HR pro and powerlifter raises the bar with Bachelor of Management degree
Transforming Lives: Learners of AU is an ongoing series where real students and alumni share how flexible online learning at Athabasca University made a difference in their lives and communities. Submit your story.
The year 2016 stands out as a major milestone and the starting point of a transformative chapter in my life. I was energized by a recent career change and needed and wanted to build my knowledge base and capacity to best serve my employer, Unity Credit Union, in my new role in human resources.
While I had a successful multi-decade career in the field of administration, I wanted new tools in a robust toolkit specifically geared towards talent development, performance management, and employee well-being and engagement.
Meeting the challenges of an evolving workplace
The world of work continues to evolve in wild and wonderful ways, and I was excited to be in a position that pushes my learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
I was compelled to understand and address the challenges of helping capable people enjoy a rewarding and meaningful career, and working together toward the shared purpose and mission of the organization.
“The world of work continues to evolve in wild and wonderful ways, and I was excited to be in a position that pushes my learning, critical thinking, and problem solving.”– Shauna Hammer (Bachelor of Management ’23)
Pushing for CPHR designation
I also recognized and valued the credibility that formal education and a professional affiliation provide. I wondered how I might chart the course for my growth and development ambitions.
The Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) association met my desire for professional excellence, ethics, and standards in the new career I was enthusiastic about and was determined to build my capacity in.
Through a rigorous framework of education, examination, and validation of experience, an individual can obtain a CPHR designation. The 1st step is the education component, obtainable via numerous avenues.
Learning at any age
Given my career stage and life responsibilities, I required a feasible path in a reasonable timeframe that could be done on my own time and pace.
I sensed that starting a brand-new post-secondary certificate, diploma, or degree was a financial and time commitment that was not right for me.
I landed at Athabasca University (AU), which truly does break down barriers to education.
“Given my career stage and life responsibilities, I required a feasible path in a reasonable timeframe that could be done on my own time and pace.”
By enrolling in a diploma-to-degree program, I could build on the business administration diploma I had completed at Lakeland College over 20 years prior and earn a Bachelor of Management. The recognition of prior education emboldened my courage to become a university student and fortified my belief that I could attain an education credential I had previously thought to be a closed door.
Building on my existing education also meant lower tuition costs. It also allowed a low-risk trial of the education journey, with the freedom to step away if I decided it wasn’t right for me.
Raising the bar as powerlifter
An ambitious and goal-driven person, my personal development aspirations extended beyond my professional career into other areas of life. As a member of the local CrossFit gym, I had discovered pure joy and delight in fitness training, especially with weights. The barbell in my hands brought sensations of vitality, strength, and empowerment.
I dared to step onto a competitive powerlifting platform for the first time, also in 2016. It was terrifying; I didn’t lift much, but I was hooked because I could see that incremental and dedicated actions could increase my capabilities over time.
I wanted to see what was possible.
Finding balance between career, fitness, family, and learning
Fitness and strength training have become an important and integrated part of my holistic well-being. Career, fitness, family, education—each is important to me. I needed to balance time, energy, and financial resources to pursue all my personal and professional endeavours.
AU’s online, asynchronous education delivery fit my myriad interests and responsibilities. I knew exactly what courses I would need to complete my degree and enrolled in 1 course at a time. This kept the studying manageable and spread out the cost of obtaining the degree.
When I was nearing the end of 1 course, I would enroll in the next and choose a start date that accommodated other responsibilities. That drove my commitment to get the assignments and exams completed.
AU provided the flexibility to pause
When my husband encountered significant health challenges, I purchased course extensions so I could focus on urgent matters. My “5-year goal” took me 6.5 years and that was fantastic because life happens, and I was able to flex to where I was needed most.
In tandem with the education journey, I became more fluent and competent in my full-time HR job. Time and experience saw my skills and abilities grow, and I sought a network of peers and mentors in the profession to consult and share best practices with.
I was also able to apply, in real-time, many of the concepts from the business courses I was taking to complete the degree. And, although there were ebbs and flows in life, I also found ways to retain the zeal and dedication to fitness training.
Reaching new milestones
On Feb. 14, 2023, I competed alongside Canada’s strongest powerlifters at the Canadian Powerlifting Union Nationals in Richmond, B.C. Not only did I accomplish a personal best, I set new Saskatchewan provincial records for the squat, bench press and deadlift, and earned a national bronze medal in my class.
The following day, Feb. 15, 2023, is emblazoned on the parchment awarding me a Bachelor of Management with great distinction. It is still curious to me, how these 2 incredibly emotional and momentous, yet starkly different milestones so closely coincided. Both affirm countless hours of work and diligence over the course of 6.5 years, and both give me a sense of pride, empowerment, and accomplishment.
“I am a student for life, grateful for the journey and curious for what the unwritten chapters will bring.”
The journey continues
Neither mark “the end” of a journey, but are significant checkpoints in my life, worthy of pause, gratitude and celebration, and signifying the transition to new chapters yet unwritten.
I continue along the paths to achieving a CPHR designation, growing my capacity as an HR professional in my job, and pursuing physical strength as a master’s athlete. I continue to set aspirational goals for personal and professional development, breaking them into incremental steps and seeking the learning and feedback.
I am a student for life, grateful for the journey and curious for what the unwritten chapters will bring.
Banner image: Michael’s Photography