The Hub AU Accolades! Celebrating awards and achievements of our community

A roundup of achievements by Athabasca University faculty, team members, learners, and alumni

At Athabasca University (AU), we find inspiration in our students’ journeys toward reaching their highest potential so they can help transform the communities in which they live and serve. We are equally proud of the work of our researchers, who are tackling important challenges in our communities and beyond, and of the efforts of all team members who support AU’s mission.

Do you know a member of the AU community who deserves a high five? Submit an accolade!

March and April accolades!

3MT winner wants to destigmatize the word “fat”

Karli Jahn, a Master of Counselling student and winner of AU’s Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition, wants to destigmatize the word “fat.” Jahn is researching how weight stigma affects treatment outcomes in the counselling profession—a topic that she presented about at AU’s 3MT competition in March. Jahn will now compete among the best grad students in Western Canada at 3MT regionals in Winnipeg on May 6. 

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Grad appointed dean of nursing

AU alum and former assistant professor Dr. Kimberly Lamarche has been appointed inaugural dean of Cape Breton University’s School of Nursing.

Lamarche (Master of Health Studies ’02) was appointed on April 20.

“Dr. Lamarche is highly skilled in the nursing profession and will bring strong leadership and a unique perspective to our students as they prepare for important careers in the health-care field,” David C. Dingwall, Cape Breton University’s president and vice-chancellor, said in a news release.

After graduating from AU, Lamarche joined the university in 2003 as an instructor in the Centre of Nursing and Health Studies. She was appointed assistant professor in 2005 and also served as manager of the Advanced Nursing Practice program.

Prior to her career in academia, Lamarche worked as a registered nurse in Cape Breton and also served in the Canadian Forces. She spoke about her journey in AU’s Go the Distance podcast.

Listen to Lamarche on Go the Distance

Student’s advocacy for autism community earns national award

Human Resources and Labour Relations student Whitney Hodgins has won an award for her advocacy for the autism community. Hodgins received the inaugural Jim and Ginette Munson Autism Leadership Award from the Canadian Autism Spectrum Disorder Alliance.

The award recognizes an individual who demonstrates leadership and determination in the pursuit of a better Canada for autistic persons, their families, and communities. The award is named after former Canadian senator Jim Munson and his wife Ginette, who helped create a national autism strategy.

“Whitney is so deserving of this award and the recognition, having served as a tireless advocate for autistic Canadians since being diagnosed with autism herself at age 14. Her advocacy also includes speaking out for greater mental health resources and support,” said award spokesperson Margaret Whelan in a news release.

Dr. Gina Wong

Professor awarded Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association Leadership Award

AU professor and founder of the Asian Gold Ribbon Campaign, Dr. Gina Wong, has been awarded the Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association Leadership Award. Wong is also the first person of colour to receive this award.

“I am so deeply honoured to be receiving this award,” Wong said. “As the first woman of colour, in fact, the first racialized person to receive this award in history, it is quite touching to me. I am very heartened that racialized individuals are now being seen and validated for the tremendous work they do.”

McDonald’s crew eligible to earn Athabasca University credits through new partnership

A new partnership between AU and McDonald’s Canada will allow restaurant employees in company-owned and franchised locations the option to work towards a university degree while they are on the job.

Employees who complete McDonald’s Canada Management Development program courses will now be eligible for credits in one of four AU programs: Bachelor of CommerceBachelor of ManagementBachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations, and the Bachelor of General Studies programs. The Management Development program is part of McDonald’s Archways to Opportunity program, which lets crew members turn experience gained from their restaurant positions to further their education.

Read the full article

AU team wins Alberta Deans of Business Case Competition

An AU team won the 2022 Alberta Deans of Business Case Competition! Team Nika, which includes students Amanda Ramchuk, Lexi Pullman, Keith Pritchard, and James Purdy, earned the top spot at the 37th annual competition, held March 10-12 at Medicine Hat College.

Forty business students from Alberta post-secondaries were given a business problem and worked in teams to develop a solution that was presented to a panel of judges.

MBA grad makes list of top 50 CEOs

Curtis Stange (Master of Business Administration ’00), president and CEO of ATB Financial, was named one of the top 50 financial technology CEOs of 2022 by Financial Technology Report.

The publication credited Stange’s leadership for pushing ATB Financial into the digital banking space. It noted that he has more than three decades’ worth of experience in banking, including operational and strategic roles in business and personal banking.

Read about Stange’s journey with AU.

AU, Professional Hockey Players Association celebrate 10 years of partnership

AU and the Professional Hockey Players Association have reached a new milestone in a winning partnership.

For the past 10 years, AU has worked with the association as one its educational partners. Current and former players of the American Hockey League and the East Coast Hockey League can take courses through AU to prepare for the next stage of their life after hockey.

“Athabasca University has been a phenomenal partner and flexibility is a big part of it,” says Steven Carney, who runs the association’s Career Enhancement program. “The monthly start dates of courses and being 100% online, that flexibility has worked really well for many of our guys.”

