The Hub Meet the Class of 2024

Get to know the inspiring graduates from Athabasca University’s Class of 2024

Athabasca University’s highest contribution happens when our work in teaching and research makes the world better and more equal.

Not only does online learning at AU allow students to become the best versions of themselves, their knowledge and education helps them make a lasting impact on communities near and far.

Just look at the inspiring efforts and journeys of members of the Class of 2024, whose work impacts health, business, justice, science, volunteerism, community advocacy, and so much more!

Overcoming financial barriers

Hung Truong (Graduate Bachelor of Management ’24)

📍 Regina, Saskatchewan

“I was not able to attend a traditional university because I wasn’t from the wealthiest of families.”

When it comes to setbacks and barriers to post-secondary education, Hung Truong has had his share. Growing up in a household of limited financial means in Regina, post-secondary education was neither a priority nor encouraged.

Now, graduating with the class of 2024, Truong said he feels a sense of accomplishment and hope. He’s come a long way from his humble beginnings and now has a new outlook on life.


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Career growth a balancing act

Eve Uwamahoro (Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations ’24)
📍Edmonton, Alberta

“I would encourage all immigrants to recognize that opportunities like Athabasca University exist, providing accessible education for individuals balancing busy schedules, including mothers.”

As if completing a degree while working full time isn’t enough of a challenge, Class of 2024 grad Eve Uwamahoro did that while also raising six children!

After moving to Canada from Rwanda in search of better opportunities, Uwamahoro is now the manager of human resources and office administration at Africa Centre in Edmonton.

Earning a Bachelor of Human Resources and Labour Relations degree will improve career opportunities and move Uwamahoro one step closer to her goal of achieving a chartered professional in human resources (CPHR) designation.


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Opening door to a new career

Donna Franklin (Bachelor of Professional Arts, Human Services Major ’24)

📍Oshawa, Ontario

“Being a mom and wife, I needed a school that understood my crazy schedule.”

A child and youth worker with a school board, Donna Franklin desired change. She needed flexibility to grow her career and be present for bedtime routines with her kids.

Discovering online learning with AU was a big moment for her future, which now involves attending teacher’s college in the fall.


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Business lessons that hit home

John Semashkewich (Master of Business Administration ’24)
📍 Athabasca, Alberta

“I wanted to challenge my understanding of new business principles. I’m always looking for ways to expand my knowledge and open doors to future career opportunities.”

For John Semashkewich, AU’s flexible online learning model made the most sense to further his education. Throughout his master’s, he juggled his schooling and personal life while also advancing his career. “Not many universities accommodate students who work full-time,” he said.

Currently, he is the chief operating officer for a commercial construction company in Athabasca. His MBA gives him new perspective and resources to pull from when handling adversity at work.


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First in family to earn a degree

Christine Zuwe (Post-LPN Bachelor of Nursing ’24)
📍Calgary, Alberta

“I always have that in the back of my mind: I need to make my mom proud. I need to make myself proud.”

As a young girl in Uganda, Christine Kuwe always dreamed of breaking the cycle of poverty and getting a university education abroad. Her mother never went to school and couldn’t read or write because girls “were to be married and do housework, and that’s it.”

After falling in love and marrying her husband Mike, the couple immigrated to Canada and traded the equatorial heat of Uganda for Chinook winds of the foothills of the Canadian Rockies.

Zuwe earned a diploma in nursing and worked as a licensed practical nurse in long-term care for about nine years. But she continued to dream of becoming the first member of her family to earn a university degree.

The Class of 2024 grad and mother has a new job working in cardiac care and runs a successful homecare business.

“Athabasca University opened up my world, into learning, into a world of opportunities, meeting people, and having that confidence to believe in myself,” she says. “I’m very complete.”


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Lessons in remote learning from the Far North

Dr. Tammy Soanes-White (Doctor of Education in Distance Education ’24, Master of Education in Open, Digital, and Distance Education ’12, Bachelor of Commerce ’94)
📍Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

“They don’t have to leave their community. They can stay home, they can work, and they can raise their children in the culture they want to raise their children in.” 

In her doctoral research, Dr. Tammy Soanes-White has explored the factors influencing student success in remote distance learning. It not only informs her work as an instructor with Aurora College in Yellowknife, it ties into her own experiences as a three-time AU grad.

“My dissertation was guided and supported by people who understand the meaning behind remote learning and distance education,” she said. “Landing back there was like coming home again.” 


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Supporting survivors of human trafficking

Linea Xaysana (Master of Counselling ’23, Bachelor of Professional Arts, Criminal Justice and Corrections ’07)
📍Edmonton, Alberta

“It’s happening a lot more than most people realize … it’s on the streets, it’s in businesses, it’s in hotels, it’s on farms, it’s in our kids’ school, and sadly it’s on our kids’ phones.”

