Advice from the mayor: It's never too late

October 06, 2005, vol. 34, no. 3
By Stuart Colcleugh

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When she takes to the podium as one of four student speakers at fall convocation this month Kathy Morse will deliver a simple message to her fellow alumni and many of their parents: it's never too late to go to university.

And Morse, the amiable 53-year-old mayor of Maple Ridge, should know. She completed her bachelor of general studies degree in justice and public safety leadership in just three years as part of the university's integrated studies program, which also offers a degree in liberal and business studies. And she did it while maintaining her career as a broadcast industry commercial voice and a more than fulltime gig as mayor, not to mention family obligations.

Designed specifically for mid-career adults, the integrated studies program gives students a unique opportunity to complete their undergraduate degree part-time without putting their lives on hold. “Three days every three weeks for three years is all it takes,” says the Maple Ridge native. “I looked for 12 years for an option like this and when I found it I grabbed it in about three seconds.”

The best part, says Morse, is the program's cohort structure in which students admitted at the same time take the same courses and advance through the program together. “I came in thinking I would be totally on my own but I was wrong. We became a real team and that made a huge difference.”

Convocation student speakers tend to thank those who helped them along the way, says Simon Zukowski, who is graduating with an honours bachelor of arts in political science. “But I plan to focus on the students themselves. They're the ones who should be congratulated.” The Polish-born Zukowski is now working on his MA in political science at SFU, after which he hopes to pursue a career as a diplomat. Zukowski's interest in international politics was sparked in 2000 while attending high school in Ecuador where he witnessed a military coup following mass demonstrations by the indigenous movement against widespread poverty and corruption.

David Hendry, who is graduating with a bachelor of science in kinesiology, plans to talk about the benefits of cooperative education during his convocation remarks. A veteran of five semesters of co-op work placements, Hendry now works full time as an administrative assistant with the institute of nutrition, metabolism and diabetes at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research in Vancouver. “I initially expected to use kinesiology as a stepping-stone to another degree in physiotherapy or chiropractic medicine,” says the Quesnel native. But thanks to his co-op experience, “I've developed a strong interest in the socio-economic determinants of community health. I think I'm also going to talk about how important it is for students to look beyond the confines of their discipline.”

The fourth speaker, Deborah Bartlette, intends to talk about “the whole idea of education as a public good and the important role of education in building a strong society.” Bartlette, who is receiving her doctorate in educational leadership, works as an SFU education faculty member and coordinator of master of education community-based programs.

But she could well serve as a poster child for life-long learning.

Beginning in her early 30s she has been taking courses continuously for the past 14 yrs, achieving an undergraduate degree in business administration, then a masters degree in adult education and distance learning, a masters degree in theology and finally her doctorate. That's it, says Bartlette. “I have the whole set now, and I get a pouffy hat.”

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