Oluwaseun Ajaja

Vancouver Coastal Health
Regional Manager
Itapa-Ekiti, Nigeria
Surrey, Canada
Deliberative democracy and problems of democratic governance in Nigeria
Hoi Kong

What are your main responsibilities or activities in your current position?

As the Inaugural Regional Manager for Anti-Racism at VCH, my main responsibility is to foster an anti-racist, inclusive, and equitable work environment for all. To accomplish this, I am developing and implementing plans to reduce racism and promote cultural safety within VCH, which increased engagement by 31%. I also conduct training sessions for executives, leadership teams, and staff to raise awareness of racism's impact on healthcare and co-create strategies for positive change, resulting in a 22% increase in our staff’s awareness and willingness to be more anti-racist and inclusive. Aligning our initiatives with VCH's values and goals is a crucial part of my role, achieved through collaboration with diverse stakeholders. I equally focus on developing safety frameworks to create a fair and secure environment for staff, medical professionals, patients, and families. In summary, my role revolves around cultivating inclusivity, combating racism, and promoting cultural understanding at VCH. Through strategic planning, training, collaboration, and robust frameworks, I strive to create a workplace where everyone feels valued and appreciated for their contributions and where barriers to accessing care due to race or ethnicity are being addressed.

How does your current work relate to your graduate degree?

My graduate degree in Law, specifically the Master of Laws (LLM), has proven to be highly beneficial and directly applicable to my current work. During my LLM program, I delved into the intricacies of legal principles, social justice issues, and human rights. This knowledge forms the foundation of my work in combating racism and promoting cultural awareness within VCH. Understanding the legal framework and principles allows me to navigate complex situations and develop initiatives that align with legal requirements while addressing systemic inequities. Moreover, the critical thinking, research, and analysis skills honed during my graduate studies play a vital role in my current position. They enable me to assess the specific needs and challenges within VCH, analyze data and statistics to identify patterns and trends related to equity and inclusion and formulate evidence-based strategies and action plans. These skills empower me to make informed decisions and develop effective programs that foster a more inclusive and equitable work environment. Furthermore, my graduate studies have nurtured strong communication and advocacy skills, which are essential in my role. The ability to clearly articulate complex concepts, engage in constructive dialogue with diverse stakeholders, and effectively advocate for equity, diversity, and inclusion allows me to build strong partnerships, gain support for anti-racism initiatives, and foster a culture of openness and understanding within VCH. In summary, my graduate degree in Law, particularly the LLM, has provided me with a comprehensive understanding of legal principles, social justice issues, and human rights. The critical thinking, research, analysis, and communication skills acquired during my studies have been instrumental in addressing racism and promoting cultural safety at VCH. These skills enable me to develop evidence-based strategies, navigate complex situations, and advocate for equity and inclusion within the organization.

What do you like and what do you find challenging about your current position?

In my current role as the Inaugural Regional Manager for Anti-Racism and Cultural Safety at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), there are several intriguing and challenging aspects that I encounter. One aspect that captivates me is the opportunity to make a substantial impact. It is gratifying to know that my work contributes to fostering an inclusive and equitable work environment. Developing operational programs and initiatives aimed at reducing racism and promoting cultural safety not only aligns with my passion for social justice but also stimulates me intellectually. However, along with these rewards come significant challenges. Managing complexity is one such challenge. Addressing issues of racism and cultural safety requires navigating intricate dynamics within the organization and the broader societal context. It necessitates a nuanced understanding of legal frameworks, policy implications, and cultural nuances while balancing diverse stakeholder needs and expectations. Another challenge arises from resistance to change. Introducing new initiatives and cultural shifts often faces resistance from individuals or teams, which can impede progress. Overcoming this resistance requires effective change management strategies, such as clear communication, collaboration, and addressing concerns with empathy and understanding. These challenges have provided valuable lessons. I have learned the importance of effective communication and stakeholder engagement in overcoming resistance and driving successful change. Actively listening and demonstrating empathy have proven crucial in building trust and understanding among diverse stakeholders. Furthermore, adaptability and resilience have emerged as essential qualities in navigating complex situations, while incorporating diverse perspectives and expertise enhances decision-making processes. Reflecting on my experiences, there are aspects I might have approached differently. For instance, I could have placed greater emphasis on proactive communication and early stakeholder engagement to address concerns and foster buy-in, especially from frontline staff. Additionally, seeking additional training or professional development opportunities to enhance my change management skills could have better equipped me for the challenges encountered in this role. Overall, the intriguing aspects of my current position lie in the opportunity to make a meaningful impact and develop initiatives for promoting equity and inclusion. The challenges I face have taught me valuable lessons about effective communication, stakeholder engagement, adaptability, and resilience. By reflecting on these challenges, I acknowledge the potential for further growth and development in my approach to change management and stakeholder collaboration.

