Minds We Meet—Wayne O’Toole

Interviewing Students Like You!

The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Wayne O’Toole (he/him), a brand new student just beginning his AU journey this May.  Wayne is enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts, major in Sociology and a minor in Inclusive Education.

From Unam’ki/Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Wayne stated, “I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People.  This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) People first signed with the British Crown in 1725.  The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.”

On a personal note, Wayne described himself as “51 and Neurodivergent.  ASD and ADD.  And an advocate and volunteer with a head full of videos on food security, housing solutions and energy sovereignty.”

When asked how he best studies, Wayne stated, “Non-linear, with little distraction:  headphones with noise cancelling.  Some hippie 60 and 70’s tune low in the background.  I am looking forward to using brain mapping and other software.  I doodle ideas and important associative parts with coloring pencils: shapes and lots of color.”

He also had some great advice for new students and/or prospective students.  “I have been a lifelong learner.  Treat knowledge as a valuable tool.  Be mindful when stressors occur, do it your way and always ask for help.  Or accessibility if needed.  There are many more options, sometimes we just don’t know, connecting; very Druid thing.”

When Wayne is not studying he has “a Facebook page where [he] writes what [he is] thinking.”  He continued, “Photography.  I am always studying, life.  And experimenting.  Our permaculture, or ‘Little Patches’ I call them in writings.  The Sable Strawberry are my wife’s favorite.  Advocacy.  Efficiency we are just about to be Net Zero on a moderate income.  Oh, I am a Druid.  Celtic spirituality.”

The Voice Magazine also asked Wayne about books and authors who have made an impact on his life.  He stated, “Being Neurodivergent, I actually don’t like books.  But I did love Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Indiana Jones I read while my Nana and I ate at Zellers restaurant.  Lord of the Rings.  I like books that feed my visual mind.  With color, adventure, vibrancy.  I see it play like a movie.”

When asked who in his life had the greatest influence on his desire to learn, Wayne responded, “I grew up marginalized with a colorful ASD brain.  I was afraid of university.  The old way.

My self, my wife and this time my son.  And for community.  I cannot work, but there are volunteer groups I am involved with.  I always had the desire to learn, and found ways.  That is a hard question.  I believe in ‘We’ and because of how my brain works, study is therapeutic.  Fill the mind with data and not let it on its own.”

Although Wayne had not yet started his courses at the time of this interview, he was positive that “funding should make the deadline for March 1 courses.”  He continued, “So far the site is very user friendly, and questions answered … I have taken many online courses, I enjoy the accessibility and in using the ADD (H) moments to run through courses and then settle.”  However, Wayne mentioned that Accessibility Services and a contacting the Sociology department have been very helpful.

When asked what his first project would be if he were the new president of AU, he stated, “To work with the Student Union, and students on potential issues, and use the input and a diverse group to implement the changes, or at least have a look at cost/benefit, ROI including Student ‘Happiness’ level factors.  Be a 3, 5, and 10-year plan.”

When asked which famous person, past or present, he would like to have lunch with, and why, Wayne chose “Gandhi with a vegan array.  But there are so many possibilities.”

The Voice Magazine asked Wayne about his most valuable lesson learned in life.  “I have c-PTSD.  I was told I couldn’t.  And mental abused by an alcoholic dad.  So it drove me to succeed.  Until I burned out.  There is rush, nor weighing of success.  It is when you feel value from what you do within,” he stated.

As for his proudest moment?  “I won an award back when MS Access was new.  We had a large photo, and name/info book.  I develop a searchable database and input over 7,000 files.  Innovation and Initiative I believe.”  Best of luck Wayne!

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!

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