Mariah Zinnash is an airport screening officer pursuing her BPA in Communications Studies while living in Calgary, Alberta. She was kind enough to give us a little time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer some questions for the Minds we Meet column.
Can you give us a little bit of background information about yourself? Where are you from? What program are you in?
I am a part-time student and full-time airport screening officer. I live in Calgary, Alberta; however, I am originally from Olds, Alberta. I have lived all across the country, mostly for school. I am a third year Communications Studies BPA Student. This is my first year attending Athabasca University, the first two years of schooling were through Lethbridge College.
Describe the path that led you to Athabasca University. What made you realize that you wanted to go back to school?
I was watching YouTube and realized that the kids doing school were having fun doing it. I had wanted to continue since 2010 with AU to accomplish the PLAR (prior learning assessment and recognition) program. I had initially considered working in Television instead of doing school. After having researched it, it became financially possible to begin classes again while preparing for the PLAR program.
How do find your learning experience at AU in comparison to studying at Lethbridge College?
I love AU being online. Lethbridge College was a great introduction to various programs, but AU allows for focused and specialized work. For those chasing degrees, this path is great for the self-starters in the class. If you must be around people to create your ideal learning environment, then online isn’t for you. If you want to try something different where exploration of a topic is possible, then you will want AU. I always valued learning the “Why’s” of any technique or theory. Still do. In-person, post-secondary class time never let me explore this to my desired interests. I would always be the kid that wanted more info to paint the whole picture. This still drives my co-workers nuts.
What do you do like to do when you are not studying?
I sew and tailor a lot of clothing for myself, and others. I also enjoy sewing swimwear for fitness and weightlifting competitions.
What are your plans for this education once you finish?
I plan to apply for more jobs surrounding security at the federal level. This course fits well with my overall goal of getting a Sociolinguistics Masters, minoring in Slavic language. Athabasca University fits my lifestyle and accommodates my work lifestyle well.
Who in your life had the greatest influence on your desire to learn?
I had a mentor at LE instructor at Rigaud College who inspired me to try out for things like the Canada Army Run in Ottawa and she inspired me to further my education in all aspects, even linguistics.
Describe your experience with online learning so far. What do you like?
I love online learning. I was homeschooled for grades one and two, and then cyberschooled nine through twelve. After my two-year Diploma education, I began online learning through Lethbridge College in their Criminal Justice Studies program. I am planning to write a book about what it takes to be homeschooled for everyone, regardless if they are planning on attending college or University.
Athabasca University honoured my transfer credits and the credit transferring system works great. Another thing about AU that I love is that once I am done my degree, I can easily work towards my graduate’s degree. Then, eventually, I will be able to transfer into Carleton University in Ottawa, to work towards the Sociolinguistics program and Slavic studies that they provide there.
I also love that I can do this course night or day, around my evening work schedule. It also has been beneficial for me working with the international community that I work with during my ten-hour shifts at the airport.
What do you dislike?
I dislike that I have not yet been to the AU campus. I want to go to the campus at least once to say that I was there, and bookstores at Colleges are my favourite!
Do you think you were at an advantage at AU because you understood the environment already?
I feel like I definitely had a strong advantage coming into the environment. I already knew about how to maximize workflow and I found myself flying through the lesson content, as I know where the lesson elements are located. Also, I knew how to message teachers while still moving along with the content when stuck on a theory. I look forward to taking more classes and cannot wait to begin my graduate’s degree.
At what point did you waver the most about continuing your schooling? What caused it and what got you through it?
I wavered after completing my first AU course. I was trying to figure out how to afford it and at the time, I was planning a move. I decided to scrimp and save even more in order to ensure my education was not affected. I was already working full-time, ten-hour shifts at a physical job, which tired me out. Also, I was training for the Ottawa ten-kilometer run (76-93-minute-long running sessions), which meant that I did not have a lot of time to pick up extra shifts to pay for my education. But, I did it!
What is your most memorable AU course so far, and why?
Loved CRJS 350 (Community Policing), which discussed how policing can be creative and more relevant to a population.
What have you given up to go to AU that you regret the most? Was it worth it?
As I intend to fit my education around my ten-hour work days, I regret not having more time in my day to put towards my studies, as I know that I could complete courses faster that way.
How do you find communications with your course tutors?
Communication with my course tutors are good and they are usually prompt. I have found that the turn around time for tests and essays for marks has been faster than expected. Wonderful!
What’s your pet peeve if you have one?
Cluttered work spaces are my pet peeve, which is ironic because I like to use Stickies and put notes all over the place. Minimalism YouTube videos has helped with this and has helped me focus on my studies.
What famous person, past or present, would you like to have lunch with, and why?
I would like to have lunch with the Sargent-at-Arms of the House of Commons Post who protected the House of Commons in October of 2014, when the Soldier on Post was fatally shot. I unfortunately did not get to meet the Sargent when I was in Ottawa, as he has inspired me throughout my career. His bravery and selflessness is legendary, and I got to see the bullet holes in the Senate Library during my private Tour on behalf of Member Rachael Harder. It was such an honour to see the walls and hear their stories and I would like to have lunch with the man to ask him about his inspirations in life.
Describe the proudest moment in your life.
Running a 01:14 time on the Ottawa Army Run last year.
Describe one thing that distinguishes you from most other people.
My ability to sense people’s emotional states. I have spent a lot of time studying micro expressions, macro expressions, and the practical application of such in the security and travel industries within Canada. You spend enough time getting lied to in relationships and you start to learn the techniques of the “good liars.” I am proud to say that by using creative, simple words, I have been able to diffuse some tense situations.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned in life?
I have learned to not hesitate to ask people questions. If you wonder something about a person in journalism or law enforcement, you have the freedom of speech to ask that person a question, worded carefully of course. As nothing will stop them from asking you whatever is on their mind; return the favour.
What (non-AU) book are you reading now?
The Peep Diaries by Hal Niedzviecki, which is about the age of security and nosiness we live in. Nothing is secure. Nothing goes unpublished.