The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Alfred Blondin (he/him), a human resources professional who was living in Iqaluit and working for the Government of Nunavut while pursuing his Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations (BHRLR) degree at Athabasca University. (He will receive his degree in September 2022. Congratulations Alfred!)
Alfred continued, “When I moved to Iqaluit, I was hired as an HR Administrator for one of the Government of Nunavut’s (GN) departments and I have worked my way through various positions in the last six years. Currently, I am the HR Manager for the GN’s Department of Human Resources.” Before moving to Iqaluit with his now-husband in 2016, Alfred, who is originally from the Philippines, lived in Vancouver, and has most recently relocated to Ottawa, Ontario after completing his studies.
Alfred let The Voice Magazine know a bit about his educational journey. He stated, “I feel very fortunate that I was already working in human resources when I pursued this degree. I was able to apply certain topics from my AU courses towards the HR work that I did. Working in a diverse and Indigenous work environment, I was able to almost immediately apply what I learned in this program towards my work in recruitment, performance management, workplace health and safety, and employee relations.” He continued, “I was able to utilize some of the courses, such as IDRL 320” (The Law of Work) “and IDRL 316,” (The Practice of Labour Relations) “when it came to advising organizational leaders in best practices on employee and labour relations that are compliant with HR policies, employment legislation, and applicable collective agreements. I hope that by obtaining my degree, I am able to further grow into my HR career and would be able to use this to pursue exciting opportunities in the world of HR within Canada.”
In particular, IDRL 320 had been Alfred’s most memorable course. He explained, “I liked how I was able to apply a lot of what I learned here in my HR work. I was able to provide applicable advice on some complex employee/labour relations issues in my workplace because of the case laws that were provided in this course.”
The Voice Magazine also asked this soon-to-be graduand for some study tips. Alfred mentioned setting a study schedule. “As I am working full-time, I had to make relevant changes to my day-to-day schedule to best accommodate my studies. During working days, I had to make sure I am setting aside about 3 hours a day for my studies; and on weekends, I would dedicate at least 8 hours for my studies,” he explained. He admitted that this schedule has “certainly affected some of my hobbies and even social life.” However, he is “really passionate” in his career choice, and wants “to prove to myself and to others out there that it is not too late for someone in their 30’s to pursue higher education.”
Alfred also had some great tips for new and/or prospective students. “All the courses that I have taken were self-directed courses. While one may be motivated to pursue their degree this way, it takes a lot of discipline to succeed. Having a schedule and sticking to it really helps, especially if one wants to maintain a healthy work-school-life balance.” Some of his advice may be particularly useful for those dealing with digital accessibility issues in the North. He stated, “On a more practical approach, and especially for those going to AU with limited access to reliable internet such as in Nunavut, you can download a PDF copy of your courses and use that PDF while you go through the lessons and reading materials. Of course, quizzes, forum posts, and tests are different. But if you at least have a PDF copy of the course, it would be easier to access them than logging online constantly.”
Alfred also spoke a bit about his experience with online learning as a student in the North. “Online learning has certainly been quite a challenge, especially from where I was taking it. Nunavut does not have the fastest nor the most reliable internet in the country. It is quite a shame that for a country as progressive as Canada, some parts of it lack the infrastructure to fully support online learning. There have been instances when I could not do an invigilated test because we lost power in our community or because the weather conditions have shut down our internet. [The program] was certainly doable, since I was able to take and finish all my courses while living in Iqaluit – but I couldn’t help but think how less stressful my experience would have been if I had reliable access to the resources I need for online learning.”
He outlined many of the positives of online learning as well. He continued, “That said, what I did enjoy about online learning is the flexibility it has given me. Being able to choose which month I want to take my course as well as go through my course any time of the day instead of following a specific schedule has helped me manage a good work-school-life balance. For example, during my wedding and honeymoon I knew that I would not be able to dedicate time to my studies and so I had the flexibility to register for my courses the following month after my wedding and honeymoon—rather than scheduling them in between semesters on a traditional post-secondary school calendar.”
