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Athabasca University

2013 Gifts Make a Difference

Read about some of the many things made possible by gifts from our community. 

Climb to the campaign summit continues at a quick pace

By all accounts, 2013 has the potential to be a watershed year for Atha-basca University’s Open Our World fun-draising campaign. The campaign, AU’s first major foray into the campaign realm, is being well-received, more alumni are “paying it forward” by giving to the uni-versity (see page 15), the donation tally is rising steadily (see below left), and the number of relationships built or strength-ened bodes well for future support.

“We have great momentum,” says Heather Kennedy, campaign chair and member of the AU Board of Governors. “There are so many good things on the go and so many opportunities in the pipe — and they’ll start to reveal themselves in the next few months.”

Among the many reasons underscoring her optimism, she notes that “in corporate Canada, particularly in the West, corporate social responsibility and being part of the communities in which these companies work is a major focus — and AU’s priorities dovetail with what they want to do.

Her experiences meeting with colleagues in her own industry (Kennedy is vice-president, government relations, for Suncor Energy) confirm the point. “Many of them are excited when they hear testimonials from students, learn how many of their employees are enrolled at AU or discover how AU’s programs can work with their stakeholders. It’s easy for them to see the value in AU and in considering supporting AU.”

“People are sometimes surprised and always enthusiastic (when they) learn more about the university,” adds Dr. Pamela Walsh, AU’s vice-president of advancement. “The campaign has led to a greater awareness of AU and its mission, which in turn has led to greater investment in AU and its students.

It’s also “a great launching pad for creating and continuing relationships,” Walsh says. “We’re building relationships with individuals, alumni and industry while exploring the alignment between their interests and our institutional priorities. It’s a bit of an art and a science, but at the end of the day AU and each of its donors should benefit from the partnership.”

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2013


How do you pay for a dream?

AS A 10-year-old growing up in Vietnam, Nghiem Dang set his sights on working in health care so he could help his country’s sick and poor. His fami-ly moved to Canada in 1979, and now he’s looking forward to the day when he retires, moves to Asia and brings his dream to life — something he wouldn’t have envisioned if he hadn’t attended Athabasca University.

Because of my work and home commitments, I could never have gone back to school without distance education,” explains Dang, who graduated with his Master of Nursing (Advanced Nurse Practitioner) degree in 2012 and cur-rently works as a nurse at the Kingston Penitentiary in Ontario.

While the story is uniquely his, the sentiment is not. Most AU alumni can readily find the words to finish a sen-tence that starts with “AU made it pos-sible for me to….” And because they appreciate the impact of the university on their lives, they’ve been inspired to donate to AU.

Dang says he can’t thank AU enough for the “wonderful opportunity” to continue his education. He wants others to have the same opportunity, so he donates monthly to student awards through the Faculty of Health Disci-plines Caring for the Future campaign (part of the university-wide Open Our World campaign).

Christina Schmolke also donates monthly and sees it as a “micro-financing” investment in her future peers. She graduated from the Master of Counselling (Counselling Psychology) program in 2009, a milestone on her journey to becoming a registered psychologist.

Appreciating the financial struggles of students, especially mature students and those with families, Schmolke sees her donation as a way to ease their financial stress and make it possible for them to follow their career trajectory.

Social justice is a guiding value in my life,” she says. “If all alumni give a small amount, the total (available for scholarships) can be substantial — and someone who has the aptitude, but not necessarily the financial resources, will have a chance to go to AU.”

“I got so much out of my learning with AU,” adds Renée Anderson, a 2008 graduate of the Master of Nursing (Generalist) program and a respected nursing lecturer at Thompson Rivers University who received two awards for teaching excellence in 2012. “The level of learning I was exposed to has made me a better teacher…. It’s hard to describe, but I’m not the same person I was when I start-ed at AU. My classmates and I are differ-ent teachers and nurses now because we think differently.”

The quality of her AU experience made it easy for her to give. “I got way more out of my education than I ever thought possible. Giving back is just the right thing to do.

Nghiem Dang agrees wholeheartedly. “My donation is very little compared to what AU has given me. Without AU, I couldn’t fulfill my dreams. I feel an obligation and a responsibility to give something back, so AU can help other students.“AU has no need to thank me for what I give. I thank AU.”

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2013


The Architect of his own future

Craig Rogers has drafted an educational blueprint for his future, one that will see him build on several firsts.

Rogers is one of the first students to be enrolled in the new Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Architecture offered at Athabasca University. He’s also the first recipient of the Ken and Janny Hutchinson Scholarship in Architecture, established at AU last year by donors wishing to invest in the future of the profession.

“It’s a big help to push my career forward,” he says. “I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s validation that I’m doing the right thing and that I should … continue to pursue architectural studies.”

With two undergraduate degrees to his credit, Rogers works full-time as an intermediate technologist with a Vancouver architectural firm. He chose AU’s pioneering online program because he can’t easily attend university full-time due to career and family responsibilities.