Almost 70 players and alumni have completed more than 330 AU courses during the span of the partnership.

“I’m honoured to have worked with the Professional Hockey Players’ Association for the past decade. As one of AU’s longest partnerships, it’s been a pleasure to grow together,” said Michael Shouldice, manager of partnerships and collaborations at AU. “We each serve their members, who are working to advance their hockey careers and post-secondary education simultaneously. AU’s open, online and flexible delivery model means that neither needs to be sacrificed for the benefit of the other.”

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AU academic recognized for teaching excellence

Richard Huntrods, academic coordinator and undergraduate program director in the School of Computing and Information Systems, has been awarded the Craig Cunningham Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence.

The award is given annually to one academic in recognition of their excellence in teaching at AU. Huntrods was recognized for his significant contributions to teaching and innovations in open and online education, along with his dedication to increasing equality of educational opportunities for adult learners worldwide.

AU recognizes outstanding tutor and mentor

Dr. Renée Brodie, a tutor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, received the President’s Award for Tutoring/Mentoring Excellence.

The award recognizes excellence in instruction to learners by AU tutors/academic experts. Brodie was honoured for her commitment to innovation in the development of online courses and her positive encouraging support of her students.

Picture of Athabasca University Dr. Reinekke Lengelle

Prof. wins award for book on bereavement

Dr. Reinekke Lengelle, a professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, won the prestigious Qualitative Book Award from the International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry for her book, Writing the Self in Bereavement: A Story of Love, Spousal Loss, and Resilience.

Lengelle wrote the book after losing her partner Frans. It combines her personal story with the latest grief research.

“Writing is the way I found my way through. It was self-therapy,” said Lengelle in a 2021 interview with The Hub. “For those who don’t write or end up feeling very stuck or anguished, I would recommend reaching out to a grief counsellor. Though grieving is unique to each person, we don’t have to do it alone.”

Student wins university teaching award

Kathryn Johnson, who is working on her dissertation for the Doctor of Distance Education program, received an Excellence in Part-Time Teaching from Northern Michigan University. Johnson is a contingent senior instructor in Northern Michigan University’s history department. Her AU dissertation is on the comparative historical origins of open universities in North America.

“The most rewarding aspect of teaching is helping students to expand their knowledge about why the past matters to understand the world today,” Johnson said in an interview.

Student wins award for essay

Student Peggy Johnson won the 2022 Barbara Roberts Memorial Award given to an undergrad for outstanding written work on topics related to women, gender, and feminism. Johnson’s essay, The Stories of Men in ‘In the Skin of a Lion’ Overshadow Class Struggle and Leave the Stories and Work of Women Invisible, also earned the student a $750 cash prize.

“Johnson presents and interrogates nuances of masculinity and intersections of class, sexuality, and race. The analysis resonates with readers even if they have not read the texts or are not familiar with literary analysis. The essay is an example of the outstanding work of AU students in the areas of gender and feminism,” wrote the award committee members, Melanie Cook, Dr. Nisha Nath and Dr. Alexa DeGagne.

Alum wins award for dissertation on teacher education

Kelsey Shields (Doctor of Distance Education ’21) won a Canadian Association for Teacher Education Recognition Award for Theses and Dissertations on Teacher Education for her dissertation, K-12 Saskatchewan Distance Education: Digging Deeper into 21st Century Learning During a Pandemic. The awards recognize graduate students and distinguished field leaders in Canadian teacher education.

Shields’s research was funded in part by the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation’s McDowell Foundation. Her supervisor was  Dr. Connie Blomgren and committee members included Dr. Marti Cleveland-Innes and Dr. Bob Heller.

Student’s community work earns award

Lisa Spencer Cook, a Bachelor of Arts, Psychology Major student, won a Live Your Dream Award from the Soroptimist International of Central Alberta for her community work in the area of neuro-diversity and mental health. A news report said Cook’s motivation comes from her eight-year-old daughter, who is autistic and has attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. She received the award on March 8, International Women’s Day.

Prof. co-edits book on business digital transformation

Dr. Anshuman Khare, a professor in the Faculty of Business, has co-edited a new book. Sustainable International Business Models in a Digitally Transforming World looks at how successful businesses have revitalized and innovated their business models. Through specific cases, it illustrates how businesses have adapted to new forms of globalization through the lens of business model innovation theories in a digital world.

February accolades!

Faculty of Business among world’s best

Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business has been recognized as one of the world’s best after earning accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). Only six per cent of business schools in the world have achieved such recognition.

“AACSB accreditation recognizes institutions that have demonstrated a focus on excellence in all areas, including teaching, research, curriculum development, and student learning,” said Stephanie M. Bryant, executive vice-president and chief accreditation officer of AACSB.

“Achieving such highly regarded accreditation sends a signal to the world that AU’s Faculty of Business is among the world’s very best, and that our graduates are positioned to excel in their careers and the communities they serve,” said Dr. Peter Scott, AU president. “On behalf of the AU community, I congratulate the team at the Faculty of Business on this momentous achievement.”

