July 20, 2021Print | PDF
During his first three years at Wilfrid Laurier University, Samuel Oluwalana would often notice Black students walking through the halls of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics and wonder why he hadn’t met them in his classes. He thought that there must be a way to build connection among Black business students at Laurier, and now he’s doing just that. In February, Oluwalana founded a new club called Black Students of Lazaridis (BSOL).
BSOL aims to create an inclusive space where students who identify as members of the Black community can connect and share experiences, learn about resources and tools to help them succeed academically and professionally, and grow as emerging leaders and changemakers in the wider Laurier community.
“Looking back on 2020 and the response to the killing of George Floyd, it helped us all understand that Black lives really do matter and reinforced the importance of building Black community,” says Oluwalana, a fourth-year Economics and Finance student and president of BSOL. “Rather than taking on school and breaking into the corporate world as individuals, we can share struggles and successes and learn from the experiences of others who look like us. We can feel comfortable being vulnerable in a way that we couldn’t in any other club at Lazaridis.”
Oluwalana also sees BSOL as a “platform for firms who are seeking strong Black talent.” He has noted that companies are seeking to increase representation of Black interns and employees, but perhaps don’t know how to reach out to the Black community.
“The Lazaridis School is one of the best business schools in Canada, and now by coming together, firms can contact us directly with recruitment opportunities,” says Oluwalana.
The BSOL executive team held their inaugural meeting in March, a virtual gathering to “test the waters” and introduce their vision for the club. Oluwalana was excited by the turnout and the enthusiastic feedback.
“About 25 students attended our first meeting, which was impressive given that we had really only been marketing the club for two weeks,” he says. “Since then, our email list has been growing daily and we’re connecting with people on LinkedIn and Instagram.”
The BSOL team is planning a couple of events over the summer to maintain their momentum, while preparing to officially launch in September with a full slate of workshops and activities. In collaboration with the Laurier Career Centre, BSOL will offer training on resume and cover letter writing, interview preparation, email etiquette and personal branding. They will host “Industry Night” panels featuring alumni and corporate partners from all realms of the business world to offer students advice and enable them to build their networks.
Mentorship is a key pillar in Oluwalana’s vision for BSOL.
“I had the opportunity to sit with a mentor who was an investment banker and walked me through all aspects of his industry and the different niches within it to help me determine where my passions lie,” says Oluwalana. “He told me that he was giving back because when he was my age, he had no one to guide him in the same way. He wanted me to understand that whenever I myself become successful, I can’t just sit down and relax and feel that I’ve made it. It will be my time to reach out to the younger generation to make sure they are also equipped to succeed.”
Five years from now when BSOL’s inaugural members are all in the workforce, Oluwalana hopes to maintain a diverse alumni network who are available as resources for Laurier students as they shape career goals of their own.
“And because we will all be working in different industries for different firms, it will increase our reach in the corporate world and allow us to strengthen our partnerships,” says Oluwalana.
The BSOL executive will be recruiting more members in the coming months – postings can be found on the Lazaridis Students’ Society clubs portal – and plan to use this as an opportunity to increase the visibility of Black women in leadership roles. Oluwalana wants BSOL to inspire change and lead by example.
“If you see something going on at Laurier and don’t feel that you as an individual can fix the issue, there is strength in numbers,” says Oluwalana. “Together, we can make sure our voices are heard across campus to bring the change we want to see in this community.”