Giving back and paying forward
“I grew up with AU” - Serita Smith, Coordinator, Advising Services
Serita Smith has a connection to Athabasca University spanning 28 years. Both of her parents worked at the university, and she’s worked at AU for more than 15 years. “I grew up with AU being so much a part of my life. I believe that had a significant impact on my decision to donate,” says Smith, who is a coordinator of student advising services.
“I have [also] been working with students from a service perspective for so many years, and I have had the rare opportunity to meet some of them face to face. I wanted to do something for them, because if it weren’t for our students, we wouldn’t be here.”
Smith has been donating to student awards for three years now. “I was really pleased that I could decide where my donations would be used,” she says. “I like the flexibility of that.”
For her, donating has a pay-it-forward feeling, especially since AU’s employee benefits have allowed her to pursue her own higher education without having to pay for the majority of the tuition. “Because of this, I can afford to donate to help someone else achieve their goals,” she says. “The thought that I can contribute, even just a little bit, to struggling students’ education means a lot to me.”
“I feel a sense of pride” - James D’Arcy, Registrar
James D’Arcy’s decision to donate to Athabasca University is a reflection of both his belief in AU’s mission to remove barriers to education and the opportunities he has received at AU because of that mission.
D’Arcy, AU’s registrar, completed his AU Master of Business Administration with the support of the university. “I incurred very little out-of-pocket expenses in the pursuit of my MBA, and I am grateful I was given that opportunity,” he says. “The MBA has strengthened my character, and it has definitely helped me in advancing my career.”
In addition to removing the financial barrier to his education, AU removed another barrier for him as well. “The MBA program [accepted] my wide range of managerial experience in lieu of an undergraduate degree,” he says.
As a result of his MBA experience, D’Arcy has allocated the majority of his donations to the university’s student awards program. “I feel a sense of pride knowing that my donations help others like me to achieve their educational goals.”
When the university fundraising campaign began in 2008, D’Arcy heard a member of the campaign committee refer to AU as a family, and that message resonated with him. “Having been a part of the AU community for several years, I could relate to that. I also thought that as a leader in a large department, it was an opportunity to lead by example. I’ve been donating ever since.”
“The ultimate in respect” - Dr. Judi Malone, Tutor, Psychology
With a 15-year association with Athabasca University, first as a student, then as a tutor and a member of the Board of Governors, Dr. Judi Malone knows a great deal about AU.
“This university is more than an institution or an employer for me. I was on the advancement committee of the Board of Governors when the campaign was first introduced, and it made sense to me. If I believe in asking others to support our mission, why not demonstrate that commitment myself?” she says.
Malone donates to student awards. “There are many important areas [to donate to], but awards make such a tangible and immediate difference in the lives of our students. Having sat on the Bryon Paege Memorial Award committee, I have reviewed student applications. I’m always in awe of their resiliency and strength. I know what a difference an award and monetary support can make.”
Participation in the campaign also fits with Malone’s values and reinforces her ongoing involvement with the university. “I support our vision to remove barriers that restrict access to and success in university-level study, and I see this as having potential beyond our individual actions. As Sartre said, ‘We must respect each other if we, as individuals, want to be as free as possible within a social order.’ Empowerment through education, through sharing and inspiring knowledge, is, for me, the ultimate in respect.”
“We witnessed lives being transformed” - Marilyn Wangler, Former Director of Marketing and Communications, Faculty of Business
Marilyn Wangler believes in giving back, especially to an institution that has meant so much to her personally. Wangler retired from her position as director of marketing and communications for the Faculty of Business in 2011. “While at the Faculty of Business, I witnessed, at a very personal level, the difference that Athabasca University made in the lives of our students and alumni,” she says.
“We watched careers being transformed, but more importantly, we witnessed lives being transformed. For over 11 years, I was privileged to be part of an organization that really made a difference ‘out there.’ It doesn’t get much better than that.”
Wangler says it felt great when she discovered that her donation had directly affected the life of one particular student, now a graduate, who was the first in her family to earn a post-secondary degree.
“I believe that the first person in a family who pursues post-secondary education will lead to the second, and the third, and the fourth and so on. I think it’s a great concept, and one that has so many beneficial domino effects for families and for society.”