When Katherine Wasiak and her husband moved from Swift Current, Sask., to Tempe, AZ, in pursuit of master’s and doctorate degrees (respectively) at ArizonaState University, they left a two-story four bedroom house behind in exchange for a two bedroom apartment – and they had their three young children along with them.
“Ed was getting about 20 per cent of his salary, and the Canadian dollar was worth about 60 cents American at the time,” recalls Wasiak with a laugh. “It’s amazing what you can learn to live without.”
Although her family’s apartment dwelling days are long behind her, Wasiak still remembers what it was like to be a student under financial strain.
“I empathize with students who are struggling financially,” says Wasiak. “Money is a challenge for most everyone who attends university, but pursuing an education is certainly worthwhile. If there are things we post-graduate ‘survivors’ can do to support students coming up through the ranks, I think it’s incumbent upon us to do so.”
Wasiak donates to Supporting Our Students (SOS) and contributes time to the program as a member of the SOS committee. As the director of public relations and communications for the Faculty of Fine Arts, Wasiak chooses to delegate her funding to the Abbondanza fund – an endowment that supports undergraduate and graduate scholarships in art, music, drama and new media. In Wasiak’s opinion however, where people choose to direct their donations isn’t nearly as important as making a contribution in the first place.
“Students are our business,” says Wasiak emphatically. “We’re here for them and because of them. It’s in everyone’s best interest, students and employees alike, to ensure that U of L students get the best education possible.”
The value of education was instilled in Wasiak early on, and its effects have rippled across her entire life. Wasiak’s parents were both teachers, each of her seven siblings has at least one post-secondary degree, Wasiak herself has two, her husband has four, and their children are now grown and university graduates as well – two of the three of them from the University of Lethbridge. Wasiak says if she knows one thing for sure, it’s that a good education is a necessity in today’s world.
“An education gives you choices,” Wasiak says. “It gives you flexibility and skills and tools. We live in a world that is changing very quickly. There are jobs out there that no-one could have imagined would exist 20 years ago. A solid education teaches you to think critically and creatively, and thrive in a fast-paced changing world. We need people who can lead us forward, which means we need to foster education however we can. Contributing to SOS is a great way of doing our part.”