Living the promise of great things
March 31 2012
Nominations are now being accepted for Athabasca University's Alumni Awards. Here's one of last year's winners, Heather Ruhl (BComm, 2011).
Working on her Athabasca University Bachelor of Commerce degree wasn't always easy, Heather Ruhl admits. There were days when it was tough slogging fitting assignments and deadlines into a pressure-packed personal life that included family commitments, full- and part-time work, her wedding, building a new home and volunteering.
But, as she says, "I was living my life for me" and "doing what I always do," so she didn't think she was doing anything special -- which is why receiving AU's Future Alumni Award last spring was such a surprise.
"I can't describe how immensely flattering it is for someone to nominate me, let alone to win the award," she says. "I don't live my life trying to prove anything to anyone. So it's truly humbling to have someone from the outside look at what you're doing, say it's worthy of recognition and believe you're going to do great things in the future. I'm only one of 35,000 AU undergraduates who have potential to do great things."
There's no false modesty in Ruhl's statements. She's so familiar with pressure that it's become routine, and she knows how to turn its negatives into positives. "Sometimes life is going to trip you up, and no matter how well you do, it doesn't quite work out. So much of life is beyond our control."
When life threw obstacles in her path and prevented her from completing her degree in the traditional way, she took another route through AU and found, much to her joy, that AU offered just what she needed: the flexibility to earn her degree in the way that worked for her, and the opportunity to gain invaluable skills and perspective.
"I needed a university where I could be in Edmonton near my family and could continue my degree where I left off," she explains. "I didn't have to compromise or move again because AU said, ‘We can do this.' It was an incredible gift, and I don't know what I would've done without it."
Learning at a distance also honed her self-motivation, determination and time management skills, as well as her ability to carry a significant workload and get things done, all of which she's using now in her job as a business process management analyst at ATB Financial.
Prior to discovering AU, she acknowledges that it was difficult to watch friends graduate, start careers and earn professional degrees while she was working to make ends meet. But as things have turned out, she believes she's better for the experience.
"What I've done just seems normal and natural to me, but I realize now that in the time it's taken me to get to where my friends are, I've lived an incredible journey. I've done things I'd never planned and never thought I'd do."
AU, she says, was a huge part of it. "It challenged my understanding of who I am and what I'm capable of, giving me the courage to face my next great adventure."
Athabasca University Alumni Awards: Call for Nominations
Do you know an AU alum who's making a difference? Nominate a friend, colleague or family member for one of the AU Alumni Awards. The nomination deadline is April 27, 2012.
By Cathy Nickel