And the 2016 Distinguished Alumna is …

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AU's 2016 Distinguished Alumna, Julie Lys [photo credit: Leili Heidema, Fort Smith, N.W.T., 2016]

AU’s 2016 Distinguished Alumna, Julie Lys [photo credit: Leili Heidema, Fort Smith, N.W.T., 2016]

Nothing tells the story of Athabasca University better than the success of our students and alumni — people who are making their marks on the job and in their communities.

Meet Julie Lys, MN ’07: AU’s Distinguished Alumna Award recipient.

Lighting Pathways to Success

Community is everything for Julie Lys, a 2007 AU Master of Nursing graduate.

She is a proud champion of her northern Métis heritage, her sprawling family — both immediate and extended — and her community members of Fort Smith, in the South Slave Region of the Northwest Territories.

Lys, a nurse practitioner and educational health advocate, is committed to doing whatever it takes to nurture her community and instill in its members a sense of passion, pride, and a continuous desire to learn – no matter one’s personal circumstances.

The idea to become a nurse and care for her community came after the light-bulb moment when, as a teenage candy striper at her local hospital, she realized there was a definite lack of diversity among the people working in healthcare-related roles.

“I didn’t see aboriginal people working there in positions such as doctors,” says Lys.

“I saw local people working in the kitchen and housekeeping, but not in nursing roles. I just thought people from “the South” (as in Edmonton or Calgary) do those kinds of jobs.”

When she was a child, her father said: “My girl, you were born to care for others.”

He was right. Nursing was the natural fit.

After she finished her degree, she fulfilled her goal to come straight home to work in the community where she grew up among her tight-knit family, including a dozen siblings.

I saw local people working in the kitchen and housekeeping, but not in nursing roles. I just thought people from “the South” (as in Edmonton or Calgary) do those kinds of jobs.”~ Julie Lys, 2016 Athabasca University Distinguished Alumna

She has also made it her life’s mission to promote education among Fort Smith’s aboriginal, Métis and indigenous learners.

“I love to learn and I love education,” says Lys, who has served on the education board in Fort Smith for 14 years, namely as chair.

She is a strong advocate of youth in her community and enjoys talking to them about the post-secondary experience. She says nothing is more satisfying then the pivotal moment when she gets to flip over the tassel of a high school graduate’s cap.

Equally inspiring, she says, is watching these young people follow in her own previous educational footsteps — “graduating from university and coming back to work here.”

Lys was instrumental in the development of Fort Smith’s Phoenix School for youth — an alternative platform to help students reinvest in their education and, moreover, to graduate.

Nothing is more satisfying then the pivotal moment when she gets to flip over the tassel of a high school graduate’s cap.”

Like AU’s mandate for flexible education, the Phoenix School operated independent hours to accommodate students’ jobs and roles as young parents — a place where they could “check in and work at their own pace.”

For Julie Lys, education is the gateway to one’s future career.

“It just opens a lot of doors. If a student has a high school diploma and then goes on to post-secondary education, they can do great things — meaningful things in the community.”

Stay tuned for our next AU Alum profile featuring our 2016 Rising Star Award recipient, Staff Sgt. Jeremie Landry, Detachment Commander of the Cold Lake, Alberta, RCMP.

Discover how you can nominate someone for the next year’s Alumni Awards. 

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