Class of 2024 grad Linea Xaysana is fighting against human trafficking in Alberta through her roles with Alberta Justice and now as founder and executive director of @HERizon_healing. The not-for-profit will support survivors and victims who’ve experienced intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation, and human trafficking within a mental health and holistic healing capacity.

“A major gap in current systems is access to long-term mental health services for survivors,” Xaysana said. “The premise around HERizon is that it’s completely barrier-free.”


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From Athabasca to the Bayou

Dr. Meggan Franks Doctor of Business Administration ’24)
📍Zachary, Louisiana by way of Athabasca, Alberta

Dr. Meggan Franks wasn’t a very good student growing up… unless you’re talking about Phys. Ed. She spent much of her youth running through the boreal forest of north central Alberta, whether on the farm near the Athabasca River where she grew up, or in the Muskeg Creek Trail system in Athabasca.

Now living and working in Louisana, the Class of 2o24 graduate’s research focuses on volunteer retention—for which she won AU’s Three-Minute Thesis (3MT) competition.


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Speaking up for all students

Karen Fletcher (Bachelor of Science, Applied Mathematics Major ’24)
📍Ottawa, Ontario

“I’m a big believer in not just complaining about something but being part of the solution.”

Class of 2024 graduate Karen Fletcher knows a thing or two about problem-solving, whether as a math major, mom, or president of the Athabasca University Students’ Association. In fact, her ability to focus on solutions to student problems led her to Oxford University for the 2023 Map the Systems world finals!

Fletcher’s first degree was in arts, but she had difficulty finding meaningful work. When she decided to go back to school, AU’s asynchronous model made sense. She could study when her kids were in bed and take courses as time allowed.

Even though courses were online, Fletcher found connection with peers, including through her role as AUSU president. Student advocacy became a passion.

“I discovered there were so many different ways to get to participate in making things better and really fell in love with the work.”


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A journey of learning and healing

Kimberley Melbourne (Bachelor of Professional Arts, Human Services Major ’24)
📍Woodlawn, Ontario

“I decided that since I always wanted to get a degree, I might as well go to AU and fix my brain.”

Kimberley Melbourne’s dream of a university education nearly slipped away on Feb. 7, 2009, when she hit her head on the ice during a snowmobiling accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury.

Due to the fog of amnesia, the mother of two couldn’t remember her kids’ names—or anything else from the days before and after her accident.

After several years of rehabilitation, Melbourne decided to pursue a degree through AU to not only help her recovery, but to give her new strategies to help support her growing boys on the autism spectrum. Eleven years later, she’s a university graduate and a member of AU’s Class of 2024!


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Overcoming university anxiety

Elise Hoeppner (Master of Education in Open, Distance Education ’24)
📍Victoria, B.C.

“My friend leaned over and said, ‘Have you tried Athabasca University? I think they offer EXACTLY what you are looking for.’”

Teacher Elise Hoeppner had a complicated relationship with post-secondary during her undergrad. She quit her program three times in eight years due to struggles with anxiety rooted in a fear of failure.

When she decided to go back to school for her master’s, she needed a program that would allow her to remain calm but also be present for her young children. That’s when a friend pointed her to online learning and AU.

Fortunately, university was different with AU. Hoeppner completed her master’s courses in 18 months and successfully defended her thesis this past December.


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Helping with hepatitis C

Michelle Pittman (Master of Nursing ’24)
📍Fredericton, New Brunswick |

Class of 2024 nursing grad Michelle Pittman is using her education to support vulnerable populations, including those infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV).

As the clinic manager and nurse practitioner at River Stone Recovery Centre in Fredericton, N.B., Pittman treats patients with substance-use disorders, complex mental health issues, and sexually transmitted infections.

An estimated 250,000 Canadians are infected with HCV, which can lead to liver failure, liver cancer, and even death. Pittman started her master’s studies in 2019 and her degree has allowed her to expand her scope of practice and advocacy efforts.

“My degree has enabled me to prescribe HCV treatment and to continue advocating for further policy changes nationally. In addition, I am now a prescriber for the recovery centre and running an injectable opiate agonist therapy program.”


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Award-winning advocacy

Marilyn Kingdon (Bachelor of Professional Arts ’17, Master of Arts ’24)
📍 Sherwood Park, Alberta

“Much more needs to be accomplished in the hearing health-care field, so with my master’s in hand, I can contribute more locally and nationally by promoting equality and accessibility.”

Marilyn Kingdon has already made significant contributions to the hearing-loss community—even being recognized with Athabasca University’s 2022 Volunteer Service Award for all her hard work.

Now about to graduate with her second degree from AU, Kingdon said she’s not necessarily done yet.

“I don’t rule out further education, but for the time being I’m enjoying some leisure time.”


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Convocation 2024—a celebration like no other!

Read more stories about AU students and grads as part of our Convocation 2024 coverage.