Students, faculty, staff, and members of the Dalhousie community gathered on April 11 for the Black Student Advising Centre’s (BSAC) Graduate Luncheon, an annual celebration for graduating Dalhousie and King’s students who’ve accessed the centre and its services during their time in university.
The event recognizes the achievements Black and African Nova Scotian students who are graduating at the spring 2023 or fall 2023 convocations. Guests were treated to lunch, performances by flutist Ogo-oluwa Sobukola and singer Eriana Willis-Smith, and speeches by various attendees including Dr. Frank Harvey, Dalhousie’s president and vice-chancellor (acting), Senator Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard, William Lahey, president and vice-chancellor of the University of King’s College), and many others.
Though it is always an emotional event, this year’s luncheon was especially bittersweet as attendees also celebrated the career of Oluronke (Ronke) Taiwo, Dalhousie’s Black Student Advisor who is retiring from Dalhousie this spring. Through speeches and submitted videos, students, alumni, and colleagues honoured Taiwo by highlighting her many achievements and her various qualities that include kindness, openness, and an encouraging nature.
Addressing the attendees, Taiwo once again displayed this encouragement as she spoke to students who are about to embark on new journeys after graduation.
“You can do anything you put your mind to if you’re determined. If I didn’t dream big, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Taiwo. “The journey might be slippery and long, but slowly and surely you will achieve your final goal. With knowledge in your hands and an open heart, you will have nothing but success. I ask you all to always go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”
A safe space
Taiwo and BSAC have made a specific impact on Shirley Hodder, who’s graduating this June with a Masters in Health Administration in the Faculty of Health and who has worked as a Lead Peer Mentor/Student Receptionist at the Centre. Hodder is African Nova Scotian and a Child of Deaf Adults (CoDA), and has faced obstacles during her studies that made her want to give up. However, her resilience and determination, combined with the supports and opportunities offered by BSAC, helped her to persevere.
“BSAC has meant everything to me as a Black student. It has been a source of empowerment, community, and cultural enrichment. It’s also been a safe space where I can connect with other students who share my experiences and struggles, and it has provided me with the support and guidance that I need to succeed academically and personally,” says Hodder. “Ronke has been a mentor and also another mother to me throughout my time at Dalhousie. Her wisdom, compassion, and dedication to her students and to the Centre have inspired me to strive for excellence and to give back to my community. She has helped me to navigate the challenges of being a Black student on campus and has encouraged me to pursue my dreams with confidence and determination.”
For more information about BSAC, visit dal.ca/bsac.
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