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Interview with Beckie Scott, Olympic athlete and former student

     This summer Shelley Hulan (the 50th Anniversary Chair) had the opportunity to interview Beckie Scott about her UW Distance-Education studies. An Olympic athlete, Scott became the first North American woman to ever win an Olympic medal in cross-country skiing as a result of her performance in the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. On top of her athletic achievements, Scott also volunteers with both UNICEF and Right to Play, two organizations that aid in the healthy development of children and youth around the world. In between training sessions, Beckie often completed readings and coursework. See the full interview below:

Hulan: You were training for and participating in three Winter Olympic Games during years when many other people pursue a post-secondary education exclusively. How did you juggle the demands of training, travel, and coursework?

Scott: There is actually a lot of 'down time' in the life of an athlete, whether it be between work-outs and training sessions or on long-haul flights to competitions and I would use that time to study and complete course-work. I also took very few courses at a time, no more than 2 at once, so as to ensure I never felt over-loaded with all the competing demands on my time.

Hulan:  I'm not an athlete, but I imagine that you had a very full schedule already when you began taking distance-ed. courses. What motivated you to keep working towards a university degree while you were in competition?

Scott: A big part of my motivation was that I really enjoyed having something else to think about and focus on other than sport.  My secondary motivation was to use the time that I did have outside of sport to pursue something that would be tangible and useful to me once my sporting career was finished.

Hulan: When we interview students about their choice of major, they give various reasons for their selection--their love of a certain subject, or their desire to follow a particular career path like teaching or the law. Why did you pick English as a subject in which to major?

Scott: I chose English primarily because reading and writing are two of my greatest joys.  I excelled in English in high school and have been an avid reader since childhood.  I wanted to do something that I both enjoyed immensely and had already demonstrated a propensity for.

Hulan: Why did you decide to take distance education courses from the University of Waterloo?

Scott: First and foremost because of the great variety of courses and subjects that were available by correspondence.  After looking in to other distance education programs, it became very clear that the University of Waterloo was quite superior in this aspect.  Once I started the courses I also found it very helpful to have deadlines and set time-lines for course-work and exams, as opposed to other distance education programs I had tried. Correspondence is hard enough without having deadlines to adhere to.

Hulan: Are there any particular subjects, books, or courses that stand out in your mind as especially memorable (because you enjoyed them perhaps, but for any reason, really) from your distance-ed. experience?

Scott: The class that I remember most is an introductory linguistics class, not so much for the content but for the wildly entertaining and hilarious lectures provided by the professor at the time.  It made the subject matter so much more interesting and easy to get in to.

Hulan:  University research is often thought of as motivated by curiosity rather than market-driven. Is there a parallel in Right to Play? Or, if that's a bit too leading a question, could you describe the work that you do with Right to Play, and how it benefits children?

Scott: I now work for an international humanitarian organization called Right To Play that uses sport and play to improve health, develop life skills and foster peace for children and their communities in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.  It is immensely rewarding to be involved with this organization because I have experienced first-hand the enormous impact and difference in the world it is making.

Hulan:  I will now ask a not-especially-English question, but who better to ask than you: Do you think exercise helps people study and learn?

Scott: Absolutely, unequivocally, YES!