Grad tales: AU grads share what made their graduation journeys special

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Athabasca University has a unique convocation tradition. As the grads cross the stage, a professor reads a 30-second story about each grad, giving the audience a feel for who the grads are along with the highlights — and lowlights — of their educational journeys.

To recap this year’s convocation, we’re sharing some of our favourite nuggets from the tales told about our class of 2014. There’s not enough room to feature all of our grads here, but we extend our heartiest congratulations to all 1,700 of them!

June 12: Arts, education and science grads

  • After Stuart Berry (Doctor of Education, Distance Education) defended his dissertation, his granddaughter said she was pleased to meet “Dr. Grandpa.”
  • Student support comes in many forms. Along with her human loved ones, Kimberley Harrison (Master of Education, Distance Education) thanked her “four-legged family” for their support and company all through her studies.
  • Rebekah Hunt (Bachelor of Professional Arts with distinction) loved to study crime and criminals as she had two children during the last two years of her degree.
  • The night time is the right time to get coursework done for many AU students. Steven Kalmar was no different — he studied for his Master of Science in Information Systems at night while working full-time and having three kids as newborns.
  • The most vivid AU memory for Andrew Paul (Bachelor of Arts with great distinction) is attending an ethnoecology field school in Indonesia taught by his anthropology tutor Janelle Baker.
  • The most time-consuming course for Gail Spence (Bachelor of General Studies with distinction) was Spanish 200, but she got to practice her Spanish with the Mexican exchange students living in her house.

June 13: Nursing, health studies and counselling grads

  • Theresa Belcourt (Master of Health Studies) felt a sense of community with her classmates even though they were in different time zones all over the world.
  • Barbara Boulton had a comfortable, high-paying position, but she didn’t enjoy it. Now, with her Master of Counselling in tow, she makes less money but is much happier in her career.
  • Fay Delarge Getson completed “degrees” in karate — first- and second-degree black belts — the same time she completed her Master of Nursing degree.
  • Andrea Gormley (Bachelor of Nursing with distinction) left acting and modelling for nursing and parenting. During the seven years of her degree studies, she had five kids in five years.
  • You can take your time working on an AU degree, or, if you have the right education background, you can finish it in months, like David Ondieki did. He earned his Bachelor of Nursing degree in seven months!
  • Sarah Weinkam (Master of Health Studies) ran four marathons during the four years she took to complete her degree.
  • In addition to his family and friends, Randy White (Master of Counselling) thanked his Ojibwa elders. They taught him the importance of First Nations ways of helping and being.

June 14: Business grads

  • Karaoke in Calgary! That is definitely one thing Kalpesh Bhatt (MBA) will remember from his strategic leadership course held there. He also takes pride in his project management skills, which served him well as he handled multi-million-dollar oil and gas projects during his AU studies.
  • Todd Carefoot (Bachelor of Administration) has the same job as the title character in Dexter: he analyzes bloodstain patterns for police. After taking geology courses, he got interested in fossils and now does fieldwork as a hobby.
  • At 21, Elisa Dekkers (Bachelor of Management) is one of AU’s younger grads. She’s now working full-time in the family business as the COO and CMO.
  • Since completing her Bachelor of Commerce, Brooklyn Dixon has been working alongside Alberta’s MLAs and premier at the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. AU also allowed her to work on her degree even when she was recovering from spinal surgery.
  • Daune MacGregor graduated from the MBA alongside her daughter Elizabeth MacGregor. They weren’t the only family team graduating on June 14 — husband and wife Lawrence and Cheryl Mitchell also both earned their MBAs.
  • Michael Opara originally trained to be a Catholic priest. But then he went on to be a scientist, then an accountant and now, a Doctor of Business Administration.
  • Matthew Quist tested the flexibility of the MBA program by completing three of his courses while he was deployed to Kandahar.
  • In addition to being a newly minted Bachelor of Management (with distinction) grad, Shane Zbrodoff is a book author, an international speaker and the head of a company.