Livio Filice is forging a career that’s taken him into the global renewable energy and clean tech sector.
Along the way, he’s completing his Bachelor of Management (BMgmt) degree at Athabasca University (AU), Canada’s first university specializing in online distance education.
To Filice, education is not a side project—it’s an important part of his career arc. Over the past 10 years, he’s worked for companies specializing in power conversion and storage technology, including fully integrated home battery systems. Last year he joined Mercedes-Benz Energy, the automotive company’s energy storage division, to help develop products supporting its all-electric EQ vehicle rollout.
Filice heard about AU in 2007 when he was completing the Business Marketing program at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ont.
“Mohawk has a relationship with AU and I always knew I would continue my education there when the time was right,” he says. “I worked for several years after graduating and achieved a solid level of success. At that point I was able to pin down exactly which skills I would need to remain current—I didn’t want to slow down the momentum in my career.
“Athabasca University was a natural choice to remove any barriers that might present themselves to future career opportunities.”
Filice started AU’s three-year BMgmt program in 2013 and says he quickly found his busy career lent itself well to distance education.
I didn’t want to slow down the momentum of my career.”
“In 2016, my sales position saw me on the road for 40 weeks out of the year,” he recalls. “In that year, I was able to complete a course at Athabasca every three months. I simply made the commitment and worked it into my schedule, writing exams when I returned home. The online interface has been near flawless, no matter where I log on.”
Filice also values AU’s flexibility. He placed his course calendar on hold through 2017 to write two books on personal finance, then picked up where he left off.
Distance education has proven to be no barrier to developing professional relationships within the Athabasca community.
“I feel as though I know faculty members personally,” he says. “When I need help with something, they’re always there for me.”
After transferring his Mohawk credits to Athabasca, Filice required 15 courses to complete the BMgmt program. He’s planning to complete the final four courses toward finishing the three-year degree program by the end of 2018.
The BMgmt program offers an optional fourth year, with specializations such as human resources and marketing. AU is currently planning to merge that final year with the fourth year of its Bachelor of Commerce program.
“Flexibility is one of the keys to the program’s success,” says Mark Morpurgo, undergraduate programs director at AU. “Students have six months to complete each course, but some complete them in as little as two. The average time required to complete either the three- or four-year degree programs is about seven years.”
The average age of undergraduate students is 32. While some students are beginning their post-secondary education at AU, others are expanding or supplementing their education completed at other institutions.
The online interface has been near flawless, no matter where I log on.
“We have articulations agreements with post-secondary institutions all over the province to make the application of block transfer credits simple,” Morpurgo says. “We have almost full recognition of credits both ways.”
His advice to students considering the BMgmt program? Recognize that with great flexibility comes great responsibility.
“You need to take responsibility for your own learning,” Morpurgo says. “But that doesn’t mean you’re on your own. We have a broad support team and an excellent faculty that will help you whenever you need it. I have 20 years of classroom experience and face-to-face you can tell when a student gets it or when they don’t. That’s not as easy to do with distance education, so you need to recognize when you need help and proactively ask for it.”
He also notes students need to develop the ability to motivate themselves and to keep themselves organized.
“We offer a very detailed study plan, but ultimately the students need to keep themselves on track,” says Morpurgo. “Students like Livio understand they can reap the benefits of the program while studying on their own terms.”
Filice says he agrees.
“Athabasca’s degree program might look intimidating from a distance, but once you start opening up the program and communicating with the staff, you’ll find it’s an incredible opportunity to pursue your career goals at your own pace.”
To learn more about the programs at Athabasca University’s Faculty of Business, visit their website.