Celebrating a Woman in My Past – A Collection of Student Essays

With International Women’s Day recently passing by, CBU is pleased to host the book launch event of Celebrating a Woman in My Past: A Collection of Student Essays on Thursday, March 21. Supported by the Shannon School of Business Dean’s Office and the CBU 50th Anniversary Initiative, the book launch is the culmination of a project originally put into action by Associate Dean, Mary Jane Morrison, and Dr. Stefanie Ruel, Assistant Professor in Organizational Behaviour. Based on the incredible and touching stories Post Baccalaureate students shared with great care and passion, the book blends these stories with inspirations from Dr. Ruel’s previous research efforts that focused on bringing women’s past experiences to the attention of those in the present.

Dr. Ruel, who has been working at CBU since August 2022, specializes in organizational behaviour, human resource management and critical theory. “In my research, I am committed to justice, equity, diversity, decolonization, inclusion and Indigeneity,” she says. “My emerging research on complicated grief and grieving and the impact of these experiences on complex women’s working lives will contribute to undoing systemic discrimination in various organizations and industries.” 

It was Dr. Ruel’s desire to celebrate women’s contributions in the contexts of society, business and the home’s private sphere, that inspired the book. “I set out in one of my Cape Breton University Post-Baccalaureate classes on Human Resource Management to ask my students to spontaneously write a brief essay on a woman in their past,” she shares. While marking the students’ tests, Dr. Ruel recalls needing to pause and take a moment to truly appreciate the gifts the students had given her with their work. “The quality and depth of the essays overwhelmed me with gratitude, and I felt strongly that they needed to be shared with the broader community,” says Dr. Ruel. 

Two of the students who contributed to the final piece are Priska Oktoria and Mehedi Hasan Robin. Both Post-Baccalaureate students in their final year at CBU, Priska and Mehedi were thrilled when Dr. Ruel reached out to them about including their work. “When I learned that my professor, Stefanie Ruel, had chosen my essay to be included in her book I was super thrilled,” says Priska, adding that writing has been a passion of hers since childhood. “It has always been a therapeutic and enjoyable moment for me as it allows me to express my thoughts and messages from my heart,” she says.

Mehedi says the project provided students with an opportunity to share personal stories of women who had profoundly influenced their lives and helped shape their journeys. “Through this collection of student essays, we celebrate the impactful contributions of these remarkable women and honour their enduring legacies,” he says. 

Mehedi’s essay The Mentor Who Changed My Life, delves into the profound impact that a course trainer turned personal mentor had on his life. “Her guidance and teachings were instrumental in my personal and professional development, ultimately shaping the trajectory of my journey to where I am today,” says Mehedi.

Priska’s piece, A Mother’s Empowering Gift tells the story of her mother who selflessly sacrificed her dreams to prioritize her role as a stay-at-home mother for the betterment of her family. “She has been a constant source of inspiration for me, serving as one of my greatest supporters and molding me into the person I am today,” says Priska. “Her life experiences have become powerful motivators for me to pursue my dreams. I wrote this essay as an expression of my love and appreciation for her constant presence and belief in me, especially during times when no one else did.”

Both students found the writing process difficult, but rewarding, as they juggled their other studies, jobs and home lives. However, thanks to the support of their families, friends and those at CBU, Priska and Mehedi feel they were able to push through and deliver heartfelt tributes to the women who have impacted them most.

Priska, Mehedi and Dr. Ruel all hope readers will walk away with something meaningful and lasting after reading the book. Dr. Ruel adds that she hopes readers will take a moment to feel the impact of these inspiring words and pause to think about a woman who helped shape their own life. 

The book launch will take place only a short couple of weeks after International Women’s Day, on Thursday, March 21, at 8:00am in the Shannon School of Business, room SB-202. For more information, please see the event listing.