June 4, 2019

Class of 2019: The family that perseveres together, graduates together

Rob Wensveen and his daughter Jennifer take home UCalgary degrees while his son Travis graduates from SAIT

It’s 9 p.m. on a cold winter evening with blowing snow and -25C temperatures when Rob Wensveen can finally head home. He has spent the evening at his desk putting the finishing touches on a paper for his PhD program.

“I was hungry, tired and the truck barely started,” he recalls. “It was one of a few times I found myself questioning if all the work was worth it.”

It’s a good question for someone of Wensveen’s stage in life. He has worked with University of Calgary Continuing Education for 20 years, most recently as associate director overseeing operations. He will graduate this June with a Doctorate of Education (EdD) in post-secondary leadership.

Like many lifelong learners, Wensveen works full-time and did his research and wrote papers after work and on weekends over three-and-a-half years to complete the degree. He wanted to take his career to the next level and decided to enrol in the EdD program to see what doors it would open.

“Hey, I’m in Continuing Education. I see people like myself all the time. It’s never too late to pursue your interests,” he says.  

On a similar winter evening, Wensveen’s daughter, Jennifer, is studying for her Bachelor of Nursing at the University of Calgary, when her mind begins to wander. She does a quick calculation and realizes that if her dad keeps at it, they could graduate together, along with her brother Travis, who is studying for a diploma in Mechanical Engineering Technology at SAIT.

Determination and hard work have paid off for Rob, left, Jennifer and Travis Wensveen, who all graduate this June.

Determination has paid off for Rob, left, Jennifer and Travis Wensveen, who all graduate this June.

Shannon Franzky, Continuing Education

“We could all graduate in the same month of the same year. I thought that was pretty cool,” says Jennifer.

That’s exactly what they've done, and they credit that realization as being a main motivator to persevere. “You’re always thinking about it,” Wensveen says. “The research, the thesis, all of it. But my kids kept telling me, ’Don’t stop, Dad. Just keep going and we can all graduate together!’”

The encouragement seems to have paid off because not only is Rob, above, the first of his cohort to graduate, but his daughter — and son — will also graduate within days of each other this June.

“We are so proud of our dad,” says Jennifer. “It was nice going through this together. We encouraged one another along the way.”

The Wensveen family is facing other major life milestones this summer. Jennifer and Travis are both moving out so Rob and his wife, Cathy, will soon be empty-nesters.

While her family was busy with their studies, on top of working full-time, Cathy busied herself and found her own hobbies, which ultimately set her up well for the empty nest transition. She also “did all the usual mom stuff — checked in to see if we needed support, made meals, and of course, listened when we needed an ear,” says Jennifer.

“We figured we need to celebrate these big milestones,” says Wensveen, “so we’re throwing a ’Major Rager' — that’s what our kids are calling it. We invited the friends and family who supported us throughout it to celebrate with us. It should be fun!”