Meet Mt. A’s new Black student advisor

Ivan Okello settles in to his position as Black student advisor and diversity educator

Argosy

This past fall, Mount Allison hired Ivan Okello as the University’s new Black student advisor and diversity educator. This is a new role in Mt. A’s student affairs department with Okello’s job specifically supporting the personal success of Black students.

Okello came to Mt. A with the goal of enhancing student experiences. “I know, from experience, that university can be challenging due to multiple priorities such as class, assignments, hobbies and relationships,” said Okello. “Some students may experience even more barriers with adapting to the climate, few social ties, culture shock and the expectations of university. My role is really to facilitate positive adaptation to university.”

Okello’s job includes ensuring a cultural understanding of the barriers facing Black students at Mt. A, acting as an advocate for Black students on formal academic and non-academic matters, creating allies within different community groups on campus, promoting events and experiences that foreground Black students, and helping with orientation and transition programming for new Black students to enable them to better navigate university life.

As a diversity educator, Okello’s role also involves increasing cultural competence among students, staff and faculty. This includes delivering educational training on systemic racism and microaggressions and increasing knowledge on equity, diversity and inclusion within the Mt. A community.

Okello earned his BA in gender studies from Makerere University in Uganda. Okello then moved to Halifax, N.S., to attend Dalhousie University, where he got his MA in international development.

“It was my first time studying abroad, and it took me a while to adapt to life in Canada,” said Okello. “But after a few months, I got very involved within the campus activities and community.”

While at Dalhousie, Okello became involved with the Graduate Student Society, the African Students Association and the Student Appeals Committee. Later, Okello was employed on the Dalhousie campus as a writing tutor and teaching assistant. “This enabled me see life both as a student and university staff,” said Okello.

“Being involved as a student was one of my biggest opportunities to grow as a person and challenge myself especially with public speaking, which I was terrified to do,” said Okello. “[Being a teaching assistant] enabled me to grow many professional and personal relationships through the years.

“I think I will have made a difference if African, Caribbean and Afro-Canadians feel like they belong to the Mt. A community. I think everyone wants to feel like they belong to this community.”

Okello works on the third floor of the Wallace McCain Student Centre and can be reached at iokello@mta.ca.

Emma Conrad
Emma Conrad is a writer for the Argosy.