My journey with AU started nearly five years ago with my undergraduate degree. As a busy mom of two kids, I chose AU because of its flexibility and accessibility.
I was intrigued by the idea of being able to be in classes with instructors and fellow students from all over the world. Prior to AU, I had earned my legal assistant diploma from MacEwan University and was able to put that experience towards furthering my education. In 2017, I graduated with distinction from AU’s Bachelor of Professional Arts (BPA) program in Governance, Law and Management. Following my undergraduate degree, I continued my studies at AU with a Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) with an Equity Studies focus because of the wonderful experiences and relationships I had fostered with the university.
The MAIS program was attractive to me because of its focus on such dynamic, intriguing, and exciting areas of study. Interdisciplinary studies not only embraces the concept of incorporating all areas of personal, professional, and academic interest but encourages it and offers frameworks and theories to further expand interests and research—integration in its most potent form!
The difference between then and now
As I prepare to finish my second degree in less than five years, I find myself reflecting a lot on who I was when I started my BPA and who I am now. When I started my BPA, I was a newly single mom of two: scared, overwhelmed, and had no idea what the future held for me and my children. I had just left an abusive marriage; my heart and soul were shattered. I didn’t know who I was, and I didn’t know what I was capable of or what I was worth. Deep down I wasn’t sure if I would ever feel safe or whole again.
My post-secondary journey has been an unintentional yet integral component in my healing journey and, more recently, my path to personal empowerment and development. It gave me something to focus on when life was very dark and it now provides me with frameworks, theories, and tools to process my experiences and critically analyze current structures, programs, services, and barriers available, or not, to people who are experiencing or have experienced similar situations. My academic experience has provided me with a sense of strength, power, knowledge, self-trust, and confidence in what I have to offer and a drive and determination to not let fear stand in my way of taking a stand, raising my voice, and advocating for causes that mean something to me.
“My academic experience has provided me with a sense of strength, power, knowledge, self-trust, and confidence in what I have to offer and a drive and determination to not let fear stand in my way of taking a stand, raising my voice, and advocating for causes that mean something to me.”
Many people experience points in their life that can either make or break them. I don’t know why I was lucky enough to find school as a life line to rely on during such a dark time in my life—but I did, and it saved my life. My education kept me moving forward.
Looking back, I can say for certain that picking myself up and putting one foot in front of the other, taking one day at a time, and one assignment and semester at a time, is the only reason I was not swept away. My children and my three courses every four months were my only focuses. My healing came through proper mental health support, of course, but my empowerment and confidence came from my soon-to-follow success in my academic pursuits. This success awoke an undeniable desire to keep learning and become an advocate for anyone who needed help being heard and accessing aid or support. If I had not picked myself up and aligned myself to something positive and empowering… I’ve done my research, I’ve read the literature, and I know what the alternate endings are. None include being a part of the much-needed change in policies, programs, access points, consideration, and awareness of stigma and retraumatization that many individuals face when trying to seek help from similar, if not worse, situations.
The AU experience
Without my academic experience at AU I would not be the woman I am today. I am so grateful for each administrative staff, faculty member, and fellow student I have had the honour of interacting with. If I could offer any advice to my past self, others facing personal trials or contemplating graduate studies it would be to not let fear stand in your way. Nothing is out of reach. Even in the darkest of times there is power, wisdom, insight, and strength that is unique to you. Do not be scared to integrate the personal, the professional, and the academic. Keep your purpose and vision based in integrity and authenticity. Trust that you are capable of achieving what feels impossible… and so much more!
Before AU, Camille MacRae enjoyed time as legal assistant with the federal government for over three years. She graduated AU with a BPA in Governance, Law and Management in spring 2017, and started graduate studies that same fall. She is a full-time student and a mom to two busy kids, but is rarely without a laptop and at least a few textbooks. When not focused on school, she volunteers in her kids’ classes, runs, paints, gardens, practises yoga, enjoys concerts, and gets out to the mountains as much as possible.