AU Graduands—Interviews from the Other Side

Lorri Lyster and Laura Nelson

The Voice Magazine will be regularly featuring upcoming and recent AU grads, as well as alums.  If you would like us to showcase your journey in an upcoming article, feel free to reach out!  This month, we were able to catch up with recent grad Lorri Lyster and recent alum Laura Nelson.

Lorri Lyster – Bachelor of Arts Anthropology Concentration

Halkirk, Alberta’s Lorri Lyster graduated from AU’s 3-year Bachelor of Arts Anthropology Concentration this past spring.  Lorri’s meandering journey to AU is quite unique: “I worked from right out of high school.  I also had a band and dabbled in music for a few years.  Then, in my thirties, I went back to my farm roots and began raising sheep, something I have been doing now for over 20 years.  So what brought me to AU was that desire to educate myself, to prove that I could do it, and, as trite as it may sound, I wanted to LEARN things!”  She initially chose AU for a similar reason as many students, stating, “When I decided to get my degree, I was working.  Online self-directed study was really my only option.  I looked at AU and immediately felt that it was going to work for me: the continuous intake, the work-at-your-own-pace system, it was just a perfect fit.”

Lorri would definitely recommend the program to other students; her favourite part “was anything to do with ancient peoples—evolution, archaeology, etc., and also physical anthropology.”  Lorri especially loved ANTH405: Special Topics in Archeology, stating, “I wrote a research paper about Neolithic Orkney.  I am quite proud of that paper!  I have been to Orkney twice, and I even used photos in the paper that I took myself.  That paper pushed me!”

Lorri was quite successful during her time at AU, winning several awards, including the AU Award for Mature Undergraduate Student, the AUSU Balanced Student Award, the AU Award in Anthropology, and CASCA Outstanding Graduating Anthropology Student Award.  When asked about how she stayed motivated, focused, and inspired during her time at AU, she stated, “I hadn’t continued my education after high school, and I should have.  At this point in my life, I just wanted to prove that I could do it.  And nail it.  Not completing the program was simply not an option!”

She offered current AU students a bit of expertise: “Unless you are one of those people who can dabble, and who can start something and not finish it and not have any qualms about it, then just push yourself.  Yes, there will be times when you feel like you will never be finished, there will be times when your motivation is zero and you would rather do just about anything else than get to work on that class or that paper.  So remember why you started, and use that to motivate yourself.”  As for future students considering online education, Lorri advised, “Embrace it!  It is the future!  And where else can you go to class in your PJs with a coffee and a cat?”

With no personal regrets, Lorri did wish that AU had offered the option of a Forensic Anthropology class.  In addition, she stated, “I think I will miss that thrill of getting marks back.”  She is also a little disappointed in this year’s online Convocation, stating, “I was so looking forward to convocation!  So disappointed, so I am curious to see how this virtual thing is going to play out.”

As for the future, Lorri plans to “Keep raising sheep.  And Bengal kittens.  I am sort of job hunting, but I am looking for the job that looks interesting to me, that will challenge me.  I have plenty to do at home, especially since we now have an annual production sale that takes up an enormous amount of my time.”  In a year from now, she sees herself “Getting ready for next year’s production sale.  Breeding sheep.  Reading all those books I never had time to read when I was working on the degree!”

As a final positive note, Lorri stated, “I rarely had a disappointing tutor.  Maybe it is because I needed so little help, but for the most part, I had such great tutors!  People always talk about how challenging it is to complete these classes on your own, not in a classroom setting.  Well, remember that the tutors are trying to cope with scores of students, and they are also not in that classroom setting!  Assignments and exams are being submitted constantly, there is no set structure.  My hat is off to you, tutors!”

Laura Nelson – Bachelor of Arts English Concentration

This month, The Voice Magazine also had the privilege to catch up with Calgary’s Laura Nelson, a recent AU alum, having graduated from a Bachelor of Arts English Concentration in April 2018.