Read the full article

AU proud of its Olympians

Four AU students competed on the sporting world’s biggest stage at the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

Makena Hodgson (luge), Dahria Beatty (cross-country skiing), and Katherine Stewart-Jones (cross-country skiing) wore the maple leaf during the Olympics, while Patrick Russell (hockey) represented Denmark.

“When I discovered Athabasca University, I was in disbelief because it seemed like such a perfect fit,” wrote Hodgson in a recent personal essay published on The Hub. “With the flexibility of the courses, I could still train and compete, all while getting classes done at the same time.”


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AU research helping elderly at risk of frailty

An AU research team is helping older people at risk of becoming medically frail continue to live independently through virtual screenings.

Frailty is a condition of reduced function and health in older adults. AU nursing researcher Dr. Tammy O’Rourke said social isolation during the pandemic has not only contributed to a rise in levels of frailty, it has created barriers to screening seniors for the condition in person.

As a result, O’Rourke and her research team developed a virtual screening process. They recently published results about the new screening, which they determined are just as effective at in-person methods used to gauge a person’s frailty score. Screening, she explained, helps identify supports needed so seniors can continue living independently.

“This is more important now than ever before. With COVID, we want to keep seniors in their homes for their safety,” she said.

Read the full article

Happy senior woman contemplating at home

Parenting help for at-risk mothers improves their health

A new study led by Dr. Kharah Ross, an assistant professor of health psychology, shows that teaching parenting strategies to at-risk mothers can help reduce stress and improve overall health.

Ross’s team worked with mothers at risk of homelessness, depression, and domestic violence to teach them parenting strategies to help reduce stress. In doing so, they helped improve the participants’ immune system responses—results recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Brain, Behavior, & Immunity – Health.

“We want to make sure that we are interrupting that adversity cycle, and we’re protecting the children and putting them on the best trajectory,” said Ross.

Read the full article

Essay on accessible architecture earns kudos

Dr. Henry Tsang’s efforts to improve his understanding of accessible architecture—and then write about the experience in a personal essay—have been recognized in an international competition.

Tsang’s essay, Accessible Design: An Architect’s Blind Spot, placed second in the International Essay Competition on Accessible Architecture. The award comes with a cash prize, and the essay will also be published in an upcoming book.

His essay is based on his experience taking the Rick Hansen Foundation Accessibility Certification™ Training offered through PowerED™ by Athabasca University.

woman in wheelchair using cafe bar seating

Related: Accessible design certification an ‘eye-opening’ experience for AU architect

Portage College, AU partner on new degree pathways

AU has partnered with Portage College to offer students of the northern Alberta school five new pathways to earn a degree.

The transfer credit partnership improves learning flexibility for students and aims to attract more learners to the region and allow them to stay longer, for the benefit of the area economy.

“As Canada’s only open and online university, Athabasca University gives students the flexibility to pursue a university education from anywhere—including their home communities,” said Dr. Matthew Prineas, provost and vice-president academic at AU.

“We are proud to partner with Portage College and ensure that students can continue to live, study, and work in the region. In doing so, we are not just creating future graduates but future leaders whose knowledge and experience will benefit the entire community.”

Read more

AU expert shares insight on past, present, future of online learning

Dr. Rory McGreal delivered a keynote presentation about the past, present, and future of online learning at an international online conference.

McGreal, the UNESCO/International Council for Open and Distance Education Chair in Open Educational Resources, was among 180 participants invited to attend the Educational Pedagogies and Technologies for Sustainable Development conference. As panelist, he emphasized the importance of open educational resources in implementing UNESCO’s fourth sustainable development goal: education for all.

January accolades!

Teen learner among Canada’s youngest politicians

AU learner Justin Morrison has become one of the youngest Canadians to ever hold public office. The 18-year-old was recently appointed to a municipal council seat in Huron East, Ont. Morrison plans to serve his community while studying Computing and Information Systems at AU. He told CBC News that online learning made it possible for him to do both.

“I feel that there is a good chance or there is a hopeful chance that some of the people who do actually now stay back and still continue post-secondary might step up and try and make a change for themselves, and for their community,” he said. “I do think that the pandemic is possibly changing some demographics.”

AU Press achieves accessibility certification

AU Press has joined a handful of organizations worldwide as a certified producer of accessible publications.

AU Press achieved its certification through Benetech, a Silicon Valley non-profit that creates software for social good. It offers the only third-party electronic publishing certification program. The certification recognizes publishers who consistently produce files that meet or exceed accessibility standards for ebooks and web content.

“By earning this certification, we can serve a wider community of readers, a guiding principle at AU Press,” says Megan Hall, director of AU Press. “Making accessible ebooks is just one more way for us to demonstrate our commitment to open access!”

