Minds We Meet—Evelyn Parker

The Voice Magazine recently had a chance to chat with Evelyn Parker (she/her), a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Systems student living in High River, Alberta.

On a personal note, Evelyn let us know that she is “a single mother of 3 children, whose oldest “daughter just started university,” her “son runs heavy equipment,” and her “younger daughter is in her last year of high school and was recently accepted into university for the fall of 2024.”

She “grew up as the 10th child in a family of 15 in Nova Scotia and moved to Alberta in 2020, the same year [her] children’s dad passed away.”  She continued, “As soon as we got here, my contracted job fell through and we went into COVID-19 lockdown.  To keep food on the table and a roof over head, I got a job delivering food for SkipTheDishes while I completed the training and examinations for my insurance licence.”

That same year, Evelyn enrolled in AU’s Bachelor of Commerce program, before switching to a Bachelor of Science in Computer and Information Systems after her first year.  “I plan to start working in the computer programming field once I earn my university certificate at the end of my second year of studies, while I complete my degree,” she explained.

When asked how she best studies, Evelyn let us know, “I study best via audiobook if there is a great deal of reading involved that does not necessarily include diagrams and other visual aids.  I listen to someone else read to me while I complete other tasks like walking the dog, preparing meals, cleaning the house, or driving.  I am motivated by the hope of a better paying job which translated to less financial pressure for myself and my children.”

This busy student also had some great advice for current and/or prospective students.  “My advice is to study something that you love, not what someone else says you should study.  Keep in contact with your professor/tutor.”

When she is not studying, she “enjoy[s] hanging with friends, playing and singing music, golf, skiing, traveling, and binge-watching movie series.”

Speaking of travelling, she let us know about a memorable vacation.  “My most memorable vacation was a trip to Florida with two babies under the age of 2.  My husband stayed home, and I flew with a few of my siblings.  On the flight home, my 6-month-old son power-puked all over me just as we got air-borne.  After cleaning him up, I handed him out the washroom door to my sister and stripped off all my soaked clothes.  I asked my sister to dig my winter coat out of my luggage; then I unzipped the lining from the coat and zipped up the outer shell of the jacket around the top half of me and the lining around me from the waste down.  That was fine until we were going through customs in Toronto, and I saw the attendant asking other passengers to take off their coats.  I had retrieved my luggage at this point and struggled to pull on some clothes under my jacket while moving through the line of impatient travelers, with two crying babies in a stroller.  We barely made it to our connecting plane that would take us home to Nova Scotia before they closed the gate.  I learned that travelling with two children under the age of 2 because they fly free may not be such a great deal after all!”

Evelyn credits her older sister as the inspiration for her studies.  “When I attended my older sister’s university graduation as a mature student, I decided I wanted the same thing.  She has been my encouragement and constant go-to when things get tough,” she stated.

As for her experience with online learning so far?  “Online learning is challenging for several reasons.  Keeping myself motivated to study when I want to sleep, go out with friends, or just vegetate  is the hardest part of creating and maintaining my own schedule.  Another challenge of online studying is all the reading.  Many of my courses require me to read between 800 and 1000 pages each.  I would rather listen to a lecture than read.  There is no social interaction in studying online, so it is easy to feel alone and isolated.  I have struggled with even connecting with my instructor for the last couple of courses and had to hire an external tutor to help me understand the course materials, because the instructor would not help me.”

She continued, “The pros of online learning are numerous as well.  If it weren’t for online learning, I would not be able to continue my education.  Because of this opportunity, I can study early in the morning before going to work and on weekends.  It amazing that I can complete an entire degree by correspondence.”

Her most memorable course has been ACCT 253: Introductory Financial Accounting, explaining that she took a similar course in college.  Although she “tried to transfer into Acadia University where I started my post secondary education journey … they would not accept the former course I took and required me to take their course in accounting.”  She continued, “Then when I transferred credits from Acadia University to Athabasca University, Athabasca would not accept the accounting course that I took at Acadia, so I had to complete a similar course here, hence the A+ in ACCT 253.”

As for communication with her course tutors?  “Like any area of dealing with people, some are great, and others are not.  In some of my courses, the tutors have been right there with me to help at any step of the way; in another course, I was unable to reach my tutor throughout the entire length of the course; and in yet another course, the tutor’s primary focus was on teaching at another university, and he would not or could not help me with my course questions.  I ended up hiring an external tutor to help me.  His English was very difficult to understand, so communication was tough as well.”

The Voice Magazine asked Evelyn what her first project would be if she were the new president of AU.  She responded that it “would be to find dedicated teachers who speak fluently the language(s) of the students they are teaching and who are focused on the success of their students.”

When asked which famous persona she would like to have lunch with and why, Evelyn chose Elon Musk.  She exampled, “I think he understands the challenges of the computer world as well as the business world and is using his power, money, and influence to make the world a better place for its inhabitants.  And the lunch?  “According to the internet, Elon Musk enjoys French food, especially crepes; so If I want him to relax and allow me to pick his brain, I would go to a French restaurant that serves crepes.”

She also let us know about her most valuable lesson in life, namely “not to let others control me,” she explained, “I grew up in a religious cult run by my austere father.  He beat fear of displeasing him into every fibre of our beings, to the point that he controlled our thinking as well as our actions.  In so doing, he stole 40 years of my life … 40 years in which the choices he made for me aligned with his agenda to build his own kingdom.  Finally, I started questioning him and stood up to him, with fear and trembling, yes physical trembling, and have since gradually walked away from that life of bondage and fear.”

And her proudest moment?  “The proudest moment of my life was the day that I stood up to my father in a church business meeting and, with one question, exposed his fraud which triggered the end of his cult and the closure of his church.  That took tremendous courage because I did it alone.”

Evelyn chose The Bible as having had the greatest impact on her life since she “was immersed in it for more of [her] life than not.”  She continued, “We memorized long passages of the King James Bible, many of which I still remember today, because this indoctrination started long before we even started school.  But since walking away from that religious organization, I have really enjoyed the writings of David Baldacci and James Rickards.  David Baldacci’s writings are not only entertaining, but also bring out the corruption in the government and brings to light that any organization of power is run by people, some of whom are corrupt and so not to be taken at face value as though they exist solely for the good of the common people.  James Rickards is an American lawyer and investment banker who explains the world financial systems of intergovernmental struggle for control and power.  Both writers bring out the necessity of the common person to look beyond the face value of human organizations to see the corruption and make wise decisions accordingly to maintain as much independence for himself and his family as possible.”

As a final note, Evelyn stated, “I came from a family of 15, many of whom have moved away from our home province to get a fresh start.  Two of my brothers have PhD’s in physics, several have undergrad and Master’s degrees, and one is finishing her law degree.  I tell you this not to brag about my family, but only to say that the struggles of life do not define us.  We can rise from the ashes stronger and more determined than ever to succeed because of the difficulties that life has demanded we overcome.  Like the adage says, what does not kill you makes you stronger!”  Best of luck Evelyn!

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!