Jaye Bowers was already looking for post-secondary options right out of high school, but he’d originally planned to get into law or politics and applied for a Bachelor of Arts degree program in political science at Western University in London, Ont. However, his scores coming out of high school were not sufficient enough, so communications ended up becoming his plan b. The first step of that plan b was a marketing diploma at a local college partnered with Athabasca University (AU). This was the true beginning of his time at AU.
We talked with Bowers about the experience of earning his Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communications Studies, and what’s next for him.
The beginning of the journey
It was the encouragement of his high school guidance counsellor (at the time, an English teacher making her own transition into working in the development of E-learning programs at the Ontario Ministry of Education), that gave Bowers the push he needed to make the foray into communications.
Bowers did not initially believe he’d be successful in such a program, but his counsellor had more faith in his abilities and had him participate in several assessments of his skills and strengths to determine the field he was most suited for. These assessments showed him where he’d had the strongest performance and the most enjoyment. It was clear that pursuing a post-secondary program—and eventually, career—in communications was the next logical step for him.
“Communication, language, and writing have always been among my strongest suits, and throughout much of my life, I have pursued a variety of volunteer or hobby interests that have dovetailed with communication, ranging from volunteering as a public speaker to playing violin for about twelve years—an experience which helped me gain a real appreciation of a wide range of musical styles. “
Time well spent at AU
Bowers admits that the success he had with each course was fulfilling. The realization that he was not only enrolled in—but completing a university degree— and that he was also excelling in all his courses was gratifying. One moment that gave him great satisfaction was completing a final assignment for a statistics course that had been giving him quite a lot of difficulty. He’d had so much apprehension over it that he’d even considered asking if he could receive an exemption from it.
“Mathematics and statistics have never been my strong suit. As mentioned earlier, my forte has always been in language studies—writing, music, communication—areas that are more interpretive and are not bound by formulas and finite limits or methods.”
Bowers had taken statistics previously during his marketing diploma, failing the course three times before finally managing a B grade. This pushed him to save the course for last when he came to AU. He also pushed for that exemption, but a course coordinator at AU showed him that things would not be as he expected them to be and convinced him to take the course as prescribed.
“As I got into the material—and particularly the use of formulas and theories—I came to realize that contrary to my past experience—and I imagine largely influenced by both the format of the course and the fact that I was able to study at my own pace, I was able to understand the material much better than I had back in college. I think being able to set aside my apprehension borne out of my past experience was also a big key to my success—being able to get my head around the notion that simply because I had experienced difficulty in the past, did not mean I would encounter the same difficulty this time. I think also, given that I had excelled in all of my other courses, and that I was naturally using the same study methods, I was able to draw strength and empowerment from the notion that regardless of the subject matter, if I applied the same techniques, I would be well on my way to success.”– Jaye Bowers
AU’s flexibility was a great benefit to Bowers, especially when personal matters flared up.
“The ability to extend my courses was most helpful, particularly during the time of my Dad’s passing. Managing my study schedule was never a problem, however, there was a lot that took place around the time preceding and following his death which took me away from my studies. Knowing that I had the additional time to finish was helpful as it meant that I could focus my attention on what mattered most at that time—taking care of and supporting my family.”
The results of hard work
His time at AU didn’t just provide Bowers with knowledge or practical experience either. The most valuable thing he feels he gained from his time at AU was the realization of having achieved everything on his own, and that he could push himself further. He was given an opportunity to learn more about and challenge himself.
“I think one of the biggest things that I have taken from this experience is the ability to see the product of my determination. When I first learned of the program, admittedly, it seemed like a nice idea, but one which was completely unattainable. For many years, it was an aspiration which I never imagined would come to fruition. Today, I can say that not only did I realize that aspiration, but I genuinely excelled at doing so. I think that is a fantastic model for whatever future goals I may set for myself, and a very solid reminder to never underestimate my ability and determination.”
For Bowers, completing the program was an amazing reminder that perseverance pays off, that like all growth, it takes time, and that allowing the process to take the time it needs is ok.
“In completing this program, I believe that I have demonstrated to myself that I have abilities and confidence beyond what I typically recognize or give myself credit for. During my program I began looking at a master’s degree with AU and while I do not have any concrete plans at the moment, given my experience with this program, and given the fact that despite taking longer than I had originally planned to both start, and complete the program, there is no reason why that should stop me from continuing to work toward my goals.”
Bowers is grateful to the administrative professionals and academic support/tutors of the AU team for their commitment to providing excellent support to their learners. He also feels it’s important to be honest with yourself and acknowledge your strengths and weaknesses, hold onto your dreams and goals, and take the opportunity to challenge yourself.
Finally, don’t forget to take the opportunity to celebrate—even the small successes—as they are the breadcrumbs of self-encouragement leading you to your final goal and ultimate goal, and don’t forget that everyone comes from different places and experiences. Your success is never less than the success of others because they got there first, or did it faster because everyone’s life and experiences are unique—you never know who may be inspired by your story.
“ However long you take, and whatever challenges you face are your own —embrace them and let them be part of the success of your own story. It’s never too late to follow your dreams, all you have to do is try. And besides, you never know just how much you might surprise yourself, or just how much you might learn about yourself, until you do.”– Jaye Bowers
Learn more about AU’s Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communications Studies.