MBA grad a “man with a vision”

Ryan Chin (Master of Business Administration ’15) was featured in the December issue of Forum magazine, an industry publication for financial advisors. Chin, who works for Sun Life, shares how he has overcome barriers in his life, including visual impairment and subsequent discrimination about ability, and achieved success in the financial world.

“We all face hurdles in life. It’s how we adjust our stride to clear those hurdles that define us,” he told Forum.


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AU learner raising funds to support sobriety

AU learner Kira Dunlop has made it her mission to build community in sobriety as founder of Boring Little Girls Club—a sober space for women, transgender, and non-binary folks. This year, the club launched a fundraiser to help raise awareness of Dry January—going alcohol-free to start the year—with proceeds supporting the Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership team at the Calgary Alpha House Society, a non-profit serving individuals affected by alcohol and other substance dependencies.

“They are out every day—regardless of the cold, regardless of the heat—saving folk’s lives,” Dunlop recently told Global Calgary.

Related: Sober, safer, and selfless: How AU learner Kira Dunlop created community in sobriety

AU learner among Atlantic Canada’s top 30 under 30

AU Bachelor of Arts in Psychology learner Beth Ivany has been named one of Atlantic Canada’s top 30 innovators under 30, according to Atlantic Business magazine. The Moncton, N.B. resident and her sister, Maggie Hoyles, were recognized for their work in creating online events during the pandemic. That led the pair to launch a business and app called downtown to create social connection in online spaces such as virtual clubs and bars.

Artificial intelligence can discriminate on the basis of race and gender, and also age

Artificial intelligence (AI) is often assumed to be more objective than humans. In reality, however, AI algorithms make decisions based on human-annotated data, which can be biased and exclusionary based on race, gender, and even age, according to Dr. Kathleen (Kate) Leslie in a Conversation article. Leslie, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, co-wrote the column with colleagues from the University of Toronto and University of Cambridge.

“Many AI technologies are focused on a stereotypical image of an older adult in poor health—a narrow segment of the population that ignores healthy aging. This creates a negative feedback loop that not only discourages older adults from using AI, but also results in further data loss from these demographics that would improve AI accuracy.”

Organizational support key to employee commitment and well-being during the pandemic

Employers can help lessen the negative effects of the pandemic for their staff and create a greater sense of well-being by implementing support measures for employees, writes Dr. Oli Mihalache, an associate professor of digital transformation with AU’s Faculty of Business.

Mihalache’s recent article in the Conversation highlighted the results of his recent study of 300 people working full time during the pandemic.

“The pandemic represents a moment of truth for workers—they are using it to determine whether or not they can depend on their organizations to help out in critical situations. When organizations do rise up to the challenge, employees recognize that their employers are capable of fulfilling their duties towards them, and are much more likely to remain committed to their organizations.”

Read the full article

Why the U.S. failed in Afghanistan

The 20-year Afghanistan war was not just a military exercise—it was also a moralizing attempt by the Global North to construct institutions in their own image, writes Dr. F. Haider Alvi, an assistant professor of innovation finance with AU’s Faculty of Business.

Haider’s recent column in the Conversation examines how colonial interference alters the natural progress of development for occupied countries such as Afghanistan.

“To prosper, Afghanistan needs partnerships and business investment, not bullets and bombs.”

Read the full article

RAIC Centre for Architecture supports sketch camp

The Global Studio, a collaboration between AU’s RAIC Centre for Architecture and universities around the world, has collected materials for art kits that were shipped to students in Kliptown, South Africa, and the Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn Society (Splatsin Teaching Centre), Splatsin Band, Secwepemc Traditional Territories in Kamloops so they can participate in an online sketching camp. The kits, created with the support of Opus Art Supplies in Kelowna, B.C., include sketching pads, pencils, erasers, and watercolour supplies.

assortment of art supplies on a table

December accolades!

AU recognizes three outstanding alumni

AU recognized three outstanding alumni who are helping to drive change in their communities, their families, and their workplaces.

Dr. Wayne Clark (Doctor of Education in Distance Education ’20) won the Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes the accomplishments of an AU graduate who brings honour and prestige to the university, based on evidence of outstanding contributions to any field of human endeavour or extraordinary contributions to their community.

Dr. Pawan Chugh (Master of Business Administration ’97) won the Volunteer Service Award, which recognizes an AU graduate who has demonstrated a spirit of volunteerism and community service through active, unpaid involvement in and contributions to their community.

Odion Welch (Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations ’17) won the Rising Star Alumni award, which recognizes an AU graduate who has demonstrated leadership and significant contributions to an area of expertise early in their career.

Read their stories

AU 2021 alumni award winners
AU alumni (L-R) Odion Welch, Dr. Wayne Clark, and Dr. Pawan Chugh.

Research to explore impact of pandemic on teen mental health

A new AU research project aims to understand how COVID-19 public health restrictions have impacted the health and well-being of Canadian teens.

Dr. Gina Martin, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, will co-lead the study with colleagues at Western University and University of Nottingham. The team will survey youth between 13 and 19 years old to learn how the pandemic has affected their health and habits and what coping strategies they used.

