Who are your fellow students? At times, in an online learning environment, it can feel like you are all alone, but across the nation and around the globe, students just like you are also pursuing their Athabasca University (AU) studies! Each week, The Voice Magazine will be bringing you some of these stories. If you would like to be featured next, do not hesitate to get in touch!
The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Selena Burke (she/her), currently residing in Sudbury, Ontario, the traditional lands of the Atikameksheng Anishnawbek and the traditional lands of the Wahnapitae First Nation.
Originally from Barrie, Ontario, Selena has lived in many different towns all over the province, as well as Newfoundland, before moving to Sudbury, Ontario. The thirty six-year old mother of three “beautiful children,” is currently enrolled in her first year of the Bachelor of Health Administration program at AU. She stated, “I am really excited about going back to school in the field of health care. Prior to this, I worked in technology and clothing retail for twenty years in a customer service role. I am eager to use my life experiences and give back to community in a health care setting.” She stated that in today’s world, “we could all use a little kindness and understanding.”
Upon graduating, Selena hopes to work “with health care centres and the community.” She would like to improve “the experience for the employees in training, support systems, and staffing solutions,” believing this would create “a better experience for the patients receiving care.”
When not busy studying, she spends time with her children and partner. She explained, “We like to go on drives in the country, looking for new and interesting animals and plants and trees, etc. My children are very curious and have a thirst for knowledge about the unknown. We’ve learned so much about many things, because of their curiosity. If we don’t have the answer to the question, we look it up and learn together. We love to play video games as well as a family unit and are currently hooked on Minecraft. We also spend time doing science experiments on the weekends and having spontaneous fun.” She also enjoys “nature and baking and going spontaneous adventurous with [her] partner.”
Selena also mentioned that she considers herself “a huge comic book/superhero fan,” explaining that she loves “to read science fiction and fantasy novels.” She is currently reading “a fantasy/sci-fi series by Caroline Peckham and Susanne Valenti called the Zodiac Academy: The Awakening” and is watching The Witcher and Lucifer on Netflix.
When The Voice asked Selena who in her life has had the greatest influence on her desire to learn, she chose both of her parents. She explained that during her childhood, her father was her world. She stated, “I was in constant awe of the things that my dad did from day to day. I would watch my dad create things out of wood and metal, using tools in his workshop, painting them, and making these beautiful items for everyone in the family. I watched my dad take the time to show us (I am the eldest of five children) how to build things with our hands—how to be creative and have fun with writing stories and using our imagination.” She continued, “My dad would write us these super imaginative stories, where my siblings and I were often the main characters on grand adventures. My dad has a love of reading and learning and figuring things out. He has a natural curiosity that I like to think my children and I inherited from him. He’s gone back to school in his adult years to learn new trades (Animal Husbandry and Truck Driving). My dad has always led by example and given a positive outlook on learning and schooling.”
Selena also spoke highly of her mother, stating, “My mom has always stood by and encouraged me through all my dreams and endeavors. She has been a constant source of encouragement, strength, and love. I’ve learned so much from my mom, in the way she treats others and how she is a constant source of support and harmony for our family. There is great strength and grace in her ability to see the bigger picture and to look forward to the future while respecting the past. My mom has also gone back for academic upgrading while raising a family.” She added that her mom was educated as a personal support worker and is currently employed at a retirement residence. Selena credited her mother with her own personal desire to enter the health care field, after “hearing her stories and desiring a change for everyone.”
She reflected, “With both parents cheering me, how could I not go on an adventure in academic learning with love and support like that. They are just as much a part of this journey as me.”
When asked about her experience with online learning, Selena replied that it has been great so far. She explained, “I like the interaction with the counselors, before choosing your programs or courses. I received a lot of feedback and support in a quick and timely manner. I love that there is a lot of resources for students on the websites and through the student account, as well as the AU app. Which I use quite regularly. I love that there is a sense of community, even though we are near and far around the world. I enjoy how the programs are laid out and find it easy to understand as well. Especially as it’s been quite some time since I’ve been in school or in an online setting for learning. I haven’t found much if anything to dislike so far. My overall experience has been great.”
Her most memorable course so far has been ADMN 232: Introduction to Management, because she found “it fascinating to learn all the management principles and theories and to see how far back it traces to Sumerian times.” She continued, “I find human culture and behaviors interesting, and I like to see the correlation to the ‘hows’ and the ‘whys’ that lead to today’s ways in which we interact with each other now. Humans are fascinating. I look forward to completing this course.”
When asked which famous person, past or present, she would like to have lunch with, and why, Selena chose Jennifer Doudna, “inventor of a groundbreaking technology for (called CRISPR-Cas9) editing genomes.” She explained, “With this type of research there is the possibility of curing cancer and other diseases, as well genetic anomalies. I would love to sit and have lunch with her and discuss her theories and what drove her to this discovery. ‘What’s her process and motivation?’ ‘What does she see next for herself and her theories?’ Its incredibly inspiring to see how far science is progressing and by strong women, paving the road for the rest of us, like her.” And as for the lunch, Selena chose “the most delicious Caesar salad with chicken and tomato soup.”
When asked about the most valuable lesson she has learned in life, Selena told The Voice, “Be open and honest, be your most authentic self. Be open to criticism and new ways of thinking. We are always growing and learning. It’s okay to be wrong, if you move on with knowledge, understanding and growth.”
Selena revealed that her proudest moment in life has been “becoming a mother, three times over.” She continued, “My children are my greatest joy. Getting to see the world through their eyes is life changing and so innocent and pure.”
And the one thing that distinguishes her from other people? “I would say very few people know how much I love to read and write. How I love to learn and go on what like to call ‘going down the rabbit hole’ on Google. I get fascinated by a subject and then I need to be an expert in it. I love to learn everything I can about a topic and then share my knowledge.”
As a final note, Selena had some advice for fellow students: “I would like to encourage others to take a leap of faith on yourself and follow your dreams; there’s no time like the present. Go for what you want and enjoy life!” Best of luck Selena!