Minds We Meet—Lisa Spencer-Cook

Interviewing Students Like You!

The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Lisa Spencer-Cook (she/her), an Applied Studies student from Red Deer, Alberta, which she acknowledged is “Treaty 6 and 7” territory.

Lisa let us know a bit about her educational journey.  “I originally started a Psychology degree, and most of my courses have been Psych and English-based, but I changed my major to Applied Studies recently as I found my interests in courses moving in other directions.  The plan is to continue on and start a Master’s program in September,” she stated.

On a personal note, Lisa is originally from Wales, but is now a Canadian citizen.  She stated, “I originally moved here in 1996, and attended the Red Deer College Theatre Studies program, and returned to Europe shortly after that.  I moved back to Canada in 2009 to live permanently.”

The Voice Magazine also asked her about any study tips she could give fellow AU students.  “I have ADHD so it’s probably not a good idea to take study tips from me.  It’s taken me a really long time to figure out what works best for my brain, and some days are better than others.  I sometimes use brown noise to stay focused.  I have been known to put my textbooks on ‘read aloud’ and paint water colours as I’m listening, anything that can keep my brain engaged.  The greatest thing I have learned is to work with my brain type, and not against it.  I walk the dog if I’m getting frustrated or I try to move on to something else.  It’s easy to beat yourself up on the days when motivation is low, but I am learning to just accept those days, rest, and move on.  I usually end up doing 12 hours of work in 6 hours on the good days,” she explained.

Like many AU students, Lisa is quite busy juggling various tasks.  “When I am not studying, I parent and I work.  I have a 10-year-old daughter, and I work from home as a writer for a communications company in Edmonton.  There’s not really time for any kind of social life, and I have been ok with that so far.  I have had to make many changes to my lifestyle in order to stay on track with school, but this is something that I have always wanted to do.  I’m 48-years old, and I have reached the point in life where I am just focusing on my goals and my daughter’s life.  I spent many years on what I would call auto pilot mode, and I was always the person that was making sure that everyone else was ok.  I think returning to school has been my attempt at doing that but for myself.  I’ve had to really set strict rules for myself so that I don’t get distracted by anything so that I can achieve this.”

However, Lisa has also found time to travel in her busy life.  Her “most memorable vacation is a tricky question, [as] there have been many.”  She continued, “I travelled quite a bit in my 20’s and 30’s, but I lived and worked in Italy in 2001, and that country will always own a piece of my heart.”

As for her experience with online learning?  “I like the freedom of online learning, though it’s not entirely ADHD friendly.  Navigating the course systems, admin, emailing tutors, communications etc.  can get pretty frustrating for me, and I wish there was more real time access to faculty and staff.  In saying that I do get some accommodations, but not all in real time when they’re most needed.  Nothing is entirely ADHD friendly when it comes to the education system though, and online and in my own time definitely wins for my single parent life.”

And for her proudest moment in life?  “My daughter makes me feel proud.  She too is neurodivergent, she is autistic and has ADHD, and she is the most amazing person I have ever known.  She has often been underestimated (entirely because of ignorance around what it means to be autistic) in the school system and elsewhere, but she is constantly proving people wrong.  Watching her grow up is the greatest.”

She continued, “I hope to put together a blog, podcast, and book regarding neurodivergent life, and help to dispel some of the myths surrounding Autistic and ADHD brains.  Particularly female neurodivergence.  Ultimately that is my specialized subject and is why I returned to school.”  Best of luck Lisa!

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!