University’s first Black Students Advisor and Diversity Educator seeks to expand the campus conversation around culture and diversity
As Mount Allison’s first Black Students Advisor and Diversity Educator, Ivan Okello says he worked to spend most of his first semester on campus hearing directly from students.
“It’s importance to have a good relationship with the people you’re working with and knowing what they want to see on campus in terms of services and programming,” he says. “I’ve learned a lot from Mount Allison students over the past four months.”
One of Okello’s roles includes overseeing activities celebrating Black History Month on campus throughout February. He’s been working with a number of student groups including the Black Students Union, the Islanders Society, and the MASU to help organize a series of events on campus.
“Learning about the different cultural groups and audiences within the campus community was a key part of our organizing efforts,” says Okello. “We have an evolving lineup for Black History Month including film screenings, a student conference, guest speakers, and are working on a student field trip to Halifax to visit the Africville Museum.”
On February 28-29, Mount Allison will present its first-ever Racial Justice Symposium. The event will welcome Dr. Afua Cooper to deliver the keynote address. Cooper teaches sociology and anthropology at Dalhousie University and served as chair of the University’s Scholarly Panel on Lord Dalhousie’s Relationship to Race and Slavery and co-author of its Report. Cooper’s talk will take place Friday, February 28 at 5:30 p.m. in Crabtree Auditorium. Everyone is welcome to attend.
On February 29, students and community members are welcome to attend workshops, student panels, and networking opportunities taking place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Crabtree Auditorium. The Symposium is presented in partnership with the Maple League of Universities.
Mount Allison student Aminah Simmons has been working with Okello on activities and initiatives throughout the year, including plans for Black History Month.
“Black History Month is obviously something that means a lot to many students here at Mount Allison,” she says. “This year, having Ivan’s role, the BSA-DE on the staff and in a position to advocate for us and able to help us plan and execute events has proven to be extremely helpful!”
In his role as diversity educator, Okello says he sees the importance of keeping ongoing conversations and learning across campus active.
“Diversity education and learning is a continuous process. Learning about other cultures, and respecting them, is an opportunity for everyone,” he says. “Working with students, faculty, and staff in this new role and learning more about the different cultures on campus has been a great experience. I hope we can continue these conversations on campus and beyond.”
Over the course of the academic year, Okello plans to provide workshops and other outreach initiatives around diversity and inclusion on campus. He is currently working with dining staff to build on global menu offerings in Jennings Hall to help celebrate various cultures on campus.
“My office is open to all students who have questions around diversity education,” says Okello. “Working with departments across campus and talking to students directly, I hope we can provide information for students and other members of the University community about other cultures on our campus.”
Students can find Okello in the International Centre, second floor of the Wallace McCain Student Centre.
A full line-up of Black History Month activities and events can be found at mta.ca/events.