Leanne Elias (BFA ’95 and MEd ’03) was a newly single mother of three young children when she applied to university for the first time. She had few resources and even less money, and the notion of finding a way to pursue an education while simultaneously ensuring that her kids would have everything they needed to thrive – well, it was a daunting situation to say the very least.
“It became very clear very quickly that I couldn’t make it in a big city,” says Elias. “I was accepted at several universities, but when I went to check things out, most everywhere the reality for me and my children was pretty grim. There were long commutes between campus and where I could afford to live, and the idea of not being able to get to my kids easily if I needed to was terrifying. Someone suggested that I apply to the University of Lethbridge, so I phoned the dean’s office in the Faculty of Fine Arts to ask for an appointment. They invited me in right away.”
Elias made the trip to U of L and was met with receptive aplomb.
“It was absolutely incredible,” Elias recalls. “My appointment with the Faculty was at 9 a.m. My portfolio was reviewed on site and I was accepted on the spot. Before one o’clock that afternoon I had appropriate housing and my kids were registered in school. Everything fell into place and it just felt right.”
One bachelor’s and master’s degree later (both earned at U of L) and Elias hopped the fence from U of L student to U of L professor. Currently, Elias is associate professor in the Department of New Media, teaching classes and doing research in the area of graphic design.
Elias may have jumped an academic hurdle at U of L, but she vividly remembers and appreciates the assistance she received at the university, and makes a point of giving back in a number of ways – including the U of L Supporting our Students (SOS) initiative.
“I received a lot of help here, both financially and otherwise, which quite frankly made it possible for me to succeed,” says Elias. “There isn’t a day when I’m not thankful to have attended the U of L and to now be here as a professor.”
Elias began making contributions to SOS the year she started as an instructor and has made monthly contributions ever since.
“There were days in my academic career when I needed to go to the food bank,” says Elias. “But I made it through, with help. Contributing to SOS is one small thing I can do to ease the way for someone else. I can’t stand the thought of someone being deterred from study because they feel they can’t afford it.”
Working closely with students gives Elias tremendous satisfaction – and her students appreciate the commitment. Elias was given the U of L Students’ Union Award for Teaching Excellence in 2014. It’s an accolade Elias takes humbly in stride, deflecting the praise back at those she feels she’s at the U of L to serve.
“I’m here for the students. We all are,” says Elias. “There are so many wonderful, creative, brilliant young minds on campus. If we don’t support them every way possible, as faculty we really aren’t doing our jobs.”
Please join Leanne and support our students today.