Umaiyahl Nageswaran and Danni Olusanya awarded 2021 Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community and Beyond award



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Umaiyahl Nageswaran and Danni Olusanya, recipients of the 2021 Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community and Beyond award.

Umaiyahl Nageswaran and Danni Olusanya have each received the 2021 Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community and Beyond award for their dedication to community change at UBC and beyond our campus.


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Umaiyahl Nageswaran

Hometown: Scarborough, Ontario

Program of study: History major, Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice minor

UBC awards: Loran Award, Tuum Est Experiential Award

UBC Affiliations: UBC Equity Ambassadors, UBC Equity Student Advisory Council, UBC A Cappella, decomp Journal, UBC Centre for India and South Asia Research

How can we connect with you?
LinkedIn

Why did you choose your academic program of study?

I actually started in the Faculty of Science, but realized at the end of my first year and a summer internship that my passion didn’t truly lie there—what my peers in Arts were studying, reading, and engaging with was more interesting to me. So, I made the transition to the Faculty of Arts and took a smorgasbord of courses, including German, Anthropology, History, and Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice. The courses in the latter two departments resonated most with me, and I found that I loved what I was doing, so I decided to make them my major and minor respectively. Through my program of study, I not only grappled with humanity’s past and present, but also the necessary steps to make justice, reconciliation, and equity part of our future.

What are some of the meaningful experiences you’ve had at UBC?

Gosh, there are too many! A few that standout are:

  • Having conversations surrounding equity and inclusion in A Cappella/choir music spaces, working to implement guidelines and best practices to ensure welcoming, inclusive, and accessible A Cappella spaces, and presenting on this topic at the Canadian A Cappella Conference in collaboration with various collegiate groups across Canada.
  • Alongside the Centre for India and South Asia Research’s Director, planning a talk series over the summer on the need for and detailing the history of solidarity between the South Asian community and the struggle against anti-Black racism.
  • Hosting various events with the Equity Ambassadors, including student led panels like Sex In All Languages, community spaces like the Get Connected series, and online campaigns like UBC Behind the Screens.

“To me, being a great Arts student leader means taking initiative, getting yourself out there, and putting those you represent and serve first. It means being patient, professional, empathetic, and ambitious, and being there for your team when they need it.”
2021 Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community and Beyond

What’s an important life lesson that your involvement activities have taught you?

The biggest life lesson has really been a reinforcement of how important it is to lead, listen, and act with empathy. You don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives, and offering patience, understanding, and empathy is what will make a healthy work environment for everyone involved, and also make whatever goal you are working towards more feasible. The ends don’t justify the means, so it’s important for the journey/process to also be one that is fair, inclusive, and safe.

You recently received a 2021 Outstanding Leader Award. What does it mean to be a great Arts student leader?

It’s incredibly humbling—it’s an honour to be recognized by my peers!

To me, being a great Arts student leader means taking initiative, getting yourself out there, and putting those you represent and serve first. It means being patient, professional, empathetic, and ambitious, and being there for your team when they need it.

What are the top three things that every Arts student should try before they graduate?

  1. Attend a talk series/speaker event on Campus.
  2. Join a club/extracurricular unrelated to your degree.
  3. Volunteer with a local organization.

What’s next for you?

I will be attending Law School in the fall, although I have not decided exactly where yet!


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Danni Olusanya

Hometown: London, UK

Program of study:History major, Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice minor

UBC awards: Trek Excellence Scholarship, Top Individual Philanthropy Award AccreditationKaren Furstrand Memorial Top Individual Leadership Award Accreditation, Mona Leith Memorial Scholarship, Dr. David J Rose Scholarship

UBC affiliations: Totem Park Residence Association, Arts Undergraduate Society, Gamma Phi Beta Sorority, UBC Panhellenic Council, Black Student Union, The Ubyssey, UBC Black Caucus

How can we connect with you?
LinkedIn

Why did you choose your academic program of study?

Choosing history was the easiest part of my degree. It was my favourite subject at school, and I came to UBC ready to answer some of the more substantial questions that I had. I’m so glad that I chose history, as I was able to focus much of my degree learning about African history, and in turn, my own roots, as well as the history of Black women in North America.

What are some of the meaningful experiences you’ve had at UBC?

I have had so many meaningful experiences at UBC over the last five years, particularly within the organizations I was part of. I had the opportunity to put on events for other students just like myself.

In my first year, I put on events for both first-year Arts students but also for other Arts One students. It was these experiences that helped me organize more philanthropic events, such as Gamma Phi Beta’s biggest philanthropy event.

But my most meaningful experiences took place when I served as Co-President of the Black Student Union. Throughout the year, I was able to help put on an array of events. These events allowed me to collaborate with other student groups such as the UBC Climate Hub, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights and The Global Lounge. In this position, I was also able to listen to and advocate for students who look like me, which was an invaluable experience.


“It means the world to be recognized for this award especially during the moment that we’re in, a moment which has been particularly difficult for everyone. I hope that the entire class of 2021 are proud of themselves for finishing their degree in the midst of all of this. It hasn’t been easy, but somehow we’ve made it!”
2021 Outstanding Leader in the UBC Community and Beyond

What’s an important life lesson that your involvement activities have taught you?

I have learned two important life lessons. The first is to never be afraid to ask for help. Nobody does absolutely everything alone, and throughout my degree, I have had an immeasurable amount of support from my friends and the communities that I am in. For events, I have had friends stay up late hot glue gunning with me and offering me pep talks, and without their encouragement, I wouldn’t have been able to persevere.

The second is that it is okay to be wrong and make mistakes. Throughout my degree, both in and out of the classroom I have made mistakes. However, I have learned how to be resilient while acknowledging where I have gone wrong in the past so that these mistakes are not repeated.

You recently received a 2021 Outstanding Leader Award. What does it mean to be a great Arts student leader?

It means the world to be recognized for this award especially during the moment that we’re in, a moment which has been particularly difficult for everyone. Throughout my degree, I’ve constantly been forced to learn how to persevere through tough and unexpected situations.

But, in hindsight, I believe that these moments have allowed me to become a more thoughtful leader. I hope that the entire class of 2021 are proud of themselves for finishing their degree in the midst of all of this. It hasn’t been easy, but somehow we’ve made it!

What are the top three things that every Arts student should try before they graduate?

  1. If you can join Arts One, I can’t promote the program enough.
  2. Find a community that both supports and represents you.
  3. Volunteer for The Ubyssey!

What’s next for you?

As of right now, I’m not entirely sure. However, I will be taking a small but much-needed break, before finding work.

I am certain that I will eventually return to academia for graduate school. Maybe for a master’s degree, and if I’m lucky a doctorate. However, I know that I will take the lessons that I have learned over the past years, wherever I go!


 



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