by Sarah Androsoff, Marketing Services
"Don't give up if it's in your heart. It's exciting what can happen when you just try," advises Continuing Studies alumna Janis Dunning. She believes that there is no expiration date to learn something new.
In 2021, Janis was appointed to the Order of Canada in recognition of her contributions to the performing arts and Canada as a nation.
In her teens, she apprenticed with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and had a principal role in Anne of Green Gables in London's West End. Janis performed musical theatre across Canada, and she directed and starred in over 300 episodes of national CTV kids shows. Dancing, singing, acting and Canadian pride fill up her heart. In 1990, she created the Spirit of a Nation national touring program, and in 1998, co-founded the Canadian College of Performing Arts (CCPA) to provide opportunities for emerging artists.
At this point in her career, Janis' accomplishments were many, but she started to notice a new craving inside. She decided to feed her curiosity by going back to school. She first became a student with Continuing Studies in 1997. At age 47, she took the Business Administration Fast Track program so she could improve her business acumen and apply it to her work as head of the CCPA.
Since then, Janis has become a champion of lifelong learning and she encourages everyone to try it. "A lifelong learner has everything to do with curiosity," she explains.
Learning another language was also of interest to Janis, so in 2019, she enrolled in Spanish courses with the university. Sitting in a classroom again felt easy for Janis because of the inclusive environment the teachers and students formed. She felt comfortable to ask questions and interacted with classmates from different backgrounds. "Neither the teachers, nor the students had an ego. We were all engrossed in the classwork and found fulfillment in the learning," she adds.
The equilibrium at Continuing Studies was something she noticed instantly. She appreciated the positive atmosphere that motivated her to get past her fears and put in the work. "Never once did I have a teacher notice my age. Continuing Studies is open to everyone," she says. "No matter your education or career journey, there is a place for you here."
Age really is just a number to Janis, and she firmly believes that taking classes later in life needs to be normalized. "No matter your age, learning helps you grow as a person. Whether you go into teaching, business, languages or photography, Continuing Studies is there for you to seek knowledge and achieve your goals at any time in your life," she emphasizes.
Janis is a living example that feeding your curiosity opens doors. "When you're struggling, it's hard to believe your dream profession is possible. You need to remember that nobody enters any profession from the same door," she advises. "Get the learning, love the work and be fearless."