Metro Vancouver, B.C. – It took Theresa Abraniuk a mere 25 seconds to walk across the stage at Kwantlen Polytechnic University and receive her bachelor’s degree from KPU 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.
Abraniuk describes walking across the stage to receive her degree as a surreal moment. The convocation emcee announced her name with the zealous inflection of an NHL broadcaster while Abraniuk’s classmates and colleagues at KPU roared their approval. In the audience were Abraniuk’s beaming parents, who flew in from Alberta for the occasion.
“It is the first thing in my life that I’m really proud of, especially with the struggles I have with mental health issues.”
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.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity KPU gave me to achieve my degree and I look forward to putting my knowledge to use here at KPU.”
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has been serving the Metro Vancouver region since 1981, and has opened doors to success for more than 250,000 people. Four campuses—Richmond, Surrey, Cloverdale and Langley—offer a comprehensive range of sought-after programs, including business, liberal arts, science, design, health, trades and technology, horticulture, and academic and career advancement. Over 19,000 students annually have a choice from over 124 programs, including bachelor’s degrees, associate degrees, diplomas, certificates citations and apprenticeships. Learn more at www.kpu.ca.
Caption: Theresa Abraniuk, 49, has been working on her BA for 25 years. After years of doing homework, working on projects, studying for tests and pouring over thousands of pages of required reading – all while working full time - she achieved her goal this past spring.
Media Specialist, KPU