The Hub Zainab Mahmood: Removing barriers

Transforming Lives: Moving Beyond is a testimonial series written by Athabasca University (AU) students and alumni who want to acknowledge how AU has helped shape their lives.

It’s a space for those who want to thank the people who have helped to support and transform their AU experience to achieve their greatest successes; all while looking forward to their future educational and personal potential.

Their story is worth shouting from the rooftops! Have an inspiring story of your own to share? Email us! We’d love to hear it.

Where do I begin?

Zainab Mahmood and her sons

Prior to my journey at Athabasca University, I thought my world in academia and education had ended. I was raising two young teenage sons on my own, and could not imagine attending university classes while being present in their lives, their activities, and holding down the fort for the three of us. I could not visualize leaving my job either.

My father found AU for me in 2016, and urged me to look into a program I may be interested in. Since AU is strictly an online university, it seemed convenient. By November of 2016, I was registered as a program student in the Bachelor of Arts in Human Services Degree after transferring diploma credits from an Early Learning and Child Care program I had pursued years prior.

Support network

The flexibility AU offers is remarkable—I was able to remain working. I managed to help my sons with homework, and attend their school practices and games. Most of all, I was able to do what I love most—travel—all while pursuing a degree. The tutors at AU were extremely helpful, as I learned that it is absolutely vital to reach out to them with any questions or concerns, and they will always assist in one way or another. At times, I called and emailed my tutors and program administrators just to connect with them, and thanked them for all they did. Acknowledgement of their support is imperative!

Tutors are there to assist and support us as much as they can, but the way a student performs their study method is all up to the student. In my view, AU is a free-spirited university.

I was able to complete the degree and graduate in April 2018. At times, At times I completed two courses per month, and at other times, one course every two months. This was depending on how busy my personal life was. The flexibility offered is extraordinary!

Craving further education a few months after graduation, I decided to continue with AU and apply for the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies graduate program.

By September of 2018, I was registered as a non-program student and was able to begin courses that would be applied to the MA-IS program. In January of 2019, I was officially a MA-IS program student. In March of 2020, I completed the MA-IS program with a focus in Adult Education with a GPA average of 3.5.

I was only able to succeed at AU the way I did because of the flexibility of the programs, the program administrators, and the tutors. During my MA-IS journey, I was able to travel to New York, South East Asia, British Columbia, and Las Vegas. With all that joy, however, came hardship.

I learned to prioritize my goals and reduced my social life to the minimum. And though this was difficult, it was essential in order for me to reach my goals.

I reflected deeply on where I would like to be in the near future. I was able to slow down in the midst of chaos, when I didn’t think this was possible.

My journey landed me here, at AU, but it certainly doesn’t stop now. Because of AU, I was able to reach my highest potential in gaining a job that I had always dreamt of. It is not like any other I have done before. I pursued what needed to be pursued, and I chased my dreams. I am now in a much healthier and happier place in life.

Through all the obstacles faced, I gave myself no option to give up on my studies. I plan to continue working as an advocator for the vulnerable sector, humanity, and to ensure equal rights. Athabasca University is what I chose to be my shield to all barriers in life, and I will forever be benefiting our society today because of the institution.

Zainab Mahmood is a 35 year old mother of two boys, a 17 and a 16 year old, and a third baby due in less than a month. She has lived most of her life in Canada, but have managed to travel the world with her sons and experience various cultures and traditions while studying online thanks to Athabasca University! She was able to transfer her Diploma credits in Early Learning and Child Care from a Canadian University, which she also achieved through e-learning to gain a Bachelor of Professional Arts in Human Services from Athabasca University. After completing her Bachelors in less than two years, she decided to pursue a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, with a specialization in Adult Education as well from Athabasca University and completed her studied in March of this year. She is currently working as a University Research Assistant on a project called Pathways Into and Out of Precarious Status for Migrants in Canada. She will be pursuing her PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies, specializing in migration and precarious status in 2021.

  • July 31, 2020
Guest Blog from:
Zainab Mahmood