The research builds on the team’s investigations into youth mental health during the pandemic. The latest study will also hold focus groups with teens to find out how they spent their time and where they socialized—in-person and digitally. Results will be used to develop resources for youth that focus on building resiliency, and could inform policy, health promotion, and education recommendations for school boards.

The project was awarded $150,000 through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant program on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

teen using a laptop wearing headphones

The politics of placemaking in Chinatown

Dr. Henry Tsang, an assistant professor with the RAIC Centre for Architecture in the Faculty of Science and Technology, received new grant funding to explore how Chinatown communities across North America have adopted cultural planning and placemaking strategies to protect and revitalize their neighbourhoods. Such communities have experienced several challenges from gentrification to demographic changes to anti-Asian racism. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered many racialized attacks towards Asians, particularly the Chinese-Canadian community.

Tsang and University of Calgary collaborator Dr. Matt Patterson were awarded $71,400 from the Social Sciences Humanities and Research Council’s Insight Development Grant program.

San Francisco Chinatown during COVID-19
Japanese Business Operations in an Uncertain World

Business prof. wins award for paper—and publishes new book

Dr. Anshuman Khare, a professor in the Faculty of Business, won Outstanding Paper at the 2021 Emerald Literati Awards for a research article he co-wrote. The article, Digitalizing supply chains potential benefits and impact on lean operations, was recognized for creating an impact and generating change beyond academia and for contributing something new to a subject or body of knowledge. The article was published in the International Journal of Lean Six Sigma.

Khare also published a new book: Japanese Business Operations in an Uncertain World, which he co-edited with colleagues Nobutaka Odake and Hiroki Ishikura. This book looks at Japanese companies in manufacturing and services sectors and how they are trying to emerge from the prolonged uncertainty of the pandemic. The chapters are written by those dealing with Japanese business under the shadow of the pandemic and being influenced by the continuous and rapid adoption of digital technologies in business and our daily lives.

Truth Behind Bars book cover

Poli-sci prof. publishes book on Russian Revolution

Dr. Paul Kellogg, a political scientist and professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, has published Truth Behind Bars, which explores the role of workers’ resistance and the failure of democratic governance after the Russian Revolution. Truth Behind Bars was published by AU Press.

Paper chosen for permanent open access

A research article written by Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl, a chemistry professor and 3M National Teaching Fellow, has been selected by the editors of the Canadian Journal of Chemistry for permanent, free, open access. The article, Laboratory activities to support online chemistry courses: A literature review, was chosen because the editors deemed it of particularly high calibre and importance.

Prof. speaks in support of Malaysian policy initiative for inclusive, open education resources

Dr. Rory McGreal presented at the recent launch of a new policy initiative in Malaysia aimed at addressing the issue of accessibility in education for those with disabilities. McGreal, the UNESCO/International Council for Open and Distance Education Chair in Open Educational Resources, presented a video statement in support of the Malaysian government’s inclusive open educational resources policy. He was chosen because of collaborations with Malaysian academics in inclusive open education resources.

PowerED™ partners on launch of Canada’s first micro-credential in AI ethics

PowerED™ by Athabasca University and Ethically Aligned AI have partnered to create a new micro-credential program that addresses issues around the ethical development of artificial intelligence systems.

“AI ethics is an umbrella term that’s come to encompass all the different ways in which AI can create harm,” Katrina Ingram, CEO of Ethically Aligned AI, told CBC News. Ingram is the featured expert in the program.

Vintage robot in front of an old computer with coloured lines in the background

Researcher and grad student collaborate on new paper

Dr. Jennifer Stephens, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the Faculty of Health Disciplines,Faculty of Health Disciplines, and research assistant and Master of Nursing learner Ruby Tano published an article in the Canadian Oncology Nursing Journal. As the number of cancer cases rise each year in Canada, Hemoglobin matters: Perioperative blood management for oncology patients analyzes how health-care institutions can adopt the best practices approach of a patient blood management program for surgical oncology patients to help improve their surgical outcomes.

November accolades!

AU’s Jananee Rasiah makes Top 40 Under 40 list

Jananee Rasiah, an academic co-ordinator in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, has been named one of Edmonton’s Top 40 Under 40 by Edify magazine.

Rasiah spoke about emigrating to Canada at age 15, co-founding her film and media company, FRAME Productions, and making health data more accessible and engaging.

“For me, growth is a must,” she told Edify. “If there’s a chance for growth, I’ll do it.”

Read the full Edify article

Related: AU researcher embraces arts to reach teens struggling with self-esteem

Learner recognized for outstanding social entrepreneurship

Fourth-year Bachelor of Commerce learner Kira Dunlop has been honoured for her work in building community among sober women, trans, and non-binary folks.

