January Executive Blog

Who Goes to AU?

I go to AU.

If you’re reading this, there is a fairly good chance that you do too.

Take a moment, and ask yourself – WHY do I go to Athabasca University?

Here’s why I’m asking.  As the President of AUSU, I have represented undergraduate students at AU in countless meetings with people from inside and outside of our University.  I talk about AU and its students every single day, and I have found that there seems to be a misconception about “who” goes to AU.

In its Mission Statement, AU says:

Athabasca University, Canada’s Open University, is dedicated to the removal of barriers that restrict access to and success in university-level study and to increasing equality of educational opportunity for adult learners worldwide.

We are committed to excellence in teaching, research and scholarship and to being of service to the general public. (Athabasca University, 2016)

When I read the Mission, the words that stand out for me are: open, success, equality, opportunity, and worldwide.  When I chose AU, I chose it for the flexibility, the continuous enrollment, the consistency of the learning materials fee, and the quality and value of the credential I would receive.  I found, after a considerable amount of research, that AU was my best option after considering all factors.  Like many of you, I chose AU, and it wasn’t because I had no other options.  I chose AU because it was the best option for me.

As your elected representative, I have been surprised to find that there seems to be an impression among some that AU is only for the disadvantaged, the marginalized, and the students with no other choice.  I have been trying to dispel that myth, and I think that together, as students it’s up to US to show the world who we are.

Athabasca University does remove barriers that restrict access to PSE, and it does increase equality of educational opportunity.  Attending AU allows parents to stay home with their children or follow their educational dreams after a long day of work.  By studying at AU, farmers can stay on their homestead, and indigenous learners may remain in their traditional communities if they so choose.  Attending AU allows students with disabilities to learn in the comfort of their own homes, and allows adults of all ages to continue learning and growing as individuals.  AU is a University for all of us, and its mission is more important today than ever!

The AU students that I have met are successful, intelligent, entrepreneurial, self-motivated, and driven toward success.  We have experience and knowledge beyond what we learned in a textbook and the learning we do at AU is enriched through that experience.  While AU is our institution of choice for a variety of reasons, we are not without choices.

Let’s talk about it – who are the students at AU?  What defines us?

Feel free to share in the comments below why you chose AU.  Don’t stop there – tell your tutor or academic expert, your fellow students, and the world!

Shawna Wasylyshyn
President, AUSU


Athabasca University. (2016, 02 03). Mission and Mandate. Retrieved from Athabasca University:

4 replies on “January Executive Blog”

Although I wholeheartedly agree that AU is often regarded as a school for those with no other choice (which I also agree could not be further from the truth!) I couldn’t help but notice that you also tended to pigeon-hole AU as a school for parents, Indigenous peoples and students with disabilities. It does provide a great option for these demographics, but only by coming full circle and realizing that it is often the only option for these people (parents cannot afford daycare, those on reservations cannot afford residence, etc). I feel we need to drop the idea of having to provide examples of people for whom AU is ideally suited and simply put forth the image (and truth!) that AU is for everyone.

I made the decision to complete my BA after being away from studies for 20+ years. I was able to do course-work while lovingly working to raise a family and work outside the home. My husband took a couple of masters courses through AU to add to his two BAs (History and Education from UVic). Of all his bachelor and subsequent masters courses, those two, in his words, “were by far the most demanding, yet most rewarding”. That says something about the programs offered at AU, and why I choose to study from my home office, rather than drive at least an hour on treacherous winter roads to attend other institutions. I agree with him about course demands and rewards. The demands exceed my previous university experience, but all courses have been rewarding. Open Learning is growing everywhere. AU needs to ensure that the world, and the people in the province of Alberta especially, respect what it offers.

I am a new student to AU and it has been an amazing journey so far. I first discovered the University through a colleague, who had completed her degree only a few short years ago. I spent hours on the AU website checking out the programs and looking at what spoke to me. I was over the moon to discover that I was eligible to complete my degree regardless of my current location in rural Saskatchewan. Up until that moment, I had enjoyed my educational journey but was looking for more depth and understanding in my field. I have no doubts that my Bachelor in Professional Arts Degree in Communication Studies will provide me with the knowledge and tools I need to move in the direction I am meant to serve. No other degree program or school had been able to provide me with what I am looking for until I met AU. THANK YOU for providing such a service to us all.

I chose AU because they offered the degree I wanted to pursue but also because they offered the flexibility I needed to be successful. I work full-time, I have a family (children and elders) to care for, and if I couldn’t do course work in my own time, at my own pace, I would have never been able to achieve my dreams. One course left, and then it’s onto graduate studies!