Is your current career path as you originally intended?

In short, absolutely. My passion has always revolved around program development, change management, social justice, human rights, and opportunities for strategic innovations within large organizations and institutions. Over the course of my career, which spans more than a decade, I have consistently dedicated myself to enhancing organizational capacity, implementing strategic initiatives, advocating for human rights, and spearheading positive transformative changes across multiple large multinational organizations. These experiences have formed a distinct path leading me to my current position, where I have the privilege of leading and propelling anti-racism endeavors within a large healthcare institution.

What motivated you to pursue graduate work at UBC?

Academic curiosity, professional development, personal growth, networking opportunities, a passion for research and an avenue to make a meaningful impact in my chosen field sum up my motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at UBC.

What did you enjoy the most about your time as a graduate student at UBC?

Studying at UBC was truly memorable. The academic challenges expanded my knowledge and sparked my curiosity, making learning enjoyable. UBC's dedication to personal growth provided invaluable opportunities to develop lifelong skills and uncover hidden talents. Interacting with students, staff, and faculty from diverse backgrounds enriched my experience and deepened my understanding of different perspectives. The university's picturesque location in Vancouver added a delightful touch to my time at UBC, with its stunning natural beauty and recreational options. The combination of stimulating academics, self-discovery, personal growth, and vibrant campus life made my journey at UBC unforgettable and enriching.

How did the graduate degree at UBC help you achieve your career and/or personal development goals?

My graduate degree from UBC provided the required knowledge, advanced skills, and research expertise that opened up new opportunities for me. The program's focus on research, critical thinking, and problem-solving equipped me to handle complex challenges in my field. Not only did I grow professionally, but the journey also fostered personal growth and resilience. I built meaningful connections that expanded my professional circle leading to networking opportunities and mentorships that have benefited and continue to benefit my career.

What key things did you do, or what attitudes or approaches did you have, that contributed to your success?

Success doesn't happen by chance; it is the result of deliberate planning, unyielding determination, unwavering motivation, perseverance, a positive mindset, sheer hard work, and a sprinkle of good luck. To stay relevant in the ever-changing professional landscape, I make it a point to engage in regular self-reflection, and constantly learn new things to sharpen my skills and broaden my knowledge, all while remaining adaptable. Effective communication and nurturing positive connections have played a crucial role in my professional growth and achievements. And along the way, I've built a strong network of industry professionals, which has opened up incredible opportunities for mentorship and collaboration. Whenever setbacks arise, and they have, I maintain a positive attitude and view them as opportunities for growth. By embodying these principles and attitudes, I continually position myself for success, eagerly seizing every opportunity that comes my way as I navigate my professional journey toward greater heights. It's been quite a ride; one I am deeply grateful for.

What is your best piece of advice for current graduate students preparing for their future careers?

To prepare for their future careers, graduate students need to keep an open mind, actively seek growth opportunities, engage in lifelong learning, build relationships, access mentorship, foster collaboration, and gain insights into the job market. To remain adaptable and relevant in their field, they must also develop the skills of communication, problem-solving, teamwork, leadership, and emotional intelligence, all of which are transferable and relevant in addressing today’s challenges and tomorrow’s issues. Lastly, it is important for them to forgive themselves for their shortcomings and find ways to enjoy their journey as students. By embracing these strategies, graduate students position themselves for success, seize opportunities, and navigate the professional landscape with confidence, ultimately achieving their career aspirations.


Explore our wide range of course-based and research-based program options!