If you missed attending any of the teleconference sessions for AU’s government mandated third-party review, I have to say that you missed out. I took the opportunity to drop in to all three and listen in. Not only was it a good chance to be able to share your thoughts and ideas about what could make Athabasca University better for you, it was also great in a way I didn’t expect: hearing the stories of other AU students.
Most students who spoke at the seemed to be graduate or post-graduate students rather than undergrads, but the stories I heard were generally inspirational. Whether it was the student who had a bad experience with a tutor but persevered and found other tutors so much better, or the (various) students who outlined so much that was going on in their lives that would have made it impossible for them to ever get their education from a traditional university. The concern I heard about the idea that AU might end up closing down (to which repeated assurances were given that that is not one of the options on the table) to the outright gratitude for AU’s existence enabling people, not just students, but real, breathing people, to advance their lives, was, and I use this word knowing how cheesy it sounds, but nothing else quite fits, inspiring.
I think That’s one of the things that the teleconferences reminded me of. It’s too easy for me to think of us as “students”, because That’s the primary aspect we have in common. It’s more difficult to remember, despite how often I talk about how diverse the AU student body is, just how individual we all are. Being involved in these teleconferences and hearing those stories brought home that fact. Even just the range of accents I heard at the meetings was telling, from what I think was a significant African accent to an extremely French accent brought home that we’re more than students. we’re more than a mom with five kids taking nursing, or an Australian teacher furthering their education knowledge, or a new student only a few years out of high school taking their first computer science course. we’re vastly individual people, and that presents incredible challenges for this university as well as incredible opportunities if we were to build on all of these experiences coming in.
Of course, just because you missed the chance to participate in the teleconferences doesn’t mean you’ve missed your chance to have your say. Dr. Coates is still taking emails, and as he put it in the teleconferences, much of what he hears is going to be translated, one way or another, to the president of the university and the Minster for Advanced Education in the Alberta government. What’s more, the government has made clear that new investment is not off the table, if a reasonable case can be made for it. What is off the table is closing down AU, moving it out of the town of Athabasca, or allowing it to address its shortfall through simple job elimination. With that in mind, if you’ve got an idea that you think will help AU, or you think there’s something wrong with AU that it needs to fix, Dr. Coates wants to hear about it. You can email him at email@example.com with your concerns and ideas.
Meanwhile, in this issue, we’ve got a double feature happening again. Pointing out yet again that we’re more than just students, this weeks? Minds We Meet feature interviews a student who may be just a little bit psychic! Our second feature is a look at an issue that I heard at the meetings, the late starter. Many of us at AU started our educations later than what is considered normal. Carla Knipe looks at how that might just be a good thing. And follows it up with a profile of a former student who you already know if You’re on the unofficial AU Facebook group.
And of course, we have other news, reviews, interviews, advice, entertainment, and just plain old information that keeps you up to date on what’s happening at AU. Enjoy the read!