Flint proving it's never too late to get a university degree

Like other successful university students, Shannon Flint had to work hard to complete her university degree. Unlike most, she took a decidedly different route to convocation.

Flint (BMgt '07), Executive Director of the Strategic Policy and Innovation Branch with the Oil Sands Environmental Management Division of Alberta Environment, balanced a career, marriage and motherhood with her schoolwork. It meant a great deal of sacrifice and falling back on a strong support system – but it was well worth it.

"There is a lot of burden on the family when you are working full time and going to school part time," says Flint. "My husband had a huge role in supporting me, and it was very good for my daughters to see me working towards my degree. They understand that education is about future choices. Of course, they also say that they'll get their degrees right after high school and not wait like I did."

The daughter of a military man, Flint spent her childhood traveling across the country. She graduated from high school in 1979 and settled in Edmonton where she still resides.

"I never thought I had the option of not finishing high school, but I never felt a whole lot of pressure to do post-secondary education. My dad had been with the military since he was 17. He grew up in the era where you got your Grade 12 and then went out to work," explains Flint.

Like her father, Flint got a job after graduating from high school. She began working as an administrative assistant in the Department of Culture in the Alberta Government.

"Although it was an interesting job, I realized it was probably not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so I attended NAIT part time and got a business management diploma in 1985," says Flint.

Throughout her career with the Alberta Government, Flint worked in many different departments and gained extensive experience and knowledge. From promoting the Calgary Olympic Games in the late 1980s to building policy for the regulatory side of the energy business, Flint saw all aspects of business.

Despite her professional success, Flint felt her career choices were still somewhat limited without a university degree. She began to search for a program that would fit her needs.

"I learned of the University of Lethbridge management program from my nephew, a recent graduate, who spoke very highly of it," explains Flint. "What I really like about the program is its multidisciplinary approach. The program gives students a broad spectrum of knowledge and skills. The instructors in Edmonton had a lot of experience in the workplace and the material was relevant. The flexibility of night classes and the quality of instruction were excellent."

The knowledge she gained from the U of L program benefited Flint in many ways. It opened the door for her current directorship and changed her perspective.

"I analyze problems differently now. I even went back to my textbook on organizational change when I built my work team," says Flint. "I also look at different ways to communicate the story of the oilsands, using new media and tools such as online social networking, for more immediate communication."

One of her responsibilities, as director, is to educate the public about the environmental management systems that are in place to mitigate the ecological impact of oilsands development. Often facing heavy criticism, Flint is adamant that there are good environmental practices in place up north.

"We do a lot of monitoring. We have standards in place for water quantity and quality; we monitor the air and have an active reclamation program," explains Flint.

She continues to create policies and frameworks that support environmentally sustainable development of the oilsands, policies that look at what we have today, but also towards what we will have in the future.