Francine Stevenson

Graduate, UBC Certificate in Liberal Studies

When she began the program, Francine Stevenson never thought that a random course in biotechnology would lead her to connect with a distant cousin, rediscover her own Acadian heritage and set her on a path to explore the history of an ill-fated people and their culture. But that’s exactly what happened.

As part of the UBC Certificate in Liberal Studies, Francine took “Biotechnology for Everyone” in 2004. She explains, “the course piqued my interest in DNA testing and led me to National Geographic’s Genographic Project, an online database that is charting the migratory history of the human species by using computer analysis of DNA contributed by people from around the world. I submitted my DNA to the project, and it matched me with a very distant cousin in New Brunswick with whom I share a common ancestor dating back to 1663. This cousin is quite involved in Acadian history and shared her knowledge of our cultural roots with me.”

Although Francine’s fascination with Acadian history began on a personal level, it transformed into an academic interest and resulted in her writing a graduating essay for the certificate program entitled “The 1755 Ethnic Cleansing of Acadia; Who Was Responsible?” It is fitting that Francine chose to focus on Acadia since she actually began her university studies over forty years ago at the University of New Brunswick, but ended up withdrawing from her bachelor of arts program after the first year.

“Before I knew it, my summer job at Air Canada had turned into a career and my university degree was put on hold indefinitely,” remembers Francine. Throughout her 36-year career with the airline, she had the opportunity to visit many famous museums and historical sites, gaining an appreciation for art and history.

In her retirement, Francine came across the UBC Certificate in Liberal Studies (CLS) and the program caught her attention. She thought the wide range of history, literature, art and language topics would suit her interests and also enhance her appreciation of what she had experienced in her travels, but she never counted on a course in biotechnology to lead her to a new awareness about Acadian history.

“My family encouraged me to commit to an academic program that would provide a bit more structure and challenge than simply attending lectures. The CLS program was just the vehicle for this from the point of view of time commitment, flexibility and choice of study topics,” she explains.

Francine found the essay assignment for each course beneficial for the research value, and says the experience she gained throughout the program enabled her to produce a graduating essay which was of immense personal satisfaction to her.

Graduating from the program in 2009, Francine proves the point that it’s never too late to go back to school, and that you never know what you might find out about yourself in the process.