Flexibility keys success

When it comes to choosing graduate students, education professor Dr. Thelma Gunn looks for smart, enthusiastic people willing to take the lead on their learning experiences.

Gunn's expectations are high, but she understands work and family demands on students. Sometimes life happens, and that's why flexibility in both the program and the supervisor is essential.

"In education, many people taking master's degrees are teachers. They need to work and they want to work – that's what they do: they're teachers," Gunn says.

A number of students in the program hold down jobs throughout the province and Canada. For example, Gunn's student, Krysta Wosnack, is completing the second year of her master's degree while working in St. Albert. Wosnack is the epitome of an independent learner, and one of four graduate students in the Faculty to earn the Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Co-supervised by Gunn and Calgary-based resiliency expert Dr. Wayne Hammond, the Master of Education in Counselling student will spend the next year interviewing adolescents in foster care and residential treatment programs. Her thesis will explore better ways of fostering resiliency in these at-risk young people. Wosnack will ask the kids, as well as their caregivers, what they need to be happy.

"I think a lot of the time we only look at care workers and we don't get the youth perspective," says Wosnack.

The U of L's Master of Education program is offered both online and in an on-site stream, but even on-site students are allowed to complete their thesis year elsewhere. Fortunately, technology – like e-mail and video-conferencing – makes this possible.

"We have to be more flexible, but flexibility is inherent in all the technologies
we currently use," Gunn says.