However, if Alfred were the new president of AU, he “would probably work on obtaining more funding for AU if it meant lowering tuition costs.” He explained, “It was very disappointing how tuition costs have increased annually that the cost of courses is now nearing $1,000/course. When I started the BHRLR program, the cost per course was only $700/course.”
When asked who in his life has had the greatest influence on his desire to learn, Alfred chose his husband Alex. He stated, “We have different life experiences. He was born in Canada and had the privileges that came with it while I was an immigrant from the Philippines in which my family had to start over from scratch. It took me some time to figure out which career path to take as I had to juggle certain responsibilities that come from being a first generation immigrant.” He continued, “When I told him that I had always wanted to get my Bachelor’s degree, he had been nothing but supportive in helping me accomplish this dream. From making sure I don’t get distracted while studying, taking over some daily or weekly chores so that I have more time for my studies, and just by being a great cheerleader – I couldn’t have asked for a better support person in my husband.”
In the midst of these studies and job commitments, Alfred was also able to enjoy a memorable vacation, during which he honeymooned in the UK with his husband. “We flew to London and we took the train all the way to Inverness, Scotland over multiple days while making stops in different places in the country. I got to visit the Isle of Skye and I hope one day I could spend a week just on this island.”
When not studying, Alfred is also “an avid gym-goer” and “love, love being healthy and exercising.” He continued, “Here in Iqaluit, I would enjoy going out into the land and going for walks and hanging out with nature for hours. During the winter months, I would enjoy seeing and taking pictures of the northern lights. When the northern lights are out, I would brave a -20 to -30c weather and take lots of pictures until my camera battery died due to the extreme cold.” Alfred also is an avid video gamer, stating that “prior to moving to Iqaluit, I would often go to gaming conventions and would sometimes cosplay as well.” He continued, “I love being immersed in these wonderful environments, explore different gaming styles, and even watching streamers do speedruns of some of my favourite games.”
When asked which famous person, past or present, he you like to have lunch with, and why, he chose two! Firstly, Alfred would like to have lunch with Ariana Huffington. He stated, “Ever since she left The Huffington Post and founded Thrive Global, she has been a tireless advocate for a better work-life balance and for changing workplace behaviours so that employees are dealing with less stress and fewer (hopefully zero) burnouts at work. I have been fascinated by her talks on mental health and wellness.” He continued, “Most recently, she partnered with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), the leading HR professional group in the United States, in getting US companies to pledge to keep the mental health and wellness benefits they provided during the COVID-19 pandemic.” As for the lunch? “As she is Greek-American, I would love for her to recommend a good Greek restaurant somewhere in her neighbourhood and we could enjoy calamari and souvlaki.”
Alfred would also like to meet Michael Schur, “the creator The Good Place – of one of the most fascinating and thought-provoking (yet underappreciated) TV shows in the last 10 years. He was also the creator of Brooklyn 99 and Parks and Recreation, and he was a producer for The Office (US).” He explained, “My main intent for meeting him is so that I could pick his brain on everything Good Place related. I’m very fascinated at how he managed to create a show around the concept of what it means to be a good person. I’d love to know how he came up with the 4 main characters, what were his influences in creating this version of the afterlife, and how he discovered these themes on morality and ethics.” And this lunch ? “I figured I could meet him at a pub for beer and wings and we would have a fun discussion about the show.”
On a more personal note, The Voice Magazine was also able to find out a bit about Alfred’s most valuable lesson learned in life. He stated, “That everyone is moving forward at their own pace. It’s important to be respectful and kind when considering other’s situations and personal choices. It’s through this mindset that I realized it’s not too late for me to get my post-secondary education.” And his proudest moment? That would be “getting my BHRLR degree.” Best of luck Alfred!
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!