C/O Black Student Success Centre

Officially open as of September 27, the BSSC offers resources, support and a sense of community to Black students at McMaster 

On Sept. 27, the Black Student Success Centre officially opened at McMaster University with the goal of supporting Black students and fostering their success. 

“Black students across Canadian universities sometimes feel isolated on campuses and are less likely to access student support services. The BSSC exists to connect Black students to the programs, people and resources that will nurture their academic and personal growth,” states the BSSC website

The BSSC currently offers most of its services online, given that its physical space is under construction. However, it will eventually be housed on the main floor of the Peter George Centre for Living and Learning.

C/O Travis Nguyen

Faith Ogunkoya, manager of the BSSC, explained that the centre was created in response to discussions of racism at McMaster that occurred in 2020. Notably, a review of Black student athlete experiences was published last year, which called attention to anti-Black racism at McMaster. In response to this review, a five-point action plan was released with the creation of the BSSC as a part of the university’s plan to have targeted supports for Black students.

Although the review played a crucial role in the development of the BSSC, the centre’s emergence also builds on years of activism and advocacy work done by Black students, faculty, and staff.

Along with the review, Ogunkoya explained that students and alumni became increasingly vocal on social media about the racism they had experienced while at McMaster. These factors together prompted the university to create a safe space for Black students on campus.

Since the BSSC was created in response to students’ needs, Ogunkoya emphasized the centre’s commitment to representing students and meeting their needs. Thus, one of the centre’s main focuses is to provide general advising services to Black students and to connect them to other services on campus that they might need. 

Along with providing individual advising, the BSSC has also partnered with the Student Wellness Centre. The BSSC’s partnership with SWC has allowed them to connect students with Black counsellors and run group sessions that promote good mental health for Black students. 

The first of these sessions, called You Belong in the Room, explores feeling inadequate in the context of racism and belonging. Starting on Oct. 13, the session is projected to run for five weeks every Wednesday from 1:30 to 3 p.m. 

“[You Belong in the Room] is basically going to be a space where [students] can talk about anything and everything, being open about racism and its impact on them academically, personally or professionally, discussing impostorship and how sometimes, in white-dominated spaces, we almost feel like we shouldn’t be here or that we don’t belong,”

Faith Ogunkoya

Along with providing services and support to Black students, Ogunkoya explained that the BSSC also strives to educate other members of the university. 

“We often feel like we’ve got two sides to our service, where it’s working with Black students and getting them to where they need to be [and to the] services and programs that they need to access, but also that it needs to be culturally informed. So, we will also be providing training, providing some guidance and providing leadership to units and departments so that [McMaster] is an environment that makes Black students know that they belong,” said Ogunkoya.

Overall, Ogunkoya said the goal of the centre is to create a safe space and a strong sense of community for Black students at McMaster.

Ogunkoya noted that many Black students at McMaster are not surrounded by a lot of other Black students in their programs which can lead to feeling a lack of belonging. 

“There’s something that follows you around sometimes when there’s only a few of you,” explained Ogunkoya.

According to Ogunkoya, this is what makes the existence of the BSSC so important. 

“When you see yourself and you see representation, it can empower you; it can make you feel less alone,” said Ogunkoya.

The past few years have been transformative for society and the fight for social justice. Here’s hoping the development of this much-needed service both empowers Black students at McMaster and helps address the injustices faced by the Black community at large. 

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