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International Adult Learners Week celebrated what SFU has done for 40 years

April 14, 2011
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Marj Drury. Photo by Greg Ehlers

Canada’s ninth International Adult Learners Week celebrated what SFU Continuing Studies has been doing for 40 years: changing lives through adult education.

The week, sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, ran from April 2-9 in Canada in 2011.

Marj Drury and Danny Pendhall are only two of the many Continuing Studies graduates who know how powerful adult learning is.

Thanks to Drury's certificate in editing, she recently traded in her career as a nursing instructor for a career in editing.

She’s 62 years old.

Because Pendhall decided to pursue his passion at SFU after he was laid off, he's doing his dream job: helping others with their careers.

Dr. Helen Wussow, the dean of Lifelong Learning at Simon Fraser University, which houses Continuing Studies, has heard dozens of stories like Drury’s and Pendhall's, and she is grateful that UNESCO is recognizing the learners “who are at the very core” of Continuing Studies’ work.

Wussow believes that learning creates change: in the lives of learners, their families, and the people learners touch with their new skills and training.

Marj Drury traded retirement for her second love

Most people are finishing things at 60—but after years of teaching, Drury decided to try a new career.

Three of her colleagues recommended the editing certificate through SFU Continuing Studies. Today, after finishing the part-time 18-month program, Drury is thrilled with the outcome.

Within months of graduating, she completed four editing contracts—even without advertising her services. She loves the flexibility her editing work gives her. She chooses the work she wants—mostly academic editing for graduate students and professors—and works from home.

When she began the program, she was a little concerned about her age, but it was a non-issue, she says.

“I really appreciated the fact that I wasn’t put down. Instead, I was given lots of encouragement to keep on learning and keep on developing.”

Pendhall got a second chance, and pursued his dream job

Danny Pendhall’s passion is helping people find work they love—and thanks to SFU Continuing Studies, he gets to do it every day.

Instead of being discouraged when he lost his job, the White Rock resident formulated a game plan. He’d worked in Canada for 23 years, mostly in customer service, and he loved helping people. After meeting with a career counsellor, he decided to pursue the same career.

Most of the employers he consulted recommended the Career Development Practitioner Certificate at SFU. Pendhall began in March 2010, finished in August the same year, and now he works for the Progressive Intercultural Community Services’ employment program in White Rock.

Pendhall teaches classes and meets with people who need work. He is originally from Malaysia and speaks eight languages—so he is especially passionate about helping immigrants learn to navigate the North American job market.

He’s thrilled with the preparation he received at SFU. “The SFU Surrey Career Development Practitioner Program is, by far, the best,” he says.

IALW at a glance

UNESCO launched the first International Adult Learners Week in 2000. Canadians have been celebrating it since 2002.

The week promotes adult literacy and lifelong learning through partnership between governmental and non-governmental organizations, educational institutions, and civil society.

“UNESCO’s sponsorship of an International Adult Learners Week indicates the necessity for universities to recognize and serve working adults’ desire to continue their education,” Wussow says.

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