Dunlop was named a finalist for the NU National Student Award for Outstanding Social Entrepreneurship for her work as founder of the Boring Little Girls Club. The organization provides a forum that allows sober people to experience social connection without the pressure to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“Someone called me a ‘boring little girl’ to my face, and that’s where the idea came from,” said Dunlop, who credits AU’s flexibility for allowing her to continue her post-secondary education after she first got sober. “I was searching support and knew that if I was feeling this way, someone else was too. There was a need for spaces like this, where we didn’t need to do or be in the presence of alcohol or drugs.”

The awards were created in 2021 by the Trico Charitable Foundation to celebrate the best and brightest student social entrepreneurs in Alberta.

New funding to connect Indigenous scholars

Dr. Josie Auger, Dr. Carolyn Greene, Dr. Nisha Nath, and Myra Tait in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences have received a $16,400 grant from the Social Sciences Humanities Research Council’s Connection program, along with $17,400 in support from AU.

The research team is organizing a two-day event to connect Indigenous scholars so they can share experiences and discuss the research ethics approval process. They plan to share those collective experiences by publishing a website, webcast, and podcast series.

“Connecting with Indigenous people from around the world is very important to understand Indigenous research experiences based on their unique worldviews, language, customs, heritage, traditions, and ceremonies,” explained Auger, a member of Bigstone Cree Nation.

Information gathered through the project has the potential to inform research policy at AU and other post-secondary institutions, she added.

Related: AU researcher studies the impact of sexual violation on Indigenous women

Contesting Extinctions book cover

New book in extinction studies

Dr. Suzanne M. McCullagh, an assistant professor of philosophy, has co-edited a book, Contesting Extinctions: Decolonial and Regenerative Futures

Many contemporary scientific, literary, and speculative writings warn of an imminent mass extinction event brought on by human-caused climate disturbances. Contesting Extinctions investigates the harmful tendency of such discourses to obscure and erase complex social, biological, and cultural relations. 

“This dynamic book is an exciting and timely contribution to urgent conversations in the environmental humanities and postcolonial and ethnic studies about extinction,” wrote Dr. Carolyn Fornoff of the University of Illinois Urbana–Champaign, in a recent review. 

Serving community

Two AU team members were elected to public office during October’s municipal elections.

Erin Stevenson, marketing manager, was re-elected as a city councillor in Spruce Grove.

Loretta Prosser, an administrative assistant, was elected for the first time as a councillor in the Town of Athabasca.

Congrats Coun. Prosser and Coun. Stevenson!

Municipal elections were held Oct. 18 across Alberta.

AU architect earns national nod, finds international audience

Dr. Henry Tsang, an architect and assistant professor in AU’s RAIC Centre for Architecture, was named a finalist for the third annual Emerging Leader Awards by Construction Canada. The awards recognize young professionals for excellence in design, leadership, initiative, and/or service to the community.

Tsang is nominated in the “Demonstrates Leadership” category. The awards will be announced Dec. 1, 2021, in Toronto.

Tsang recently spoke internationally, sharing his presentation, Global Trends in Green & Resilient Architecture and Public Design, at the 2021 Public Design Forum (Virtual): Designing Public Value forum held Nov. 9 in Seoul, South Korea.

Watch Tsang’s talk on YouTube, which begins at the 5:09:10 mark.

Can Gap Year Association partner badge

AU renews partnership with Gap Year Association

AU has renewed its partnership with the Canadian Gap Year Association to make it possible for learners to study with the university while still pursuing a gap year.

The association supports learners and their families in planning and executing gap years through coaching, certification, and other free resources.

Related: Fill your gap year with a course from AU

The “Write” kind of partnership

AU’s Write Site is now a member of the newly formed Alberta Writing Centres Association, a regional affiliate of the Canadian Writing Centres Association. The partnership will keep AU connected with institutions across Alberta to share best practices for enhancing the writing support that the Write Site provides to learners.

“The Alberta Writing Centres Association is made up of writing staff at institutions that formerly participated in eTutor Alberta. This move helps to formalize our affiliation,” explained Write Site co-ordinator Sarah-Jean Watt, who was involved in the formation of the provincial association.

paper and red pen

Alum shares academic success story in Edtalks 

AU grad Walter Alvarez (Bachelor of General Studies ’18) shared his experiences in overcoming extreme poverty in Guatemala and learning disabilities, including attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, in a global education video series. 

Alvarez shared his story in achieving academic success through EDtalks, a free database of video interviews with leading educators and thinkers. Since graduating from AU, Alvarez has earned a master’s of business administration and is now enrolled in a doctorate program in the social sciences at Royal Roads University. 

October accolades!

Welcome, Peter Scott!

In case you missed it, on Oct. 7, AU announced that Prof. Peter Scott will be the university’s 10th president. Scott is a respected academic, researcher, and senior executive and comes to AU with almost 30 years of experience working in open and online learning.

Scott is currently Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Technology Sydney, in Australia. He takes over from interim president Deborah Meyers on Jan. 4, 2022.

Read the full article.


Michael Winter named AU’s 2021-22 Writer in Residence

Award-winning Canadian author Michael Winter will join Athabasca University (AU) as the 2021-22 Writer in Residence.

