UMass Sesquicentennial

UWW student spotlight: Audley Robinson


After struggling in early years with education and academic institutions, 55-year-old Audley Robinson seems to have finally found his niche at UMass Amherst with UWW.  A recent diagnosis with dyslexia and another form of learning disability was a revelation in Audley's life - one that now allows him to excel on the path of degree completion.  With perseverance, humility, and a little self-reflection, Audley continues to work toward his goal with future hopes of pursuing an MBA.  His advisor: Connie Griffin.  His concentration: Marketing and Sales.

Every non-traditional age student has a story. What’s your story?

Learning has always been a challenge for me.  Two fundamental reasons have occurred to me since I have resumed my educational process.  One is my educational experiences of the past being dictated by and planned through a post-colonial model of education where only a base level of knowledge is taught, to be able to perform in an unskilled environment.  The second was that there was no tolerance for or allowance for students with learning challenges.  I, like many young people, left school uneducated and ill-equipped to compete in the wider world; but only as factory fodder was I desirable.  I am not saying “poor me” and blaming society for my past educational experience.  I am just putting some distance and perspective on the past.  I now have the necessary skills, skills that I have acquired through attending UWW at UMASS.  I am now able to do research and think more critically about a given situation, both past and present.

I was recently diagnosed with dyslexia and a language based learning disability.  In my formative years I would have been called stupid or ridiculed, even lost jobs because the perception was that I was illiterate.  The epiphany for me was being tested and finally having a diagnosis that gave clarity to what I had believed about myself.  I now had a framework from which I can start to build a structured process of learning and writing, which I am very passionate about.  Mass Rehabilitation through UMASS is a wonderful resource and a testament to the advancement in the understanding of the individual.  I have to thank them and disability services at UMASS for their full support, where the individual is shown dignity and respect; and just as important, the tools and technologies to level the playing field to compete with the entire student population and working environments are provided.

Why did you choose UMass Amherst UWW to complete your degree?

I was unemployed and the only guest at the pity party that I was throwing, feeling rejected after sending out umpteen resumes and cover letters.  One day, I was driving by the UWW Office in Hadley and went in to see what UWW was all about.  Six months later, I found myself walking into my first blended class.  I was hooked and now cannot get enough of the experience and opportunity offered through UWW.

What was the best part about being a UWW student for you?

UWW is very special and unique in the way it reintegrates students who have been away from education for a while as I have. The level of commitment and dedication shown by both faculty and staff is very special and should be celebrated more by the main UMASS community.

What’s been your favorite class at UMass Amherst so far?

I have many favorites for different reasons.  I really enjoy the blended classes that UWW offers.  This gives me, as a mature student, the opportunity to be with other students who have similar experiences as me to come together and share our stories, commiserate, and grow as we complete our degrees.

Specifically, writing my experiential and reflective portfolio has been the best (most important) and hardest part of coming back to education.  Through the writing and self-analysis, I have been taken to those dark places in my past that bring out strong emotional reactions and feelings that I had long forgotten and suppressed; or so I thought!  Putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and verbalizing how I felt and what I learned through those episodes in my life has been very powerful and has helped me to become a better writer.

If you’ve written a prior learning portfolio, what’s been the best part of that process for you?

As I have already mentioned, the process of self-analysis has really been the most beneficial and worthwhile for me.

What have been the benefits of taking your classes online?  What have you liked about your blended classes?

I am an insomniac, and being able to turn the computer on at 2:00 in the morning and do my work is great for me.  With a busy life full of challenges, my down time is when everyone else is asleep.  This is one reason I feel online classes are best for me.

How do you balance work, school and family?  What advice do you have for other students finishing their degrees?

Once you commit to your chosen course of studies, you will find that you will have the cleanest and most organized home in the neighborhood.  When there is an assignment due or a deadline, you will become ace at procrastinating.  The key for me was to start the assignment very soon after it was posted.  I found that if I let a couple of days lapse, then it became harder to start, which would result in less time to review, edit or revise my work.  It is difficult when we have such complicated lives to balance home, work and school.  You have to set aside some time for your studies and let everyone know that this is your time.

What are your future plans professionally and personally?

I am hooked on learning, specifically research, and would like to continue and take classes leading to an MBA.  Professionally, I would like to advance in the Marketing or Advertising world.  I would like to think that through my learning I can share my experiences with others – to help people make sound environmental and social decisions for the good of us all and the good of the planet.

Tell readers something cool about yourself that no one would guess about you?

I love motorbikes, and once rode around southern Ireland.  This was one of those experiences where there was no itinerary or agenda – just me, my bike and the open road.  I learned a lot about myself on that trip.  Everyone should have some time in his or her life just to be free – free of worries, no ties, just endless possibilities.

Please add anything else you want people to know about you, your family, and your story.

Thank you, UWW, for providing a world-class educational experience that enriches the lives of all who allow themselves to be open to endless possibilities.

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