Like many students, Laura’s journey to AU was a bit unconventional.  She stated, “I started my academic journey at Mount Royal College (It’s a university now) working on an applied degree in accounting.  Numbers were not my thing and I was miserable.  The only classes I was enjoying were my English electives.  AU had a partnership with Mount Royal then to allow me to start my degree there and be in class.  I am not sure if they have that anymore.  When I started working full time, it was natural for me to move online and so I continued.  AU is great for flexibility and control over your own schedule.”  She continued that she did take a short break as well, “and wasn’t sure I would complete my degree.

“I fell in love and we decided to get married and there was just a lot going on.   After our honeymoon though, I was feeling a little bit lost in the role as a wife (I think many newlyweds go through this as they take on a new role/identity).  I remember one night over a glass or two of red wine deciding that life is about creating oneself and my identity wanted to have my degree.  So I came back.”

She would definitely recommend AU’s English program to students “if there is a passion for reading literature, analyzing literature, and writing about literature.  I really loved receiving my ‘text’ books with each class as they were mostly works of fiction and I was really able to add to my personal library and become a more rounded reader.  It was akin to receiving an or an indigo box in the mail.  My TBR pile was always stacked.”  As for her favourite class, Laura “would probably default to Children’s Literature as my favorite course.  The ‘text’ books were a lot of old friends from my childhood that I connected with from an adult perspective.  I also really enjoyed Post-Colonial Lit as this course introduced me to a lot of books from perspectives other than my own, and it helped expand my empathy skills, as well as question some of the works in the typical western canon.  I have a soft spot for the jazz age (my wedding was designed to have that art deco extravagance of the 1920s), so when I enrolled in the Harlem Renaissance, I felt it provided me with authors to explore other than Fitzgerald and Hemingway.”

When asked if she has any advice for current AU students struggling to complete their degrees, Laura stated, “One step at a time.  Get a journal to write everything you need to get done at the lowest level and start checking that list off.  Once you start seeing all of the checks it builds momentum.  Take breaks.  Use Youtube and podcasts to help learn the concepts you are struggling with.  I am also reading the 5 AM Club right now and The Victory Hour has been helping me keep on track with my master’s program.  So this might apply to other students too.”  As for future students considering online educations, she stated, “If you need the flexibility, online is a great choice.  If you need to develop your willpower and self-discipline muscles, online can help with that.  Online education used to be the future in school, I feel like the future is now.  Plus, you don’t have to worry about all of those pesky germs that lurk in classrooms when you’re at home.”

Laura spoke briefly about her proudest moments, stating, “Like so many AU students, I worked full time and completed my studies very part time.  My four-year degree took about eight years.  The final stretch, I really put my all into it and learned some wicked time management skills that I am using now.

“I am mostly proud of walking the stage.  I had opted out of that for my high school graduation, which had been a regret of mine.”  As to motivation, “Being in courses that had books I wanted to read helped with my focus 100 per cent.  My true motivation was the Christian Louboutin’s I promised myself I would walk the stage in.  It was a necessary school expense I had to add in.”

She stated that she misses the AU Facebook group, stating, “I just lurk there now and don’t have a whole lot to add.  I also wrote for The Voice “Minds We Meet” column and I miss interviewing students like this and getting to know new people.”

Unlike this year’s graduands, Laura “did attend convocation in person.” She revealed that, “It was a long drive, but something that I needed to do for me.”  She offered advice for this year’s groups, stating, “It’s unfortunate that it’s online this year, but it’s uncontrollable.  I hope those graduating create their own awesome memories – walk the grocery store aisle in a cap and gown if you need to, pay for an amazing professional photo shoot with you in love with your degree.  You worked hard and while COVID-19 disrupted many plans, don’t let it disrupt your joy for your accomplishments.”

Since graduating from AU, Laura has continued on her educational journey, as she revealed, “After enjoying no school for about 3 months, I decided to look into Master of Arts programs.  I am now enrolled at Royal Roads University completing the Master of Arts in Professional Communications program.  It’s been 4 months and while it can be intense, I am enjoying immersing myself in theories and the constant reading of ideas while adding to the cognitive distribution that comes from adult learning.”

Congratulations Lorri and Laura!  Students who would like to learn more about AU’s Bachelor of Arts Anthropology Concentration and Bachelor of Arts English Concentration are encouraged to check out the wide range of courses offered.

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