Pursuing opportunities to fight social injustices and seeking ways to build community have meant valedictorian Ajoke Laseinde is leaving a lasting mark on MSVU as she graduates with a Master of Arts in Education.
During her time at MSVU, Ajoke was an active student who contributed to the university through research and student activism. She co-founded The Mount African Society, a group dedicated to supporting continental African students’ integration into Canadian society and promoting awareness of African culture and heritage at MSVU. In addition to being an insightful student, Ajoke is known for her hard work. As the Black Student Support Assistant, she contributed to many projects that enriched the learning experiences of students of African descent at MSVU.
Ajoke will deliver her valedictory address during the fall 2022 convocation on October 23 at 2 p.m. You can watch the ceremony via MSVU’s Facebook and YouTube pages. We asked Ajoke to tell us about her time at MSVU and what’s next for her. Read on to learn more about Ajoke.
Hometown: Ibadan, Nigeria
Current City: Edmonton, Alberta
Degree being awarded: Master of Arts in Education, Curriculum Studies (TESOL)
Previous education completed: Bachelor of Arts and Education (BAEd) with a focus on English and Education from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria
Why did you choose to study at MSVU?
I recall walking into Randy Headley (the Graduate Admission Officer at the time) on a slightly windy Monday morning in the summer of 2019. I was a new mom who had transitioned very quickly from being a young Fulbright scholar at Michigan State University to being an ‘adult’ student.
Navigating this new reality came with a lot of questions alongside the multiple questions I had about the enrolment process at MSVU. Randy answered all my questions and allayed my fears about the potential drawbacks of enrolling at a small-sized university. He emphasized the benefits of joining a dynamic but close-knit academic community and I am glad I listened to him.
This meeting significantly impacted my decision to enroll at MSVU and I have had an interesting experience since. Also, applying for a degree in TESOL was a natural choice for me since the TESOL field provides ample space for me to explore my interest in sociolinguistics.
How were you involved on campus?
My involvement at MSVU included participating actively in research through the Inter-University Research Network and by writing my graduate thesis; enriching the experiences of students of African descent through my work at the Black Student Support Office; and co-founding the Mount African Society, a group dedicated to supporting continental African students’ integration into Canadian society and promoting awareness of African culture and heritage at MSVU.
One of the accomplishments of the Mount African Society was presenting the experiences of students of African descent at MSVU at a meeting with top administration and seeing the university respond in ways that addressed some of these concerns.
My time at MSVU was a mix of online and in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While the experience took away from the opportunities to socialize and participate in face-to-face activities, the format allowed me to present my research at several virtual conferences that I may not have been able to attend if I had to go in person.
Who are your academic and research mentors?
While collaborating on other research projects and working on my graduate thesis, I worked closely with Dr. Christine Doe, Dr. Susan Brigham, Dr. Sandra Powell, and Randy Headley. These relationships helped shape me into the researcher I have become and influenced my trajectory as a student.
One of the hallmarks of these relationships is being seen as a person alongside being seen as a graduate student. I recall having my second son while completing my thesis. Although I ended up not taking the long break from school that I anticipated, my supervisor, Dr. Christine Doe, was very supportive, and we worked towards completing my data collection before my delivery and beginning my data analysis during my first few months postpartum. Fun fact, I literally left off working on my computer about 30 minutes before I headed to the hospital for delivery!
Reading through my thesis, you’ll find a lot of Yoruba proverbs that connect my learning to my roots and perspectives as a Nigerian. I think this is one of the distinctive features of MSVU, having professors that are invested in your success and a community that nurtures you as you go through life, whatever that looks like for you.
What class, professor, project or learning activity has held the most meaning for you? Why?
One of the most memorable classes I took at MSVU was a language and culture course taught by Dr. Sandra Powell. Besides the excellent delivery of the course content, the relationship between language and culture is a topic that I am deeply interested in and have explored since my undergraduate days in Nigeria.
What is your favourite location on campus and why?
The library hands down! Even though MSVU has a lot of beautiful spots that I enjoyed hanging out at, libraries have always been a crucial part of my learning experience. The quiet atmosphere and the community of learners studying, discussing, and sometimes even just hanging out were constant sources of motivation.
I had a spot at the library where friends knew to find me; I would sometimes arrive at 7 a.m. and leave around 6 p.m. I would pray and meditate for a few hours, before taking some time to study. I lost my dad during my time at MSVU and while this was a very traumatic experience for me, spending tons of time at the library afterwards helped me cope with this experience. The library became an oasis of calm that I could use as I navigated this experience and the vicissitudes of being a graduate student and an evolving individual.
Do you have any favourite stories about your time at MSVU?
I have many beautiful memories from my time at MSVU. One experience that stands out is when I received a call from my son’s childcare while I was in a class. I was informed that my 1-year-old son was sick, and I had to come pick him up immediately. Overwhelmed with emotions, I rushed out of class and burst into tears in the pedway. Even though I did not mention what happened to anyone while in class, Rochelle Shupe, a colleague and friend stepped out, and she was there to provide support as I tried to navigate this situation. Moments like this are reminders of the supportive community that distinguishes MSVU.
Do you have any advice for current students or people considering going to MSVU?
Be open to pursuing new opportunities, relationships, and experiences. The experiences that stretch you or take you out of your comfort zone are the same ones that shape you into a better version of yourself. But ultimately, be yourself, bring your unique perspectives and ideas to the table, and watch yourself transform the community around you.
What’s next for you?
While I currently work at MacEwan University, I intend to apply for a Ph.D. at the University of Alberta in the near future.