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Tammie SaurBiology student Tammie Saur received course credit for her work experience as a veterinary technician.

Program credits students for life experience

The new Competency Based Learning Credits program can turn a future or former student’s life experience into course credits.

An applicant, either new to UWindsor or a returning student, can apply for credit for up to 10 semester courses.

“This is based on equivalent university-level knowledge acquired outside a traditional post-secondary classroom, through work and life experiences related to their discipline,” says Chris Houser, dean of science.

“Competencies may be gained in various capacities, including professional experience and training, independent study, self-teaching, non-credited coursework, volunteering, travel, hobbies, and family experiences.”

Integrative biology major Tammie Saur is the first student to receive credit through the program. The Faculty of Science undergraduate returned to school after working as a veterinary technician for more than 15 years.

“I think it is a very modern idea for schools to start acknowledging our history instead of having the mindset that if you weren’t spoken to by a professor, then it doesn’t count,” she says. “I wasn’t in a classroom, but I did everything in the hospital from preparing microscopic slides for exam, to collecting specimens from pets, assisting in surgeries and patient recovery, running bloodwork, prepping bloodwork, performing fecal tests, and X-rays.”

Saur, who is minoring in anthrozoology, earned credits for her work history.

“A lot of people may be afraid to do go back to school because they won’t have the edge over the younger students, but I feel like I have an edge because I have a long work history.”

While Saur is the first student to benefit from the credit policy, Dr. Houser says the program was inspired by a former UWindsor student named Darren Luck.

“Luck was two credits short of an economics degree when he left UWindsor in the 1980s and despite his very successful career, he always wanted to complete his degree and we helped him virtually cross the stage,” says Houser.

While originally attending the University, Luck competed in varsity athletics as an all-Canadian sprinter on the Lancer track team, and he ran two entrepreneurial businesses. He describes himself as a young man who was a motivated learner but not much of a student. He went on to a successful career as an economist, earning professional designations through programs at Harvard Business School and Princeton University in the United States.

“I’ve accomplished a fair bit in my life, and I attribute a lot of my success to what I learned and relationships formed during my time at UWindsor, but it was always on my bucket list to go back to university and finish that degree,” he says.

Luck returned to the Faculty of Science and completed the two credits he needed to graduate.

“I’d strongly encourage anyone to do this; I’m proud to have that degree on my wall,” he says.

“I’m very grateful to those who took me under their wing and helped me through this, Dr. Houser and Nurlan Turdaliev and Mitch Fields. They were gracious and patient.”

The burden of demonstrating the knowledge and skills for transfer credit will lie with the student and is subject to the assessment of the dean, or designate, of the faculty for which credit is sought.

The Competency Based Learning credits and edits to the bylaws were written in collaboration with the Office of the Registrar. For more information, contact Houser at chouser@uwindsor.ca.

—Sara Elliott