It took Theresa Abraniuk 25 seconds to walk across the stage at Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) and receive her bachelor’s degree from President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Alan Davis. But it took 25 years to get there.
“I was in awe – it was utter amazement at convocation,” said Abraniuk, 49.
Abraniuk, an admissions assistant at KPU, started taking courses in 1990. KPU employees can register for one or two tuition-free courses per semester as part of their benefit packages, and Abraniuk was a keen student. She took biology with the intention to become a nurse, but quickly realized it wasn’t the career for her. Next, she ventured into business, achieved her accounting diploma and joined KPU’s accounting department.
However, an insatiable thirst for knowledge soon led her into the Faculty of Arts, where she explored psychology. By 2008, she was in the home stretch toward a BA in general studies with a minor in psychology.
“I told myself: ‘You know what? You’re only 15 courses away – you can do this!’ And by that time, I really wanted it.”
For the next six years, except for a brief sabbatical to Thailand for schooling to achieve her Associate Instructor in Universal Healing Tao, Abraniuk lived and breathed work and school. Her goal was to finish her degree before turning 50, and any time she felt like quitting, friends reminded her that time never quits, and she would eventually turn 50 anyway.
“Every night, every weekend, homework was all I did,” said Abraniuk. In addition to the typical challenges faced by university students – project deadlines, finals, volumes of required reading – Abraniuk also battled major depression en route to her degree. She frankly shares her struggle with depression both to help others and to fight the stigma that is often attached to mental illness. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about eight per cent of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
Now, armed with her freshly minted degree, Abraniuk hopes to advance within KPU. She’s also eyeing a master’s degree – what with all the extra time she has on her hands now.