Giving a helping hand
A desire to help people in her personal and professional life led Solange Meilleur to Royal Roads University to pursue a degree in Justice Studies. As it turns out, she started helping others as soon as she started her program.
“I’m 54, so this is a second career for me,” says Meilleur, who worked in IT management in Calgary for a decade before moving to Victoria to reinvent herself professionally. “Justice Studies seemed like a good degree to open up opportunities that would lead to helping people and the immediate reward of helping people as opposed to focusing on career advancement.”
“Solange was just wonderful. She embraced the learning and she even took a leadership role in helping other students to progress as well,” says associate professor and co-program head Erich Schellhammer, adding that Meilleur was like a teacher, delving deep into research and literature and explaining it in her own words to her fellow students.
Meilleur’s hard work paid off; in addition to enhancing the education of her peers, she also won the Governor General’s Silver Medal for achieving the highest grade point average in an undergraduate program in 2012. She will receive her award at fall convocation on Oct. 23. For Meilleur, it was easy to throw herself into her studies thanks to engaging subject matter, dedicated faculty and diverse classmates.
“The entire teaching staff in Justice Studies has just been incredible. They’re all dedicated and they were there every day helping us out, guiding us and steering us in the right direction,” she says. “Part of the thing that I enjoyed with this program is the fact that it’s a cohort. You stay with the same people for two years and you develop friendships and work with many different teams and you meet people from all over the country. It’s been really amazing.”
Now, Meilleur is looking for opportunities in her new field. She is planning to volunteer with seniors and with the Victoria Immigrant and Refugee Society.
“I’ve always been interested in immigration and the difficulties it poses,” Meilleur says. “When I moved from Quebec (to Calgary about 30 years ago), I couldn’t speak English so it was a bit like immigration. I developed sympathy for some of the issues. I understand what it feels like to work and live in a different language.”
Whatever she chooses to do with her degree, Schellhammer is confident she will be an asset to any organization. “For me, she was an ideal student,” he says. “It was just wonderful to have her around.”