Graduate studies a boon to Edmonton family
Lifelong learning should be a family affair. On the International Day of Families, we want to recognize the transformative effect education has had on the family of two AU grads.
Many Athabasca University (AU) alumni will tell you how their degrees have transformed their own lives, and for some, the experience helps transform the lives of those around them.
This was the case for Ryan Yamniuk, whose experience completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in 2013 helped inspire his wife Christine Yamniuk to register in the Master of Health Studies program that same year—something that wouldn’t have been possible without the flexibility AU offers.
“It’s a cool experience having one spouse go through the program, then the other spouse go through the program, and both coming out with a master’s degree while at the same time having two kids, and keeping our full-time jobs as well,” Ryan said.
From sweeping floors to running the company
Although he’s now president of the power generation and industrial engine company Simson Maxwell, Ryan’s path to a graduate degree wasn’t exactly typical. He said that in 2002 he started working on a degree at the University of Alberta and at the same time took a job with Simson Maxwell “sweeping the shop floor.”
He quickly advanced through the company, planning his undergraduate degree with a six-year horizon rather than four, so he could keep working throughout. But in 2007, while he only had six courses left, he was offered the role of branch manager and put his studies to the side—and he still has not completed an undergraduate degree.
Fortunately for him, the Athabasca University MBA’s flexible entry routes meant he was able to start his MBA based on his management experience, rather than based on a previous degree.
“That was a big appeal of the Athabasca program, is you don’t necessarily need an undergraduate degree if you meet the other criteria,” Ryan said. “And the flexibility was great because we were newly married, building a house, and my son was born in January 2010.”
After completing his MBA, he advanced into a senior vice president position before taking over as company president in 2017.
While Ryan was completing his MBA, Christine continued to work full-time with what is now Alberta Precision Laboratories, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alberta Health Services that provides clinical laboratory testing in hospitals throughout the province.
She had graduated with a degree in medical laboratory science in 2006, and begun working as a lab technologist, a position she held for about five years before being promoted to a laboratory supervisor in 2011. A master’s degree from AU was a tool to help her keep moving up.
“I knew that at a certain point I would be looking for a new challenge in my workplace,” she said. “We were looking for some more formal training in leadership and management, with the experience I’d gotten as a lab supervisor.”
And after seeing Ryan’s positive experiences with his program, Christine registered to begin working on her own graduate degree in 2013, and AU was a natural choice.
“At the time we had a three-year-old and were planning on having more. Just as I started that program we had our daughter, so really the work-life balance was really important,” she said. “Maintaining a full-time job really made it important that it was virtual and something where I could be flexible with my time.”
She finished in 2016, and has since been promoted to the role of Director of Integrated Programs.
“At the time we had a three-year-old and were planning on having more. Just as I started that program we had our daughter, so the work-life balance was really important. Maintaining a full-time job really made it important that it was virtual and something where I could be flexible with my time.”– Ryan Yamniuk, AU MBA alumnus
Both Ryan and Christine spoke highly of their respective programs, in no small part because of how relevant the coursework was to the work they were doing at their full-time jobs.
For Ryan, he was able to tailor his assignments to focus specifically on his industry, and on Simson Maxwell’s situation. Even doing a competitor analysis assignment, for example, gave him the opportunity to bring value to the work he was doing.
“All of my assignments were actually applied in Simson Maxwell,” he said.
Likewise, Christine said the Master of Health Studies gave her the opportunity to expand her perspective beyond the laboratory side of health care and get exposed to other aspects of the industry.
“What I really liked about it was I was working with people from all disciplines of health, so nursing, pharmacy students, a really good variety in each class,” she said. “It gave me a good chance to really network and collaborate with people outside the laboratory industry.”
And both said they would recommend their respective programs to others, having seen first-hand how AU can transform lives.