The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Katherine (she/her) from Lethbridge, Alberta, who is a double major student in Psychology and Anthropology hoping to continue to a masters of counseling. Katherine stated, “In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, we honour and acknowledge Moh’kinsstis, and the traditional Treaty 7 territory and oral practices of the Blackfoot confederacy: Siksika, Kainai, Piikani, as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations. We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. Finally, we acknowledge all Nations – Indigenous and non – who live, work and play on this land, and who honour and celebrate this territory.”
Katherine explained why she was pursuing her particular academic field and eventual career. “It’s come to my attention through years in this industry that there is a considerable number of individuals, children, and frontline support staff living with developmental disabilities that could benefit immensely from adequate counselling and mental health support. Yet I see these individuals constantly being brushed off or prescribed medications instead of people working with them to find affordable solutions and overcome the barriers that prevent them from attending more traditional services, despite the endless advocacy that agencies like mine do to prevent it. I would love to someday be able to bridge that gap and be able to provide those services to the individual and support staff who need it most. Nothing will change unless we choose to make change happen, and I want to be part of that step forward to a kinder inclusive world.”
On a personal note, Katherine let The Voice Magazine know that she grew up in Moose Jaw in southern Saskatchewan with her family and younger sister. She also let us know an interesting fact, that, in Moose Jaw, “despite some back and forth with the Norwegians, who had taken our title of having the ‘Largest Moose in the World’ for a while, Mac the moose is back to being the world’s largest moose statue with his newly installed rack.”
She continued, “I worked for a few years in Emergency Services throughout central Saskatchewan before moving to Alberta at 25. Now I am married, with two amazingly talented daughters. I have been working in various positions throughout the developmental disability industry for the past six years. I am currently working as an assistant coordinator of community services while I finish my degree.”
Katherine also had some great study tips for AU students. “Finding time to study is hard. Between the family at home and working full-time and all the schedule changes that come with, it’s challenging to say the least. It might have been easier to juggle time and studying if I had gone to university right out of high school, however now, at 36 years old, I have life experience and a passion to help others that I never had back then. I would have ended up in some program that would not hold my interest, let alone fulfill any sense of achievement. In the end I think the struggle to find time is there but it’s more accessible when you are motivated and interested in what you’re learning.”
She also provided some advice for new and prospective students. “It doesn’t matter if it takes 4 years or 20 years, if you’re doing what you can do, and headed in the direction you want to go you are on the right track. to let others discourage you, everyone’s situation is different.”
This busy student also finds time for hobbies. Describing herself as “crafty,” Katherine enjoys painting and drawing. “I have recently started weaving fabrics on a slightly intimidating looking four shaft table loom, thanks to a lovely co-worker who introduced me to it and would love to learn to spin yarn as well. I think repeated actions can bridge a sense of calm after a busy stressful day. My family loves to be outdoors, and go camping, spend time around the fire pit in our backyard,” she related.
Katherine also described her most memorable vacation, when she and her wife “took a trip to the Radium Hot Springs in BC.” She explained, “Shortly after, things began to be restored from the mudslide aftermath. Our tiny hotel room still did not have any drinkable water, I was sick with a horrible head cold and we ended up hiking for hours in the wrong direction. Yet somehow, it was still the most fun vacation, and the view is always beautiful no matter which direction you look.”
She credits her younger sister on having the greatest influence on her desire to learn. “I finished high school and went to a technical college a few years after graduating, and I thought that was all I wanted. After watching my younger sister struggle through years of upgrading, distance learning, travelling, and juggling her family and work to get her LPN degree, and seeing all that chaos come together for her after so many years, it made me wonder what else I could be doing, or what I was missing.”
Kathrine’s experience with online learning has been positive so far, as she has “enjoyed AU” so far. “It is a perfect fit for my life. I can pay for classes at my own pace without loans. I can take one class at a time, and not have to split what little time and attention I do have between multiple classes, this always me to get the best possible grades that I can. I enjoy not having to go to some other campus to write exams, ProctorU has been an excellent addition for me. I have even met a few new friends over the last year and half, which I did not really expect with online learning. All the extra social media platforms, Facebook, Discord & Athabasca University Students app have been a big part of building community and I feel like I am a part of the University. I was also surprised to see so much ongoing support for 2SLGBTQIA+ people like myself. All too often organizations are only supportive during ‘Pride Month,’ and it becomes apparent when it’s put on just for good publicity. I am glad to say this university is inclusive.”
Her most memorable AU course has been ENGL 255: Introductory Composition, although she admits that she has “not taken too many courses yet.” She explained, “I did enjoy English 255. It had been a long time since I was in school last, and I definitely needed some brushing up on writing skills, so that class was beneficial. And I found the topics for essays and discussion truly relevant and meaningful to my life, which helped keep it interesting.”
Her communications with her course tutors have been different each time. She explained, “Just like every person is different, every tutor is also different. I read somewhere that it was a clever idea to e-mail and introduce yourself to your tutor. That gives you an opportunity to learn their style before anything gets marked. Nothing is worse than spending half a class trying to figure out what will keep the tutor happy, instead of learning the course material. In the classes that I have gone out of my way to connect with the tutor, it made communication with them much easier than if I would be the type of person who only reaches out, when something is wrong.”
Katherine joked that she would offer cheaper courses if she were the new president of AU, although she acknowledged, “Education is expensive, but I find AU to be reasonable.” However, she did have one serious suggestion. “One thing I struggle with is online textbooks. I would love to see the option of requesting an online or physical textbook included in the course registration. It increases my costs of chasing textbooks, even if they are second-hand. I have also noticed that in the odd class I have done strictly with the online texts, my grades were not as high as I would normally expect for that type of course and I struggled with completing the reading. I use computers all day long at work, the last thing I want to do. I strain my eyes more reading online text. Everyone learns differently, and I believe to remain inclusive and provide the best online education, options to have the physical text included would go a long way for some students, and by making it an option, the university can still utilize the cheaper online version as well.”
Katherine also let The Voice Magazine know about the most valuable lesson she learned in life. “I think the most personally valuable lesson I’ve learned thus far in life is to set boundaries and learn that assertiveness takes practice, like everything in life,” she stated.
As a final note, Katherine thanked The Voice Magazine “for reaching out and offering this opportunity to share some of my experiences with their readers.” Best of luck Katherine!
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!