The Hutchinson scholarship was established by Ralph and Janet Hutchin-son in honour of Ralph’s brother, Ken, a leading Alberta architect for the past 40 years, and his wife Janny. The scholarship, which recognizes the professional and academic achievements of incoming students, is supported by an endowment that will enable AU to present $2,500 to two promising architecture students each year.

Rogers calls his award a huge relief. “I don’t have to worry about where the tuition money will come from for my next courses,” he says.

“The Hutchinsons are very involved in the industry, and it’s fantastic that they did this. I thanked them and told them I hope to use it to help better myself and the industry. One day, I hope I can do the same thing for a new student studying courses in architecture.”

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2013


Turning people into science is only natural

SHARING THE BEAUTY AND WONDER OF the natural world has been a life’s work for Albert and Pirkko Karvonen. With their recent donation of $250,000 to Sci-ence Outreach – Athabasca, they hope to inspire a younger generation to become equally captivated by the great outdoors. Over 36 years, the Karvonens combined their passions for the environment and for education by producing more than 120 wildlife films and documentaries through Karvonen Films. They gave audiences worldwide a window on animals, plants and landscapes in diverse habitats, with a focus on the boreal for-est that surrounds the couple’s home near Amisk Lake, Alta.

They sold the company’s assets and are using the proceeds to invest in what they hold most dear: the future of nature. They did this, in part, by supporting Science Outreach – Athabasca.

“It can be hard to change an adult’s perception,” Pirkko explains, “but maybe we can provide an incentive for a young person to look at nature and develop an interest that stays with them through life — to see that the natural world needs to be kept natural, to enjoy it.”

“Kids are going to be the keepers and stewards of land in the future,” Albert adds. “They’ll be making the decisions about our lakes, rivers and forests, and even how we grow our food. We want to focus on the environment and create a greater awareness of nature — to try to increase the understanding of the issues we face.”

Science Outreach – Athabasca does just that. Operating as a standing com-mittee of Athabasca University’s Centre for Science, the 12-year-old initiative promotes science awareness in the greater Athabasca area and beyond with community and school presentations, camps, field trips, a website and travelling exhibits open to children, youth, teachers, parents and anyone who wants to learn about science. It’s a labour of volunteer driven love with many partners including community groups, AU faculty and staff and the Karvonens themselves, who have been involved for more than 10 years as both presenters and event participants.

The Karvonens’ donation, to be realized as $50,000 per year over five years, will enable Science Outreach – Athabasca to focus its energies on educating people rather than chasing funds, says Dr. Robert Holmberg, one of its founders and an AU professor emeritus of biology. And because “success breeds success” in the funding world, he hopes the Karvonens’ donation will help to leverage additional gifts.

The Karvonens share this hope. “This is giving back, and we hope oth-ers donate, too,” Pirkko says.“We’re all part of the natural world,” Albert adds.

“We’re all part of the natural world,” Albert adds. “Fundamentally, we all need the same things: air, water, a place to live, food.

“I want to give back to nature, to give back to the community where I was born and raised. What is the best investment? It is to educate youth to be more aware of nature, of the environment, to begin to understand the relationship we have with all living things.”

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2013


Investing in AU means investing in community

HEATHER KENNEDY IS DONATING TO Athabasca University because she believes it’s possible to make a differ-ence in communities, and ultimately the world, one person at a time.

he chair of AU’s Open Our World fund-raising campaign and member of the AU Board of Governors, along with her family, recently contributed $50,000 to support AU’s activities in community service, one of the four priority areas for the campaign.“This area mattered most to me,” she says, explaining that every time AU helps a student realize a personal dream, entire families and communities stand to benefit.

That ripple effect is especially important in northern and remote communi-ties that are being buffeted by unprecedented and rapid change. “My personal passion around changing the world rests with remote communities and, in particular, ensuring Aboriginal people have the opportunities to do the things they need to do to heal as nations and communities,” she says. “Education is one of the key tools for that.”

“I hope a community or the lives of a series of individuals in a remote community will be changed (by our donation) because they’ll have the ability to attend AU, or they’ll benefit from the research AU might do in their community or a program AU offers.

ennedy sees a distinctive university in AU, one that is true to the “Athabasca” in its name and has carved out a niche serving the north, yet, at the same, is breaking down barriers to higher educa-tion and innovating how students learn across Alberta and Canada and even around the world.

She recognizes that operating on the leading edge, as AU does, is a “tough” place to be and believes it’s imperative that people “continue to cherish and nurture an adaptable, flexible, nimble institution.” That is done, in part, by supporting AU through initiatives like Open Our World.

Kennedy and her campaign cabinet colleagues (see page 10) are leading by example, giving both time and dollars to send a message to potential donors that investing in Athabasca University also means investing in community. “What matters to me, matters to community, and it matters to AU,” she says.

Source: Open, Spring/Summer 2013

Updated June 21 2017 by Web Services - University Relations Division

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