Ani Nkiru’s long-term commitment to and impact on residence life at UBC was recognized with the prestigious Janice Robinson Award for Commitment to Residence Life. This award “recognizes commitment to providing a safe and secure living/learning environment where residents have access to educational opportunities and related co-curricular programs that promote personal growth and academic success.” Below is her acceptance speech:
“Thank you all for this!
It is an honour to be standing up here among some of the most incredible, self-less, hardworking, passionate and amazingly committed group of student leaders, and staff, receiving this award. I cannot express just how much your faith in me, the kindness and the compassion with which you all put into the work that you do each day, continuously inspires me to keep going and keep giving. My growth and journey in Residence Life are in no way an effort of mine alone. I am the student leader I am today because of the teams, RLMs, residents, and the interactions that I have had with you over the last three years. Putting in an application to be a residence advisor three years ago was one of the best steps I have taken towards self exploration and growth at UBC.
About four years ago, like most excited first years, I moved into Residence with a lot of uncertainties regarding what was to come. And more so as an international student, I wondered what living so far away from all that was familiar would be like – would I fit in, would I make friends easily, and a lot of ‘what ifs’. I met my Residence Advisor on move in day like everyone else, and I was terribly awkward, still am. But I thought that she was one of the kindest people I had met in the two weeks since I came to Canada. She had cookies too so that was a bonus! More importantly, I remember the personal notes she had put up on every residents’ door. It read “Welcome to Tec 1st! My name is Danika and I am going to be your residence Advisor this year. I hope to get to know you over the next 8 months. I am here if you have any questions or concerns”. I remember because I still have this note.
For me, it was always the little things like these notes and the invested time. I decided that I wanted to be a part of creating little moments like these for others. I only echo what has been said already, when I say that residents’ experiences are further enriched because of all that you bring into your roles. You have made a difference this year whether you realise it or received a thank you or not. Those warm fuzzies, the little acts of kindness and the hellos around campus, made at least one resident smile, and you should be proud of that!
In essence, my Advisor was an anchor in a first year that was as exciting as it was challenging. This is what you all do and are to residents. It takes a special kind of person to do this job – from the nights, emergencies, peer helping, supervising, to the daily challenge of balancing other commitments with your residence life work. We did it all together, as a team, and this is one thing that I have come to value working in residence life – my teams.
This year more than ever, I have come to value the power of teamwork and realise more than ever that your team is the greatest support system you could have. This is why I am humbled by this award as all that I have accomplished has been influenced or made possible through the support of my mentors and teams in residence life. Each person here today, has at some point or another, needed someone to step in to help out with that noise or party situation; has had someone take one for the team during INS/OUTS scheduling, has had someone just be there to hear how great or not great things were going. As you reflect on the year, I hope that these moments of support, friendship and teamwork inspire you to continue doing the great work that you do as student leaders in residence and beyond.
There is an African humanist philosophy, Ubuntu, which sums up what I believe residence life is for me. Ubuntu is a Zulu ideology that loosely translates to, “I am because of who we all are”. It is centered on the idea of togetherness, humanity, and connectedness that exists and should exist among all people. Over the last 3 years, Residence life has embodied this for me. We have all shown our humanity and empathy for others with each knock on the door, each die-cut, floor meeting, cookie (lots of cookies), with each hello, with each note, each event, each interaction log and yes, even the IRs.
As I mentioned earlier, becoming a residence advisor was a defining step in my leadership journey and an important one for giving back to a community that had given me so much. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to explore my passions over the last few years, particularly in regards to conversations about Black history, culture and contemporary issues. Through the passion programming requirement, residence life provided me with a safe space and the confidence to explore conversations that up until last year were often always in my head. If you had asked me four years ago if I would ever see myself leading conversations with residents, advisors, and other leaders across campus about mental health in black and other marginalised communities, or about Black Panther and its relevance in contemporary social justice activism, about deconstructing homogenous views of Africa, or about Black Identities – I would have probably run straight for the hills! So from the bottom of my heart, I would like to say thank you for giving me this platform to not only share and learn but to be a part of others’ learning, unlearning and relearning. I challenge you to take these opportunities and explore – you never know what magical and redefining moments you will encounter
I would like to end with a quote – because, who doesn’t like a good quote – John Adams once said that if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. Thank you all for your exemplary, inspiring and invaluable leadership as managers, supervisors and advisors. I would like to specially thank my three teams, RLMs Patrick, Joey, Ivan and Amy, and Paige Lougheed who I’ve always looked up to. Your support, kindness and encouragement each step of the way kept me going and striving to do and be my best. Thank you all for making Residence a home for residents and for me these past four years.”