Black Student Advising Centre at Dalhousie welcomes growth

Students work in one of two computer labs at the Centre’s new Edward Street location. Photo: Sandrinette Maniana

Kareem Wallace remembers Aug. 28, 2012 vividly. He was 21 and it was the day he arrived in Canada from his home in the Bahamas. He was embarking on a new – and unexpected – experience.

Wallace began a program in urban planning and sustainability at Dalhousie University that fall. He struggled to adapt to a new culture and felt unsettled. Then he discovered the Black Student Advising Centre.

The centre offers its services to support Black students of African descent at Dalhousie University, and the University of King’s College. Established in 1989, it aimed to increase the number of Black Nova Scotian students on campus.

Twenty-five years later, the centre has expanded its facilities to cater to a growing number of Black students.

The centre, formerly located in the Dalhousie Student Union Building, moved to 1321 Edward St. in September.

The new location offers more space and added services. These include a meeting room, a coaching room, a study room and two computer labs.

Prior to the move, the centre only had three computers; it now has 10, and, the new ones have a faster processing speed.

Oluronke Taiwo has been overseeing Dalhousie University’s Black Student Advising Centre since 2008. Photo: Sandrinette Maniana

Dalhousie’s Black student advisor, Oluronke Taiwo, says that students can now focus when being tutored. Before the expansion, the coaching area was shared with the lounge room where students socialized.

Taiwo has a background as a social worker and says this helps her to connect emotionally with people.

She says the role is perfect for her. She experienced similar difficulties while a student at Dalhousie. She draws on her experience of working full-time while going to school and being a mother when advising students not to give up.

Wallace now works part-time as a receptionist at the centre. His frequent visits made it a place where he feels connected with other Black students.

Wallace and Taiwo met at one of the many birthday celebrations held at the centre throughout the year. He admires the hard work she put in ensuring the centre’s expansion. The centre also welcomes students of other ethnicities.

“It’s a space for me to relax and do work in between classes,” says Demilade Onifade, a pharmacy student at Dal.

Philip Bobbie, the coordinator of the centre’s mentorship program, encourages students by listening to their struggles and suggesting ways to help then to cope.

What he appreciates mostly since the expansion, are the extended hours. The centre now closes at 9 p.m. from Monday to Thursday and is open until 5 p.m, on Fridays. Prior to the relocation, the centre was only open until 5 p.m.

Bobbie, like Wallace, was at first a visitor to the centre. “I felt a sense of belonging,” he says, “a place where I could be myself.”

 

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