Minds We Meet – Interviewing Students Like You!

Michelle Atchison

Michelle Atchison is an AU student from Saskatoon SK. She is in the Bachelor of Professional Arts Human Services program and has one more course before She’s done.

Michelle works full time at Saskatchewan Polytechic. The Voice Magazine recently caught up with Michelle by phone in her (parked) car as she left work on a Friday afternoon. Here’s what she had to say about school, Amelia Earhart, and ballroom dancing.

First of all, whereabouts do you live? And have you always lived there?
I live in Saskatoon. I’m originally from Timmins, in northern Ontario, and I’ve also lived in Oshawa ON, and Calgary AB.

If you work, describe what you do.
I work at Saskatchewan Polytechnic; I’ve been there eight years. I’m an Instructional Assistant in the basic education department. I work with adults who are upgrading to get their high school diploma.

Describe the path that led you to AU.
I have a social service worker diploma from Ontario. It’s quite old, and I realized when I moved out of the province how limiting it was. I knew that I needed my degree to attain my goal and remain competitive in my field. I did some investigation and found that AU was a creditable university where I could get a degree while I was working full time. With AU, all my courses are online, otherwise I simply wouldn’t be able to pursue a degree.

What will you do with your education once you graduate?
My goal is to become an instructor at Saskatchewan Polytechnic, in the Human Services department.

What do you do like to do when You’re not studying?
I like spending time with family and friends. I’m also into yoga, which is something new for me. And as a hobby I make my own natural beauty products such as soap, shampoo, makeup, and perfume.

Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
My parents were the greatest influence. My father has always been a student, of just about everything. He is an avid reader and he really impressed upon me to never stop learning. My mother is my biggest cheerleader. She has a positive spirit and her influence has been a great motivator.

What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
Amelia Earhart. But lunch would be boring for her so I think we’d have to go on some sort of adventure instead. In her life she achieved so much, and her accomplishments were very significant for a woman at that time. She lived her life without being concerned about what people thought of her. She really grabbed life with both hands.

Describe your experience with online learning. What do you like? Dislike?
I like it?It’s been a real blessing to me. I would not have been able to complete a degree if I had to go to a conventional university. I really like that I can choose my own schedule, which means I can keep working while I pursue my degree. What I don’t like is that I feel disconnected from other people. There aren’t many opportunities to collaborate with other students. And being on your own means when discipline wavers, there is no one to push you, you must push yourself.

Have you had a time when you wavered about your education?
I had one moment, but it was short lived. I’m sure everyone has had that one class that nearly made their hair turn white. I’m quite a determined person. After a bit of a struggle, I finished the class and moved on. It’s part of what makes you successful?you don’t know how much you can do until you do it.

What was your most memorable AU course?
It’s hard to pick one because I’ve enjoyed many courses. One that stands out for me is HSRV 421, Advocacy From the Margins. One assignment in that course had lots of wiggle room which allowed me to be creative. I needed to develop an advocacy plan and implement it. I created a Spoken Word poem and performed and recorded it with an artist friend of mine. Then I uploaded it to Families of Sisters in Spirit Facebook page for others to watch and it was shared with other aboriginal groups. I was amazed how my one piece traveled to so many people and I really felt that I contributed to something greater than me. It ended up being more than an assignment for me?It’s not just something I finished to get a mark.

If you won $20 million in a lottery, what would you do with it?
I would travel around the world. No schedule?I would just go.

What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
A lot of sleep! And my brown hair, which is becoming increasingly white. I’ve given up time with family and friends. I’ve learned that everything has a price but I wouldn’t change a thing. I did this for me, no one else, and I have no regrets.

What’s the single best thing AU could do to improve your student experience?
More classes with interactive postings, so students can discuss and collaborate.

What’s your favourite sound?
Silence. My favourite sound is hearing nothing. It gives you a chance to be with yourself and your own thoughts without any external distraction.

What’s your most prized possession?
I’m not a materialistic person; things don’t matter much to me. I would say my most prized possession is my sense of hope. Without that it would be difficult to overcome obstacles.

Please tell us something that few people know about you.
When I was eighteen I was the first Professional Ballroom Instructor for Arthur Murray’s Dance studio. Also, I love to rock climb even though I’m afraid of heights.

What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
To keep learning lessons! I have learned too many lessons to find one as the most valuable. You can learn a lot of lessons from each of life’s experiences.

What do you think about e-texts?
I only had one course with an e-text and I bought the hardcopy book. I like an old-fashioned hands-on book. I’m not a fan of e-texts, although I understand some people prefer them. I think it would be good to have the option.

How do you find communications with your course tutors?
In general, It’s been quite positive. How often I contact them depends on the course; with some courses I’ve had to phone quite a bit and others hardly at all.

Where has life taken you so far?
Work and home and work and home! I’ve mainly traveled inside Canada, but I’ve also been to the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, which were memorable trips. Life has taken me on an amazing journey. I have climbed mountains and swam in the sea but the most significant journey life has taken me was within my own head.

What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
None! I’m actually looking forward to reading something that isn’t a textbook after my last course is finished. Something mindless and purely entertaining.

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