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CAF Staff Advance Their Careers and Pursue Passions with AU Course Allowance


About 20 Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) staff of all ages and backgrounds are using AU’s course allowance benefit. This benefit gives them the opportunity to take AU courses for free and in turn embark on degrees, advance their careers and pursue their passions. One CAF employee is even using the benefit to help her daughter save on tuition at another university.

Here are some of their stories:
Shane Locher, 27
Athabasca, Alberta
Course: COMP 601 Survey of Computing and Information Systems

Shane Locher has completed a Bachelor of Science in Computing and Information Systems through AU. He is now beginning AU’s Master of Science in Information Systems with COMP 601.

“With the way the job market is now, having my master’s should put me ahead of the competition,” he says. “I am also hoping that having my master’s could open new opportunities within the university.”

New opportunities at AU have already opened up for Locher. His experience as a CAF site supervisor recently helped him to move into another AU position: system administrator for the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.

Locher says it would have been far more difficult to finish his bachelor’s degree if he hadn’t done it at AU. “I was able to work full-time while I was taking courses, which is the only way I could afford to do it.”

He sees AU as an excellent option for people who don’t have access to university where they live. “It is also a great alternative for people who don’t wish to be stuck in huge classes where they get no personal attention from the instructor,” he adds.

“The courses are laid out in a very good and clear format. They let you know what you should have done and when. As long as you make a plan and stick to it, getting your coursework done is not a problem.”

Annabelle Ouellet, 35
Grande Prairie, Alberta
CMIS 245 Computers and Management Information Systems
CMNS 301 Communication Theory and Analysis

Annabelle Ouellet, a course materials digitizer and quality assurance technician, has an incredibly busy schedule. She works for AU, takes courses from both AU and Grande Prairie Regional College, and is a single mother of two young girls.

Making time for studying involves a complicated schedule of after-school programs for her daughters. “It takes some time to get into a routine,” she says. But she manages to make it work and says she is grateful that AU courses allow her to study on her own time and at her own pace.

Ouellet plans to enrol in AU’s Bachelor of Professional Arts in Communication Studies. Her long-term goal is to work in the field of instructional design.

Rhonda Munro, 22
St. Paul, Alberta
Courses: GEOL 200 Introductory Physical Geology
GEOL 207 Introduction to Environmental Geology

Site supervisor Rhonda Munro wants to be a geologist. She is thinking about completing her Bachelor of Science with AU and then transferring to another university to specialize in her field.

"Having a connection with tutors in the field you want to study is an excellent resource," she says. "My course experience has been awesome. Studying your personal passion also makes things easier."

"I am very lucky that I work for this CAF project with flexible hours," she continues. "I work evenings, which gives me the morning to work on my books."

Barry Fraser, 62
Athabasca, Alberta
Course: ENGL 189 English for Business
Electronic imaging supervisor Barry Fraser says he was thinking about taking undergraduate AU courses for personal interest, but he wasn’t sure his writing skills were up to par. To make sure they were, he registered in prep course ENGL 189 and recently finished the course successfully. “It’s given me the confidence that I can do it,” says Fraser.
ENGL 189 was his first experience with online education. “I’m longer in the tooth than some,” he says, “so being online, I felt a little out of my element.”

He was able to adjust thanks to the support of AU staff. “Whenever I needed help, there were always people to assist me, and everyone at AU was really good,” he says.

Matt Lavis, 21
Grande Prairie, Alberta
MATH 215 Introduction to Statistics
TAXX 301 Taxation I

"I first decided to register in AU courses because they were free," admits Matt Lavis, a course materials digitizer and quality assurance technician.

"Sounds harsh, I know, but it was the reason at the time. Now that I have decided to continue my education past my diploma to a degree, it is very convenient to be able to count those courses towards my degree."

Lavis is completing a Business Administration diploma at Grande Prairie Regional College. He plans to transfer the diploma into AU's Bachelor of Management degree.

"I like the fact that I can work at my own pace on AU courses, and not have to worry about not skipping class," Lavis continues. "I'm bad for that."

Balancing AU courses with his life can be tough. "I am a very social person, and I often find myself making plans when I should be studying. I have set myself a schedule to ensure I dedicate time every day to schoolwork."

Note: Lavis has recently left his CAF position to focus on his studies.

Lilian Okocha, 37
Athabasca, Alberta
HRMT 502 Human Resource Management
STMT 500 Strategic Management

Course materials digitizer and quality assurance technician Lilian Okocha is also a mother of four who has used her course allowance to begin AU’s MBA program. She hopes to use the degree to build a career in management, and she chose the AU MBA because of AU’s reputation for quality online education.
Okocha is already learning a lot. “(STMT 500) has created a strong awareness in me of the importance of strategic management to every organization,” she says.
She has to apply a lot of strategic management to her own life to balance work, school and family. “I wouldn’t have thought of doing this without the help of my mother, who takes care of the kids while I work and study,” she says. “Also, the support of my husband and kids is amazing.”
One of her favourite parts of the program so far is learning from her classmates, many of whom are well into careers in the world of business. “It’s an opportunity to share both academically and professionally the experiences of my classmates from other organizations,” Okocha says.
Carol Berreth, 50
Grande Prairie, Alberta
ACCT 253 Introductory Financial Accounting
ECON 247 Microeconomics

“I have worked various accounting jobs in the past and wanted to update my resume,” says Carol Berreth, a course materials digitizer. “It was tough because I signed up in June, and then with the summer and golfing and life, I didn’t really get a lot done,” she says. “If I had to redo, I would have waited until September to start. Less stress.”
On the other hand, she says the courses kept her mind active, and she gained new respect for economics. “It was harder than I thought it was going to be. My kids laughed. They said, ‘It’s microeconomics. Why’d you think it would be easy?’”
Because the course allowance applies to AU staff family members as well, Berreth’s daughter is also taking AU courses for free and intends to transfer them to her University of Alberta degree. “I wish her older sister and brother would have had the same awesome opportunity,” says Berreth. “It is a definite money-saver.”