work, describe what you do.
I do not work. I am a sort of retired person who does lots of things and obtaining my education late in life is one of them. I am on the board of the Mid-Island Canadian Mental Health Association. I’m also affiliated with a group called FRIENDS which is comprised of several of my friends who have experienced Mental Health issues in their lives.
Describe the path that led you to AU.
I graduated with my BA, with a major in History and a minor in Sociology, from Vancouver Island University in June 2012. I had become acquainted with the MAIS program from others who had taken it and decided to apply. I started this journey in January 2013.
What do you do like to do when you’re not studying?
I am an artist and work in many mediums including pastels, both chalk and oil, acrylic paints, charcoal, and collage installations. My favourite artists are Emily Carr, Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, and members of Group of Seven (especially Tom Thomson.) I am also interested in Royal Families of the world. I have a large book I have compiled with research on them for many years. I also like to read and have a particular interest in Oriental-themed books.
Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
My mother. She had to quit school during the Depression and go to work. She was an A student at her school and my grandfather would not let her finish. The school officials begged my grandfather but he said she was needed to go out and earn her keep. They were a traditional English coal mining family and everyone had to work to help support the family. My mother was no exception. She finally got to do her high school when she was in her 40s and combined working at a legal firm in Ontario at the same time. She even managed to do some university courses through Carleton University in Ottawa.
What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
Oh, for me, that would be Emily Carr, my favourite artist. I would love to sit with her and go over techniques and discuss many of her adventures. While I lived in Victoria I went to view her family home many times and admired her art work in the Victoria Art Gallery. When I lived in Ottawa I would spend many Saturday afternoons in the National Art Gallery admiring her work there. Whenever I return to Ottawa, one of my trips is always to the National Art Gallery to just sit and take in the serenity of the place.
Describe your experience with online learning. What do you like? Dislike?
Online learning has been an interesting experience to get used to but I think I am used to it by now. I like that I can work on my studies at any time of the day or night. I also like that I don’t have to get dressed and go out when it is pouring rain, but I can still do my school work. I don’t like the concept of e-books and have found the experience not to my liking. I spend too much time reading at the computer screen when I could be physically holding a book in my hands. I also find I cannot highlight sections in e-books like I can with physical books. I don’t like some of the features of using Moodle. Change is hard for me to accept and there have been some changes that I have found very hard to manage. I do miss the personal interaction between classmates, but as the courses continue I seem to find some people I have had classes with and it is nice to renew the friendships. It is also nice that you get to meet people from all over the world. Something I have always enjoyed is meeting people and getting to know the different aspects of living in different countries. I have started to access some of the forums available to students like The Landing and the Facebook page.
Have you had a time when you wavered about your education?
I was a little apprehensive with the first two core courses of the MAIS program but as I got used to the material and the interaction with the classmates I managed to feel a lot more relaxed. I also get stressed as the course nears completion when I have all the end of semester projects to finish. But I have learned some very good coping skills over the years that I apply to myself and the work does get done.
What was your most memorable AU course?
The course I have enjoyed the most was PSYC 589 Learning Disabilities Issues and Interventions which I took in the fall semester of 2013. As I am a mature student who suffered all through elementary and high school with learning disabilities; it was very enlightening for me to study the issues and concepts behind the whole field of learning disabilities. The progress that has been made and the research that is ongoing are gratifying for me to learn about and to be able to convey and use in within my chosen field of advocacy for persons with disabilities. I am looking forward to starting another similar course in the winter semester 2016, MAIS 658 Doing Disability Differently.
If you won $20 million in a lottery, what would you do with it?
I guess one of the first things I would do is to pay off my student loans. I only had to take out student loans since I began work on my Masters program. My undergrad years were financed by bursaries and scholarships. I would use some of the money to go on a trip to Europe to see relatives and friends and also take in the many art galleries and museums I have only had opportunity to read about for many years. I also would like to open a drop-in centre for persons with mental health and transgender issues where they could go and find help and acceptance within their home communities.
What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
I don’t think I have given up much to go to AU because I am a mature student. My child raising days are long over and I do not have to care for anyone else but myself. The whole experience so far has been very gratifying and well worth it. I still feel I have ample time to indulge in some of my out of school activities like my art work which keeps me sane and feeling good about myself.
If you could wake up tomorrow with a “superpower”, which one would it be?
That would be the super power of being able to help those who find themselves in need of the daily necessities to live a normal life. A life that would be free of the stigma of having a mental illness and the freedom to do what they want to do without the criticism they encounter on a daily basis. I also would like to be able to help the members of the transgender community in finding acceptance in all areas of their lives so they can live their lives authentically.
What is your most prized possession?
My most prized possession is my life as it is now and how I have re-created myself to a well-rounded life that I enjoy living.
Please tell us something that few people know about you.
How much I persevere to attain what I want out of life.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
You have to keep working on yourself to make changes and when you realize that the changes are there you just keep working on something else that needs changing.
What do you think about e-texts?
I don’t like them. I understand that they are the way of the future but I find them very uncomfortable to get used to.
How do you find communications with your course tutors?
I have had no real problems in this area and I am very glad to have the interactions that I do have with the ones I have met so far. I have found them to be very efficient in replying to my enquiries and very accommodating due to my disability status.
Where has life taken you so far?
Well, since I am a mature student I have travelled mostly back and forth across Canada. I have travelled to a few of the American States. I have travelled via books and films to many other countries in Europe but would someday like to go there personally. The situation has not presented itself due to my limited income status.
What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
I am reading A Dance with Dragons in the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. I have been reading the series through most of the past two semesters. I find them to be very entertaining.