Grad finds comfort in the unknown on way to degree

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Erin Anderson is becoming more comfortable with uncertainty. Often meticulous about planning her life decisions, she’s learning to roll with the punches.

“I’ve proven to myself that all my best decisions, or those turning points in my life, have been decisions that were instinctual, like moving to London and coming to Western,” she said. “I learned it’s OK if I don’t necessarily know what’s next.”

On June 19, Anderson will join more than 300,000 Western alumni living around the world as a newly minted graduate and member of the Western Class of 2020.

Graduating in Creative Writing and English Language & Literature, the Western Scholars student found herself at a crossroads in 2016 while attending Sheridan College.

“I studied accounting because I thought that was a safe option take as a young mother,” she admitted. “But I realized midway through that, while I loved school, I’m not a person who is into materialistic things, and didn’t care about money enough to continue in this program.”

Her husband, Michael, knew she always wanted to pursue teaching and encouraged her to follow that path. The two had lived in London for a brief period previously and knew the city, so she took the chance and applied to Western – even though it involved uprooting the family, including their two children, Delilah and Dallas, 2 and 5 at the time.

“It was definitely a huge leap we all took. But we knew it would all work out and be worth it in the end,” she said. “It’s worked out even better than I imagined.”

Anderson recalls one of the first classes she took – a creative writing course where she fell in love with the craft.

“I have been writing off and on my whole life, but never thought it was a viable option for me,” she said. “I met with my professor to talk about this and felt it was an irresponsible decision to pursue writing as a young mom. I threw caution to the wind and said, ‘I’m going to go for it.’”

Throughout her years at Western, Anderson purposely took advantage of as many opportunities as she could to be involved in the campus community. She held a number of positions in Student Experience over the years, including working in the Wellness Education Centre portfolio, where her passion for helping students really shined.

Anderson was also part of the Society of Mature Students, Leadership Education Program, Alternative Spring Break and participated in Western’s safeTALK and ASIST around suicide prevention.

“Because I wanted to work in higher education, I saw these extracurriculars as an investment of my energy,” she said. “I wanted to be involved as much as I could. I fell in love with the programs; it got me to know so many people at Western and Western itself. I found what I was looking for.”

Anderson now finds herself back in the Faculty of Education, where she works part-time as a program assistant with the Advanced Studies in Professional Education program. She’s also a part-time Scholars Program assistant with Student Experience.

“Getting involved, as much as I did, solidified the fact I wanted to work with students,” Anderson said. “It helped me realized standing in front of a class and teaching wasn’t the only way I could help them achieve success.”

Balancing two part-time jobs with teaching her children at home during the pandemic, her love of learning remains strong. She’s currently doing her Master of Education at Laurier University.

“It can be a challenge at times,” Anderson laughed. “Like I said, I’m getting more comfortable with the unknown.”

Anderson hopes to work one day in a student-facing role, perhaps helping deal with mental health and wellness issues.

Her advice to future students? The quality of your university experience depends on the quantity of effort you put into it.

“If you make the effort to get out of your comfort zone, you’re going to find so many ways to get involved,” Anderson said. “I did so as much as I could and still managed to graduate with distinction. Looking back, I’m not sure how I did it.”