In her January executive blog, AUSU president Shawna Wasylyshyn asks, “who are the students of AU?” In her capacity as student union council president, Wasylyshyn interacts with countless people in the post-secondary education community. Some, she feels, view AU students as “disadvantaged”, “marginalized”, or people with “no other choice” but to attend AU.

Like Wasylyshyn, I attend AU by choice. I am surrounded by several worthy universities: McGill, Concordia, Carleton, and the University of Ottawa are all a reasonable commute away. I was accepted by and registered to attend one of those institutions before deciding that AU was a better fit. Far from having no choice, I had my pick and I picked AU.

So, who am I? I’m a mature student’so mature that I’m the parent of a mature student. I’ve had several careers over my working life. Right now I work part time while I study at AU. I volunteer. I read. I travel. I write. I dream. I’m complex and unique.

As an AU student, I’m motivated. I’m responsible for my own timetable, my own deadlines, my own course in life. I’m independent. I’m focused. I’m also a procrastinator. I get distracted. What keeps me going? My determination to succeed. My drive to meet my goals.

Am I a typical AU student? There’s no such thing. You can analyze the statistics and find the average student but not one single student is average. AU students represent the widest possible demographic. We’re everywhere. We’re everyone. We’re working; we’re unemployed. We’re successful; we’re struggling. We’re single, married, childless, grandparents—you name it and we are it. We are each complex and unique.

I have no idea who those people are who think AU students are disadvantaged or marginalized—although we can be that too. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and speaking with many AU students and we resist narrow definition. Wasylyshyn has met many more and finds AU students “successful, intelligent, entrepreneurial, self-motivated, and driven toward success.” It would be difficult to be an AU student without these qualities, yet these are only a small sampling of our attributes.

AU is great for a lot of reasons, and one of those reasons is that AU does not judge anyone. Anybody (over the age of 16) who wants to go to AU is accepted. That’s exactly the kind of university I want to go to. If that means that some AU students are “disadvantaged” or “marginalized”—whatever that means—then I celebrate it. Everyone should have the same opportunity for education and AU makes that possible. Maybe some students have “no other choice” but that’s the whole point of an open university, and it doesn’t diminish the decision of those who do.

So if someone wants to know who I am: I am AU. And you are, too.

Want to share your thoughts on what defines us as AU students? Visit AUSU’s January executive blog to post your comments.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario. Follow Barbara on twitter @ThereGoesBarb.

[Barb wrote her suggestions to me for this year, and this article, from way back in our January 27, 2017 issue (2504) wasn’t on the list.  Instead she suggested her article Editor of the Year, the Inside Scoop be run as it rivaled the new website itself as The Biggest Thing to happen to the Voice this year.  And while that was certainly a very cool thing for our little magazine, this article is, I think, a better representation of how The Voice Magazine, and AU, connect and matter to AU students.  And come on, that ending? That’s just a good read. -Ed.]