B.C. graduate launches award for Black students at Royal Roads University

·2 min read
Donneil McNab, a Royal Roads graduate, has created a new award for Black excellence at the university in Greater Victoria.
Donneil McNab, a Royal Roads graduate, has created a new award for Black excellence at the university in Greater Victoria.

(Royal Roads University - image credit)

In her predominantly Black home of Portmore, Jamaica, Donneil McNab was never confronted with what it felt like to be a minority. When she arrived in Vancouver two years ago, she can only recall seeing two other people who looked like her.

When she went to Victoria, where she would pursue her master's degree at Royal Roads University, her experience was no different.

"It was quite a culture shock at first," McNab told All Points West host Kathryn Marlow.

That lack of Black representation prompted her to establish the Award for Diversity and Community Building, an annual $1,000 award for students of Afro-heritage descent, the first of its kind at the Victoria institution.

"This is my way of contributing to ongoing Black liberation and my way to help level the playing field," McNab said.

McNab grew up in a single-parent household, and although resources were limited, she said her mother would often help others; she paid school fees, rent and medical bills for those in need.

"I decided to take the leap because if she could do it, so could I."

Royal Roads advancement manager Amy Hinrichs said financial awards like this one send a powerful message of encouragement.

"When someone says, 'I recognize what you're doing, I value what you're studying, and I know you will make a difference, I want to support you on that journey,' that can have a deeply profound and personal impact on a student."

McNab graduated with a master of arts in tourism management last year and now works in the student engagement department at her alma mater.

Though the monetary portion of the award is important in helping open doors for Black students, McNab said the award is also about expanding representation on campus.

"I find that being here in an environment that has several cultures represented, it helps to expand your perspective and how you think and how you see the world," she said.

In addition to the launch of the award, McNab is encouraging people on and off campus to continue learning about Black history, not just during Black History month but throughout the year.

"I want it to be something they think about. I want it to be something that is ingrained in everything that we do."

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.