2011 Gifts Make a Difference

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


More scholarships and bursaries... a lot more

The cost of higher education can deter many people from pursuing their post-secondary dreams. As part of its commitment to open access, Athabasca University is eager to eliminate financial barriers, just as distance education eliminates locational barriers. A 300% increase in the value of scholarships and bursaries awarded over the past four years - from $300,000 awarded in 2006 to $900,000 in 2010 - is proof that everything is possible when donors step forward to invest in education.

A donor who wishes to remain anonymous, for example, has recently established the new Master of Arts - Integrated Studies Making a Difference bursary, a significant funding commitment. Each year, one student will receive $2,400 for a maximum of five years, encouraging the student to complete his/her studies. The bursary is open to part-time students who are single parents, Aboriginal, have a disability or are recent immigrants.

Last year, Barry Walker, AU alumnus and Chair of the University's Governing Council, and his wife, Valerie, created the Walker Family Master of Counseling and the Walker Family Faculty of Business Scholarships, which recognize the achievement of two students every year.

"Investing in the education of young people, and especially those who may not have access to traditional higher-education opportunities, is profoundly important," Barry Walker says. "My wife and I are passionate about giving students opportunities to gain the knowledge to succeed."

Source: Open, September 2011


RBC joins AU protecting Athabasca river basin

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), through its RBC Blue Water Project, has donated $250,000 to support the work of AU's Athabasca River Basin Research Institute (ARBRI).

At 1,538 km, the Athabasca is Alberta's longest undammed river and its massive basin encompasses the world's largest oil sands deposits. ARBRI was established in 2008 to foster awareness of the river basin's role and to facilitate sound decision making regarding its development and protection.

"We need to dispel the myth that there is limitless water in Canada and start paying attention to our water consumption," says Bruce MacKenzie, regional president of RBC. "We are proud to be part of an initiative that gives organizations around the world a chance to make a difference, whether it's through education on water issues, watershed protection and clean-up or access to clean drinking water."

ARBRI promotes a collaborative and integrated approach to water research, coupled with active community engagement to best ensure the future success of Alberta's North.

"Maintaining a clean, healthy river basin in times of economic development means balancing interests associated with water quality, water quantity and the politics affecting distribution and wise use," says ARBRI director Dr. Dietmar Kennepohl.

The RBC Blue Water Project is a 10-year, $50 million program to help foster a culture of water stewardship.

Source: The Insider, March 28, 2011


Canadian film goes online thanks to the Canada Interactive Fund

Hollywood's earliest movies are familiar to just about everybody-but who knew?-Canada has a long and proud history of film-making too.

Largely unknown, even to Canadians, information about this part of our past is scattered and fragmentary, but a new AU project will bring it all together.

The Canada Interactive Fund has awarded AU's Canada Film Online Project $330,627 to create a unique interactive resource documenting Canadian filmmaking since the 1960s, an era which saw the start of a new relationship between filmmakers and governments.

AU plans to increase its holdings by 50 films and to create a platform through which film students and the general public can interact. It will feature commentaries and interviews exploring and explaining the development of the Canadian film industry while focusing on people, trends and issues.

"We are committed to consolidating our role as Canada's Open University and as a national leader in e-learning," says Dr. Evelyn Ellerman, project lead. "AU's extensive and expanding virtual infrastructure is ideally suited to aggregating, presenting and producing educational resources."

The National Film Board, Library and Archives Canada, Telefilm Canada, the Directors Guild of Canada, the Canadian Media Production Association and L'Elephant, Quebec will collaborate on the project.

Source: The Insider, March 28, 2011


Stauffer family's Inuit carving collection at home at AU

Like many rookie RCMP constables, Scott Stauffer started his career in Canada's far north. During his first posting in Yellowknife in 1979, he developed a keen interest in Inuit soapstone carvings.

He made the first of many purchases in Kugluktuk on Canada's north shore. As his passion for the art form grew, he learned more about leading Inuit artists, their techniques and how the colour of each soapstone pinpoints the region it came from.

A subsequent posting to Rankin Inlet further expanded Scott's collection. His work required him to visit far-flung communities where he scoped local stores for carvings. Before long, carvers throughout the area heard of his interest and started bringing their work to him.

Following a 1994 transfer to Alberta, the Scott and his wife Karen proudly displayed their collection in their Fort McMurray house, but as they began planning for retirement and downsizing, they knew they needed a new home for the art.

After discussions with AU President Frits Pannekoek, the couple decided to donate their collection to the University. "I have a long history with the University as both a student and an employee," explains Karen. "I am thrilled that this collection, for which we both have a huge emotional attachment, will be kept and displayed at AU. We feel we still have some connection to the carvings and always will."

Source: The Insider, January 26, 2011

AU's Charitable Registration Number: #10673 5830 RR0001