Transforming Lives: Moving Beyond is a testimonial series written by 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.
My connection with Athabasca University began a few years after its launch. My family expected I would “go to university,” but no one in my family had done that, so it was a total mystery.
I eventually took several biology courses at a well-known university, because I loved nature and was working as a park interpreter. But I quickly realized that I was one of those interdisciplinary people who wouldn’t be satisfied in a single field. And I discovered Athabasca University. That allowed me to design many elements of my degree. Apparently, it was controversial when I graduated with top marks in my class, perhaps because I insisted on near-perfect grades and struggled off and on with imposter syndrome (in other words, I took a long time).
I never thought I’d attend a convocation, but found myself on a multi-day road trip from Victoria to Athabasca. Our child’s Pooh Bear was strapped into the passenger seat, amusing the children of friends I visited along the way. In the long line-up waiting to go into the marquee, I stood beside another MacGillivray—with a different spelling—from the Blue Quills First Nation. He asked me several questions about the ceremony, and it quickly became obvious that I knew no more than he did about things like why some robes had slits in the sleeves. Once we established that, we had a wonderful conversation.
Fast forward many years…I still love nature. I have fond memories of people who guided my learning at Athabasca. Some of that learning went well beyond knowledge to shifts in how I see the world. My career evolved, and I moved into organizational consulting. My formal education also continued and includes two MA degrees and a PhD in Human and Organizational Systems. One of my passions is working with adult graduate students who go out and make amazing changes in their organizations and communities. Some of them are becoming first generation scholars and it feels wonderful to help them along their learning journeys.
Alice MacGillivray lives a straw bale home on Gabriola Island, B.C. She works with clients and as an Associate Faculty member with Royal Roads University in the Schools of Leadership, and Environment and Sustainability. Much of her spare time is spent with her Australian Terrier and Norwegian Fjord Horse.