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Life lessons

by: MUN

Memorial alumnus and current staff member Emilie Bourque Whittle (BA ’04, communications coordinator, Division of Marketing and Communications) shares her memories of three ladies who helped her learn, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Many people will shape you over the course of a lifetime. But there’s something notable about the effect professors have on you during your university years.

In university, your life is expanding in so many ways. Your mind is open in a way it never has been before. You’re deciding your future paths, and there’s a feeling of power (along with fear) in those years.

The people you learn from shape you just as much (maybe more) as the courses you choose or the degree you get. The subjects you learn about are not always academic; sometimes you pick up some unexpected life skills along the way.

Three strong, giving, intelligent and passionate women in particular taught me about much more than the subject matter in my classes with them. Lori Yetman, Robin Whitaker and Karen Stanbridge were anything but the inaccessible grown-ups that you fear profs will be when you’re in your first year. They taught me classes in women’s studies, anthropology and sociology, respectively. But they also inspired me in their own individual ways.

They opened me up to the world of feminism; showed me by example the various types of roles women occupy in society; and taught me to carve my own path by trusting my gut. Because of these women I was exposed to ideas as broad as foreign cultures and as specific as how to help sexual harassment victims.

I saw each of them as role models I could relate to, as allies who were completely in my corner. Without a doubt – they helped me become the person I am today.

Sometimes they left an impression with me just by opening up their office doors for a chat and letting me see a little into their lives. Instead of putting up a front, they’d let me know they were only human; they had bad days; they had experiences outside the university walls they’d tell funny or interesting stories about…and most importantly, they too were once students who didn’t know which path to follow.

During my time in university, these women were not just generic professors to me — they were real people. Real women. Real role models. And today, as I work at Memorial and reflect on my years spent growing up here, I also feel lucky to consider them real friends.

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