By Shannon Boklaschuk
University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduate Stephne Skye Lennox has advice for new students who are beginning their post-secondary studies: “Take the classes that intrigue you.”
“You never know where your life will take you, but always take the leap,” she said. “Trust your own self. Try everything.”
Lennox took her own leap of faith when she recently enrolled in USask’s College of Arts and Science, after previously earning a Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree at USask in 2004 and working in the education sector. She is now set to receive a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in political studies during USask’s Spring Convocation, taking place in person from June 6 – 10, 2022.
Lennox said earning a second degree at the university “feels like a major accomplishment”—particularly because her recent studies took place during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“The past three years were a bit irregular with the pandemic and online learning,” she said. “Though I missed the interactions that come with in-person learning, being able to learn from home and have a flexible schedule worked well, as we have four children between the ages of nine and 21 as well as a construction business to run.”
Born and raised in Saskatoon, Lennox attended Holy Cross High School before pursuing her BEd degree and working as a music teacher and a preschool teacher. As her children grew older, the time seemed right to pursue more of her passions. Lennox always had an interest in political studies and international studies, and that interest led her back to the university.
“When our youngest started school full-time it seemed like a great opportunity to return to USask to continue my studies,” she said.
In addition to her political studies degree, Lennox will also receive three USask certificates during Spring Convocation, in the areas of global studies, Indigenous governance and politics, and politics and law. The three certificates are all offered through the Department of Political Studies in the College of Arts and Science. The college offers more than 30 other certificate programs in a wide variety of subject areas that can be added to a degree or taken on a stand-alone basis.
Lennox learned about the certificate options during one of her first political studies classes. She was intrigued and decided that enrolling in the certificates would be an interesting way to guide her studies in the department.
Lennox drew on her own international experiences as she pursued the Certificate in Global Studies.
“As a child I lived with my family in Ethiopia. This experience piqued my curiosity in international relations and events as we were evacuated as the civil war came to a head,” Lennox said.
“The politics and law certificate seemed like a way to gain a better understanding of the relationship between politics and national and international law. The Indigenous governance and politics certificate allowed me to gain an in-depth understanding of the relationship between Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people in Canada and the complexity of this relationship.
“I would recommend the certificates to students; I think they are a great way to delve deeper into topics covered in the political studies and international studies degrees.”
Dr. Martin Gaal (PhD), a lecturer in the Department of Political Studies, said certificates “are a way to create a bespoke degree.” For example, a Bachelor of Arts degree in political studies demonstrates a student has an interest and competency in understanding how particular societies determine what is important to their citizenry and how power is distributed and exercised. Certificates, meanwhile, can be linked to particular degree programs but are more focused, he said.
“A certificate in global studies demonstrates an interest and competency in global issues and a recognition of cultural competency as a skill. The Indigenous governance and politics certificate demonstrates an interest and competency in Indigenous political structures and the history and tension with Canada as a colonial and political structure. A certificate in politics and law demonstrates an interest and competency in the critical intersection of politics and law in society,” said Gaal, adding that, “essentially, certificates are a way for students to both tailor their degrees towards their interests and, in so doing, make themselves stand out from others with the same degree.”
Students can also count the courses they take for their major towards a certificate. For example, POLS 112 can count towards a political studies degree, the global studies certificate, and the politics and law certificate. LAW 308 can count towards a law degree, the global studies certificate, and the Indigenous governance and politics certificate.
“If students are strategic in their course planning, they can maximize their course credit count and tailor their degree to demonstrate their interests and competency,” Gaal said.
Now, with her political studies degree and her three certificates completed, Lennox is looking forward to beginning a master’s degree in political studies at USask this fall. She has enjoyed being a part of the Department of Political Studies, where she has had an opportunity to take multiple classes with the same professors.
“It felt like there was a rapport between the professors and the students in the program as we spent many hours learning together,” she said. “It was a very supportive community of staff and students.”