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McMaster has more supports in place for Black students than I expected

By: Bianca Perreault, Contributor

Countless people think that being a Black student has always been the same as being a “regular” student. Obviously, many students can relate to being a minority visibly: not looking like everyone else, having different types of hair, skin tones and culture. Especially when coming from a small village or town, that receptivity can be even more dominant. But how is it at McMaster? What does it feel like to be a Black student in 2021 at McMaster University? 

Perhaps before 2021, the experience was different or even the same in its own way, but I believe that McMaster has improved its role in the Black community since last year. The Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 truly impacted the whole world. It was a beautiful and poignant reunion of a community fighting for its rights and Mac did not let these circumstances leave in a mist. As a matter of fact, McMaster put in place many different initiatives in support of our Black student community. As a Haitian student myself, I was more than pleased to discover all the opportunities and programs awaiting me and I can confidently say that I feel welcomed in my own skin.

First and foremost, McMaster’s Student Success Centre was a forum established to direct students towards the resources they may need. Perhaps the most marvelous thing about the organization is that they have specifically created a division for students of Black/African descent: the Black Student Success Centre. It is entirely dedicated to supporting and championing the success and well-being of Black students. Through fostering a positive student and athlete experience, they intend to value us at any level, whether that be academic, professional or personal. As a Black student myself, feeling like you have access to resources as much as any student is of the utmost priority. I believe that this division is a safe space for us to connect with people who feel comfortable nurturing our academic and personal growth at university. BSSC is guided by Unbuntu, an ancient African philosophy which means, “I am because you are.” Connection, community and collective success are emphasized by this word.

BSSC is not the only support we have at McMaster. In fact, the department of communication studies & multimedia and the department of history have created bursaries for up to $2,500 per year for many Black students based on their financial needs. It’s amazing to not only see the impact of these two initiatives on the Black community at McMaster, but also to recognize the true impact of the two programs supporting such bursaries. Through communication arises our ability to share milestones and recognition of one another. Through history, arguably the most critical part of our African-descendant story is shared and valued towards achieving shared, common knowledge. Even the fact that the bursary was put in place is in itself a form of thoughtful acknowledgement. 

Besides BSSC and Black Student Excellence scholarships, McMaster has established postdoctoral fellowships for Black graduates, a coaching program for Black scholars called Thrive, and launched employee resources for staff who identify as Black, Indigenous or a person of colour. While there are some that I haven’t even mentioned yet, Mac is committed to amplifying voices that can share our concerns and elevate their attention to an institutional level. Being a Black student at McMaster, I can fully expect to be supported and heard.

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