Winter is the author of five novels, including The Architects Are Here and This All Happened.

His work has been nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the Trillium Book Award, and the BMO Winterset Award, and has been featured in The Walrus and on CBC Radio.

As AU’s Writer in Residence, Winter will devote most of his time to writing while also serving as a resource to learners, faculty, and the writing community at large.

That includes advising authors on the writing process, from manuscript to publication.

Read the full article.

AU board member Andrew Ko

Andrew Ko appointed to AU Board of Governors

The provincial government has appointed Andrew Ko to AU’s Board of Governors as a public member for a three-year term.

Ko brings considerable experience as an entrepreneur and business leader in the technology sector, specifically in software, devices, and cloud computing. He’s currently CEO of Kovexa, a Virginia-based firm that focuses on improving education and government through AI-powered technologies and data. Previously, he was managing director of global education with Amazon Web Services and has also held leadership roles at Samsung Mobile and Microsoft.

“In this time of transformation and new innovative opportunities, we believe Mr. Ko will be an effective public member on the board of governors because of his experience, but also his passion for improving education through technology,” said board chair Nancy Laid.

Ko’s appointment started on Sept. 28.

Kudos to up-and-coming researchers!

Congratulations to all the presenters and winners at the 2021 Athabasca University Graduate Student Research Conference! The annual conference, held Oct. 1-2, had a record number of abstract submissions, 71, with 103 online attendees!

The following learners won best graduate abstract submissions:

  1. Dzifa Dordunoo
  2. Ann Celestini
  3. Dana Browne

Congratulations to the five undergraduate students who qualified to present at the the conference:

  1. Catherine Lowe
  2. Pariza Fazal
  3. Peter Gobran
  4. Chelsey Pastershank
  5. Eva Notter

Prize money was sponsored by the AU Graduate Students Association and AU Students’ Union.

September accolades!

AU prof one of Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40

Dr. Melissa Jay, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, has landed on Calgary’s Top 40 Under 40 list by Avenue Calgary.

Jay told the magazine that her research is community based and that she integrates forms of knowledge typically excluded from academia.

“Some academics are hesitant to include things like the word ‘spirit,’” she says.

Jay is Nehiyaw-Métis, which she says informs her dedication to the process of decolonization. “The time is now to really use our voices to demand justice.”

Read the full article.

Congrats to AU’s Olympic champ!

Susanne Grainger brought home a gold medal as member of Team Canada’s women’s eight rowing team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

AU’s relationship with Game Plan has allowed Grainger (pictured below, fifth from left) to study Human Resources Management courses—and in fact she finished her last exam three days before leaving for Tokyo! She spoke with The Hub to share insights about her Olympic experience, lessons learned through three university programs, and about preparing for life after sport.

Read the full Q&A.

Canadian women's eight rowing team with their gold medals and holding flowers

Improving sustainability at business schools

Dr. Eduardo Ordonez-Ponce, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Business, recently received a grant from the Association of Commonwealth Universities Higher Education’s Sustainable Development Goals Challenge Grant program. The funding will be used to assess how business schools integrate sustainability into their teaching and research agendas in Canada and Australia, where collaborator Dr. Mehran Nejati of Edith Cowan University is based.

Faculty of Business partners with George Brown College

The Faculty of Business is excited to announce a new partnership with George Brown College.

It’s a collaborative opportunity for George Brown College’s undergraduate learners to transfer into undergraduate and graduate opportunities through AU, with potential for the two institutions to pursue further teaching and research opportunities.

Learner to help tackle online misinformation

Master of Arts – Interdisciplinary Studies learner Dave Blaine has been selected to join a panel that will examine the impact of digital technologies on Canadian society, including online misinformation.

Blaine was selected by the Canadian Commission on Democratic Expression to join the 2021 Citizens’ Assembly that will consider whether spreading misinformation online should carry legal penalties. Blaine says his studies at AU connect in part with digital communications and new media. “This is a huge opportunity for me academically and professionally,” he says.

illustration of person bomarded by misinformation

Learner to help change who writes history

Kristen Van’t Schip, a Master of Arts – Interdisciplinary Studies learner, will join a community of thought leaders, journalists, commentary writers, and activists whose aim is to expand the diversity of voices sharing ideas through opinion articles, or op-eds.

Van’t Schip was one of 20 people selected as fellows for the American Anthropological Association‘s OpEd Project, which aims to “increase the range of voices and the quality of ideas we hear in the world.”

Grad to publish first novel

Bachelor of Administration alum Indra Ramayan will soon release her debut novel, Mud Lilies, about a young woman who transcends the darkness of childhood abuse and domestic violence.

Ramayan, who graduated with distinction in 2004, credits AU’s flexible learning model for helping to spark her writing career.

“I was able to pursue my love of writing thanks to the flexibility of AU’s creative writing courses and the encouragement and support of my professor, Dr. Angie Abdou. As a result, I have realized my dream of becoming a published novelist.”

