Minds We Meet—Sophie Major

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 Sophie Major (she/her), currently residing in Valleyview, Alberta, the traditional Treaty 8 territory of the Cree and Dene, as well as the Métis Settlements and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Regions 1, 4, 5, and 6.

Sophie is currently enrolled in the three-year Bachelor of Management program here at AU, with about ten courses left to complete before continuing on to a CPA designation.  She stated, “I currently work as a Finance Coordinator for Financial Reporting, which I happen to love.  My CPA designation will further my career with my present employer, I hope!”

On a more personal note, Sophie mentioned, “I recently turned 60 years old (wasn’t sure if I was going to share that or not).  I live on an acreage just outside of the town of Valleyview, in Northern Alberta.  I was born in Edmonton but raised in the farming community of Sunset House, which is just east of Valleyview—about 20 miles.  I am married, and this last August we celebrated our 40th wedding anniversary.  I have four children and eight grandchildren (who are my joy in life)!  I started out with my post-secondary education in Grande Prairie, at GPRC.

Once I met my future husband we decided to go farming!  So, until 2003, we were farming with my parents in Sunset House and ran a mixed farming operation of cattle and grain.  Since 1983 I have been working, either part time or full time, while we raised our family.  In 2003, we quit farming and moved to our present home.  I worked from 1983 to 2000 in our local public library, but in 2004, I moved to an accounting job in an oil and gas company.  Since then, my jobs have been accounting focused and that is when I decided to get my CPA designation and thus pursue my studies more committedly through AU.”

When she is not studying, Sophie keeps busy.  She explained, “In the summertime I love to garden, and, in the winter, I usually just hibernate with my courses.  I have eight grandchildren, so I love to spend time with them year-round.  One of my passions is genealogy.  I have researched on my paternal side antecedents as far back as 1720 in England.  I am currently trying to get a better family tree on my maternal side, but we must go back to Eastern Europe, and it has proven to be a more difficult task.  I hope to be able to publish a book on our family tree, but I think that will be a retirement project.”

Sophie also finds some time to relax with a good book or podcast series.  She stated, “I am currently reading Women in Old Norse Society by Jenny Jochens and I have ordered another recreational read called The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W.  Anthony.  She is currently “listening to a podcast series called The History of English – The Spoken History of a Global Language.”

When asked who in her life has had the greatest influence on her desire to learn, Sophie felt that this was “a hard question,” but chose her parents, explaining, “They were always supportive of my desire to read when I was young, and I was always encouraged to pursue higher education.”

Her experience with online learning so far has been positive.  “I like that I can work at my own pace where I am comfortable.  I like that I can contact other students for feedback through using the AUSU app and I have been able to find ‘study buddy’s’ through here.  The tutors have been great; I have appreciated their guidance throughout all the courses I have taken.”

However, like many students, Sophie has wavered about continuing her education at times.  She explained, “There have been many times I have wavered about continuing with this path.  Raising four children and working full time it seemed like it would take forever to complete the program one course at a time.  However, my dogged determination to see it to the end has kept me going.  I would like to say that I accomplished something in my life, and this would be one item on my bucket list that I would be extremely happy to have completed.”

Her most memorable course has been COMM 277: Interpersonal Communication, which “was an eye opener.”  She continued, “It solidified a lot of experiences I have had in my working life.”  Her communication with tutors has also been great.  She stated, “To date I have had positive experiences with my course tutors.  One really helped me get on track with citations and how to avoid plagiarism.  It was beneficial for the remainder of courses I have enrolled in.  She gave me great feedback and guidance.”

When asked what her first project would be if she were the new president of AU, Sophie stated, “That is a tough question – there are several things that would be nice to cover but the two that come to mind to me are affordability of courses and mentoring.”

If she could have lunch with one famous person, past or present, that she would like to have lunch with, and why, Sophie chose Golda Meir or Angela Merkel.  She explained, “Either of these two women became great leaders in a male dominated world arena so it would be interesting to talk to them about how they handled the rise to the top of their field.”  And the lunch?  “Steak and veggies!”

When asked about the most valuable lesson she has learned in life, Sophie stated, “Life is about change – you may not understand now why there has been a change in your life but usually it is for the better and it will be revealed to you at some point, so you understand why.  My husband and I have been through many trials in our time together, facing many obstacles but we have always looked to the bright side as much as possible to overcome them and in the end the change was always for the better.”

And her proudest moment?  “There is no one proudest moment in my life that I could pick out, but I can say what I am most proud of are my children.  They have all grown up to be confident, considerate, and kind individuals that I couldn’t be prouder of.  When you have people in the community come to you and say that they are great individuals then that is an accomplishment.”

As for the one thing that distinguishes her from other people?  “I don’t think there is any one thing that distinguishes me from most other people.  I try to be kind and courteous with everyone.  I am helpful at my work and in past work situations.  I guess the words that describe me are kind and considerate.  My husband once told someone if you can’t get along with me then there is something wrong with you (meaning the individual he was talking to).  A former co-worker told me I was the most honest, trustworthy person he had ever met.”

As a final note, Sophie added some thoughts on the student experience.  She stated, “Well, I think it is just wonderful that we have an institution like AU for pursuing further education.  If I had to go back to a campus to get my degree, it would have never happened because of where I live.  The nearest post-secondary campus is in Grande Prairie, AB.  We were raising a family of four children on a farm in Sunset House so going back to school would just not have worked for our situation.  The distance learning has been the only way I could accomplish this.  So, I am grateful to have the opportunity to do so.  I am thinking beyond my work and CPA designation and retirement and think that I may pursue a degree in history for my retirement years.  I consider myself a lifelong learner so why not have something to show for it.  I would also like to mention that I have mentored a couple of women in the community who have investigated AU for their career aspirations.  If ever given the opportunity I let anyone know how great of an experience I have had with AU.  It is a wonderful opportunity to pursue.”  Best of luck Sophie!

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