Celebrating Black History Month: Olaitan Ogunnote

February is Black History Month, an important time dedicated to honouring the achievements and contributions of Black individuals throughout history. While it’s important to acknowledge and learn from our history and legacies of racial discrimination, it is equally important to broaden the narrative and highlight the richness of accomplishments. 

This month we are celebrating students who are playing an integral part in shaping the UBC graduate community. In their own words, they share their lessons at UBC and their insights into their personal experiences.

Please join us in celebrating the achievements of our Black graduate students; explore options to participate in UBC’s virtual events; and contribute to the conversation online using the hashtag #BlackHistoryMonth. 


Olaitan Ogunnote: empowering Black Graduate Students (BGSN), and nurturing balance

Olaitan Ogunnote is a PhD candidate in Economics and is the founder of the Black Graduate Student Network (BGSN). 


What is a memorable experience for you?

“I co-founded the Black Graduate Student Network (BGSN) during my first year at UBC, and it’s been such a meaningful experience for me because it has allowed me to build a community with other Black graduate students at UBC. We are so underrepresented and dispersed on campus that it’s easy to feel a sense of isolation and a lack of belonging. So, running events that bring us together where we can encourage each other on our graduate journeys and form friendships has been so special to me. Beyond the value I’ve personally gained, I also get feedback from other Black grad students about how impactful our programming has been. Last year we organized a pre-arrival webinar in partnership with G+PS and piloted a Buddy Initiative where we paired incoming Black graduate students with current Black graduate students to aid with the transition of incoming students to life in Vancouver and UBC. Since those programs, I’ve run into many of the students who attended the webinar and were a part of the Buddy Initiative and it’s been heartwarming to hear how helpful those programs have been.”

What strategies have you found helpful in balancing your academic responsibilities? 

“In terms of balancing work/academics with having a social life, maintaining relationships, pursuing hobbies, and overall self-care, my support system has been in the different communities I’ve been a part of. During my first two years at UBC, I lived in Saint John’s College (SJC), a graduate student residence. My experience there was one of an active and multi-cultural community that organized many events from social activities such as formal dinners to personal well-being activities such as yoga and dance classes, which helped me recharge away from the stresses of being a grad student.”

Any advice for incoming students or students of colour?

“My main advice would be to seek a community on campus where you feel belonging. A community with shared interests, hobbies, and experiences as "you" - where you can express parts of yourself that you might struggle to express in your academic department as an individual from an underrepresented group. For me, I found that in the Black Graduate Student Network (BGSN). There are so many student clubs on campus, so I would recommend finding one by attending the AMS Clubs Day event or looking through the Graduate Student Society’s (GSS) website for the list of Affiliate Organizations (AOs) and joining one of them.”


Visit our Black History Month page to learn more about the work of other students of colour.

Wednesday, 21 February 2024