Mud Lilies will publish in spring 2022 and can be pre-ordered from Chapters or Amazon.

MBA grad pens project management text

AU MBA alum Dave Barrett wrote Understanding Project Management, Second Edition.

The newly updated textbook is a practical, real-world guide for current and aspiring project managers. It equips readers with a solid understanding of why specific processes are used, why certain decisions are made, and how pieces of project management fit together.

Retired faculty member publishes memoir

Author and educational psychologist, Dr. Emma Pivato, who retired from AU in 2015, has published a new memoir, And Along Came Alexis.

The book tells the story the Pivato family’s journey with her 41-year-old daughter, Alexis, and how “together we have grappled with the profound challenges that she faces in order to make a satisfying life for her and for us.”

September Accolades

Convocation 2020 earns international award

AU’s 2020 convocation ceremonies won Best Virtual Event at the International Live Events Association’s ESPRIT Awards. The awards, announced Aug. 13, recognize the most successful, engaging, and innovative events and initiatives from the events industry. AU’s events team, led by Jody Paulson, won for its efforts to transform convocation into a fully virtual event—during the middle of the pandemic no less.

“It is truly an honour for the AU events team to be recognized internationally for our work to bring the Class of 2020 the convocation celebration they deserved,” said Paulson. “We are thankful for the support and contributions by the larger AU team in helping make this milestone institutional event a reality.”

Real estate research project to explore issues in rural Alberta

An interdisciplinary team from AU is poised to help rural municipalities address the ongoing challenges they face thanks in part to a $250,000 grant from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.

Dr. Douglas MacLeod, chair of AU’s RAIC Centre for Architecture, will lead the development of design workshops, online learning modules, and open educational resources.

The aim is to help educate related professionals and the public about the role that real estate can play in the economic, environmental, and social recovery of rural and regional Alberta.

MacLeod will collaborate with fellow AU faculty including Cynthia Dovell, Dr. Shabnam Inanloo Dailoo, Dr. Gina Martin, Dr. Hussein Alzyoud, Dr. Lisa Carter, Trevor Butler, and Dr. Henry Tsang.

Farm in rural Alberta with grain bins and building, blue sky and clouds with green grass
Book cover of This One Wild Life

Praise for Angie Abdou’s This One Wild Life

Dr. Angie Abdou is earning accolades for her latest book, This One Wild Life. Abdou, an associate professor of English and creative writing at AU, explores problems of parenting in the digital age in this mother-daughter wilderness memoir.

The inspiration for the book started when she failed to notice her previously outgoing daughter had started to withdraw.

“She didn’t let people in, and didn’t let people see her. She shut down,” Abdou told CBC’s The Next Chapter.

Related: Why write: AU professors and authors discuss Angie Abdou’s This One Wild Life

Funding to help health professions improve workforce planning

Dr. Kathleen (Kate) Leslie, assistant professor in the Faculty of Health Disciplines, is part of a national team of investigators that was awarded $787,952 in grant funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The funding will allow the team to develop a standard list of questions to ask health-care workers when they register with their professional regulatory bodies.

The data captured—including diversity data—will help administrators and policy makers plan for the health workforce Canada needs, now and into the future.

Leslie shares insight into one of her other projects in this Q&A on The Hub

Researcher to study impact of COVID on learning

Dr. Faria Sana, associate professor of psychology, received $78,608 in funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for her research investigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning, and how to optimize student learning in online and blended environments.

The aim is to improve teacher instructional practices and student learning.

Close-up of hands typing on a laptop

Related: In the News | Relearning to learn for back-to-school success

AU tutor’s new book sheds light on violence in health care

A new book co-written by AU sociology tutor Dr. Jim Brophy sheds light on violence health-care workers experience. Code White is based on more than 100 interviews and four years of research with co-author Dr. Margaret M. Keith.

“Violence is so ubiquitous and pervasive that it now has become normalized and viewed as simply part of the job,” Brophy said in a recent interview with The Hub.

Brophy also discussed his findings on Real Talk with Ryan Jespersen, with Global Edmonton, and on CBC’s The Current.

AU joins Research Impact Canada

AU has become the first fully online university to join Research Impact Canada. The pan-Canadian network aims to build capacity for knowledge mobilization and research impact among its 23 member institutions.

“As Canada’s only open and online university, Athabasca University is committed to minimizing barriers to knowledge and maximizing opportunities for research impact and uptake within and beyond the academic guild,” said Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research.

“As a member of Research Impact Canada, our academics and research support roles look forward to drawing upon and contributing to the Research Impact Canada community of practice.”

New text for Canadian nurse educators

AU Master of Nursing alumna Dr. Karin Page Cutrara has co-edited a new textbook for Canadian nurse educators. The Role of the Nurse Educator in Canada was published by Canadian Association Schools of Nursing.

Share your accolade!

Are you an Athabasca University team member, learner, or grad? Tell us about your award, grant, new book, or other praise-worthy achievement.