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The Hub Convocation 2019 – Melanie Forrest

Convocation 2019 – Melanie Forrest

At Athabasca University’s (AU) convocation on June 8, Melanie Forrest received her Bachelor of Arts with Great Distinction and the 2019 Governor General’s Academic Silver Medal, awarded annually to AU’s top undergraduate student.

For Melanie, the flexibility that AU offered made pursuing her degree a reality. She lives in northern Alberta with her familty, where the nearest brick-and mortar university is a five-hour drive away.

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How was your experience at convocation?

Convocation was a whirlwind of activity and emotion, and the day went by so quickly. But in the midst of all that, it was a moment to breathe in deep, to pause, to look back at how far I’ve come, to savour my achievement. It was the perfect closure to this chapter in my life.

Melanie Forrest

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How does it feel to have won the Governor General’s Silver Medal?

The way most people who have won a major award feel, I suspect. Of course, I was very pleased, and the validation felt brilliant, but the satisfaction of “winning” is surprisingly fleeting. It’s something like climbing a mountain, standing on the peak, and seeing off in the distance all the mountains you have yet to climb. It’s just improved my view of everything I have yet to accomplish, and motivated me to press in and pursue new ways to improve and challenge myself.

Melanie Forrest

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What were the highlights of your time at AU?

There have been so many highlights! Every time I started a new set of courses, the box of textbooks arriving in the mail was a little thrill. Checking each completed course off in DegreeWorks was another. I think it’s important to celebrate the small achievements along the way. On a broader scale, I was honoured to have my essays selected—twice—for the Barbara Roberts Memorial Award. The WGST electives I took were some of my favourite courses of my degree. Presenting the research I completed for my Psychology of Sustainability class at AU’s Arts and Science Research Talks on the Edmonton campus was an experience I’ll never forget.

Melanie Forrest

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What was the hardest part of your degree?

Honestly, the hardest part of my degree has been overcoming my own self-doubt. At every turn, I questioned my own competencies and abilities and was surprised each time I got an A+ on a paper or exam. I felt like an imposter the first time I won AU’s

Undergraduate Outstanding Achievement scholarship—like someone was going to call me up and tell me a clerical error had been made, that the award hadn’t been meant for me. Gradually, I’ve gained confidence in myself and learned to trust in the objective evidence of my scholarship, but it’s still not always an easy thing for me.

Melanie Forrest

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How do you feel now that you’ve finished your degree?

The end of my degree was unexpectedly anticlimactic since I finished with an essay. Pushing the submit button for the last time was just like submitting all the assignments before it; it didn’t feel like anything special. It took a few days for it to sink in that I was done, and during that time, I kind of wandered around the house aimlessly, feeling vaguely guilty for not working on any schoolwork. I’m still trying to adjust to the new post-degree normal, but currently, I’m happily reading my way through the stack of books that have accumulated on my side of the bed, quite relieved that I don’t have to write a paper on any of them.

Melanie Forrest

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Why is lifelong learning important to you?

In addition to increasing employability and simple day-to-day functionality in our rapidly changing times, lifelong learning provides the foundation for ongoing improvement and creative innovation, in both our professional and personal lives. More importantly, I believe that lifelong learning also can increase our social awareness and empathy with those whose perspectives and experiences differ from ours. Learning happens formally, of course, when we set out deliberately to acquire new information and skills. But sometimes, if you stay open to it, the sources of the deepest learning are life’s unexpected events—the ones that are inconsistent with your expectations, the ones that challenge you to question your assumptions and beliefs—and these can happen at any time in life.

Melanie Forrest

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What’s next for you?

I’ve been accepted to the University of Alberta’s Master of Library and Information Studies program for the fall, and I’m very excited about this new challenge. I plan to pursue a career in academic librarianship, so who knows—maybe one day I’ll be back in the AU Library! Both of our kids are off attending postsecondary—one in Calgary, the other in Edmonton—so my husband and I are beginning new adventures together.
We are looking forward to taking some time to explore Italy this summer before we settle back into school and work in September.

Melanie Forrest

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Do you have any passions outside school that you would like to share?

I love to read and always have a book with me, in my purse or glove box. Right now, I’m reading Educated, a fascinating memoir by Tara Westover, but my taste in reading material is very eclectic.

Melanie Forrest

Published:
  • June 19, 2019