I was a single mother of three at 24 living on Social Assistance. Education Changes Everything!
Now in my role at Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) as Senior Advisor, Educational Equity, I am currently responsible for building a framework and organizational structure to grow and sustain a culture of equity within Academic and across the college. Key to this work is cultivating dynamic and responsive teaching and learning environments that improve student access, retention and outcomes. In my previous role as Dean, School of Access, I was responsible for providing leadership for the School of Access programs across Nova Scotia, which includes 13 campuses and 3 Learning Centres, by espousing a strategic culturally-responsive approach to academic program development and delivery.
What are you most proud of professionally? And who or why?
I am most proud of leading the start-up of Canada's first Africentric adult learning program for Black Nova Scotians in 2006 at NSCC. Our work in embracing culturally-responsive practices continues as we strive to be champions of inclusion to foster equitable success for all Nova Scotians.
What’s your vision for Atlantic Canada in 10 years? What’s our biggest opportunity now?
The level of intentionality we are now seeing in our province to shift attitudes and open the doors of opportunity for all is unprecedented. At NSCC, we play an active role in advancing meaningful, substantive and profound change as the first post-secondary institution in Atlantic Canada to have an Educational Equity policy. This work will mobilize us to be a fully accessible and equity-driven community college to build an even better Nova Scotia as we embrace educational equity as a catalyst for inclusive economic growth for Atlantic Canada.
What was your greatest stage of growth? What made it a shift for you?
As a bi-racial woman, one of my biggest points of learning is how to balance a strong connection to a racialized community with a senior leadership role in an organization that is working to break down systemic barriers. This is still an area I work on daily in deciding when to push strongly and when to let the organization prepare itself for change.
What’s your favourite or most read book or podcast? Now or at each of your greatest stages of growth?
There are two foundational books that I read at a point of transition in my life. The first is the Autobiography of Malcolm X and the second is Teaching to Transgress by bell hooks. I first read both of these books in my late teens when I was gaining understanding of my own bi-raciality/Blackness and its impact on my life experiences as a white-looking woman with many privileges. These books were fundamental is helping me find my way in using my education and skills to fight against systemic racism and I still keep both of them close by my side as the journey continues.
What’s your deepest learning from this past year?
Be patient, persistent and a tad pertinacious - the change you are seeking to make, either in yourself or in your organization, will find you.
What are the principles you live by?
Never let anyone or anything take away your focus. Love your kids. Work hard. Exercise. Check yourself regularly. Admit when you are wrong. Stay committed to your community. Through it all, keep your integrity intact.
How have you recovered from fractured professional relationships? What uncomfortable truths have you learned about yourself in those experiences?
I cannot express enough the importance that must be placed on building strong and trusting collegial relationships. One cannot mobilize change without the buy-in and support of your co-workers - you cannot lead if no one chooses to follow. Building a compelling case for change and helping your colleagues to find their place in moving a shared agenda along with you is vital. My advice - rally for a revolution through relationships.
educational administrator, equity-focused leader, proud mother of three