The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) asked Canadians to celebrate something recently that has been changing the lives of adult students in the Simon Fraser University Continuing Studies program for 40 years.
Ready access to continuing higher education has transformed the lives of adult learners such as SFU graduates Gurjinder Basran, Danny Pendhall and Marj Drury, which demonstrates what International Adult Learner’s Week (IALW) is, each year, all about.
Basran, a wife, mother and telcom manager turned award-winning novelist; Pendhall, an unemployed worker turned passionate career counsellor; and Drury, a retired nursing teacher turned editor, never stop learning.
Founded by UNESCO in 2000 and launched in Canada in 2002, Canada’s 9th IALW – observed April 2 to 9 nationally – encouraged people to reflect on how lifelong learning creates more opportunities for everyone.
Lifelong learning creates change in the lives of learners, their families and the people whose lives are touched by the learners’ news skills and training, says Helen Wussow, the dean of Lifelong Learning, which houses Continuing Studies at SFU.
“UNESCO’s sponsorship of IALW indicates the necessity for universities to recognize and serve working adults’ desire to continue their education,” she said.
“Many SFU Continuing Studies students already have some post-secondary education, and yet they want to keep learning — either to prepare for a career change or to boost an already successful career.”
SFU Continuing Studies has educated learners of all ages and from endless walks of life through 23 certificates and diplomas, more than 200 part-time courses, degree programs, public lectures and community programs.
Continuing Studies graduates transformed by lifelong learning
Five years ago, Delta resident Gurjinder Basran was a wife, mother and telecom manager.
Today, she’s also an award-winning novelist – thanks, in part, to SFU Continuing Studies.
Basran began a journaling project with her sisters several years ago that eventually turned into a fictional story about a young Indo-Canadian girl named Meena.
In 2005, Basran enrolled at The Writer’s Studio, a creative writing program at SFU Continuing Studies, with the idea of turning Meena’s story into a novel.
It came together as Basran learned about form, structure, point of view and depth of character through courses, workshop groups, and a mentor.
Everything Was Goodbye hit bookstore shelves in 2010 after winning The Great B.C. Novel Contest. In March 2011, it was shortlisted for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize—and Basran believes none of it would have happened without The Writer’s Studio at SFU.
“Being around other people that are doing the same thing, and being in a space where you can believe that you’re a writer and you’re not just playing at it – it makes it very real,” she says. “It makes you take yourself seriously.”
Danny Pendhall’s passion is helping people find work they love– and thanks to SFU Continuing Studies, he gets to do it every day.
A year and a half ago, the White Rock resident lost his job but instead of being discouraged, he 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.
Most people are winding down their careers at age 60 but after years of teaching nursing, Marj Drury decided to pursue her second love: writing.
Three of her colleagues recommended the editing certificate program at SFU Continuing Studies. Today, eight months after finishing the part-time, 18-month program, Drury is thrilled with the outcome.
In the last few months, she says, she’s completed four contracts – even without advertising her services. She loves the flexibility her editing work gives her. She chooses the contracts she wants – mostly academic editing for graduate students and professors –and works from home.
When Drury began the program, she was a little concerned about her age, but it turned out to be a none-issue.
“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.”
This article was submitted by Tom Nesbit, Associate Dean, Lifelong Learning, Simon Fraser University. He can be reached at email@example.com.