An Interview with Mac Black Arts & Innovation Expo Scholarship Recipients


During Black History Month, three McMaster students were the recipients of the prestigious Black Arts & Innovation Expo Scholarship; a scholarship program that supports black students in STEM (Science, Technology, Math & Engineering) fields!

We sat down with 2 of the 3 recipients; Marquise Kamanke and Abraham Omorogbe, to learn more about their journey of leadership, passions both at McMaster and within the Hamilton community and their thoughts on representation and creating space for Black students on campus.

Quick Bios:

Marquise is a 3rd Year international student in the faculty of Engineering and the Programs Chair of the National Society of Black Engineers-McMaster Chapter.

Abraham is in the Software Engineering and Management program, who is also an international student and the Co-President of the National Society of Black Engineers-McMaster Chapter.

Both Marquise and Abraham have combined their passion for engineering, entrepreneurship and community engagement by engaging in leadership and supporting other Black students in STEM Fields, both at McMaster and in Hamilton! Check out the exclusive Pop the Bubble interview to learn more about them and their perspectives! #blackexcellence

 

PTB: Tell us about yourself–who you are, what you have done & how you’ve come to this point?

Marquise (M): My name is Marquise. I am 20 years old and an international student from Cameroon. I enjoy music, hikes, runs and everything sustainability and energy.

As an international student coming from Cameroon, West Africa, adapting to Canada was not an easy task. In my second year of University, I made it my mission to help fellow incoming international students by becoming an International Student Mentor. In this position, I worked closely with the International Student Services at McMaster to welcome incoming international students from all countries. I was assigned 3 mentees, from China, Portugal and Ghana. Throughout the year, I was the main point of contact for the mentees and had the privilege of serving as their friend and mentor throughout their first year. I ensured their transition was smooth by meeting with them weekly to touch base on their academics and extracurriculars. I also took them to my favorite places on campus and within the Hamilton community to make sure they were getting the most out of their experience.

In my 3rd year of university, I became the Programs Chair of the National Society of Black Engineers – McMaster Chapter. In this position, I was in charge of organizing all club events and coming up with new club initiatives. I revived an old partnership our club had with a local non-profit organization called DCA Tutoring. This partnership consists of NSBE McMaster providing weekly volunteers to tutor middle to high school kids at a secondary school downtown Hamilton in English, Math and Science classes. As a result of my involvement, the program re-started and we were able to provide 10 new tutors to the organization -which increased the student engagement and provided great helped to the organization.

In my 3rd year, I also heard about an organization called Empowerment Squared which is another Hamilton based non-profit organization that provides tutoring services to children from immigrant families. They had a lot of tutors from the Social Science and Humanities faculties at McMaster but were lacking in tutors that could provide expertise in STEM. It made sense to me to initiate a partnership with NSBE McMaster. I contacted the head of the organization through a mutual friend and arranged for our club to provide them with weekly tutors. In this way, I made sure not just myself but the whole of NSBE McMaster was wholly involved in the Hamilton community. I was also able to arrange for one of the city councillors of Hamilton to write a recommendation letter to whoever needed it from the tutoring program, provided they tutored for the minimum number of hours.

As an international student, I have been able to make a lot of impact at a Canadian university and I am thankful of the opportunities that I have been opened to me. I am also very interested in Energy and Sustainability and I intend to pursue a career in this field. As a result, I founded the McMaster Undergraduate Energy Society to inform and educate fellow McMaster students on energy issues around the world and in Canada. I also founded this club to help connect passionate students to passionate professionals in the field. Throughout the year we hosted 2 industry nights which were incredibly successful and had several Fortune 500 Energy and start-ups companies in attendance. Through this club and the initiatives of NSBE- McMaster, I hope to cultivate the best talents in the energy fields at McMaster and to foster the energy leaders of tomorrow.

Abraham (A): Hi my name is Abraham Omorogbe, I am a Software Engineering and Management Student at McMaster University.  I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, and moved to Ireland in 2002 at age 7. After 5 years, I was on the move again to Canada and settled in Markham, Ontario, where I have lived ever since.

Throughout high school, I was heavily involved in extracurricular activity at Brother Andre Catholic High School. I was the captain of my high school senior basketball and led the team to many championships including the YRAA (York Regional Athletic Association) Basketball Championship in my final year. While in high school I was also a dedicated student, completing Advanced Placement Math and Science courses all throughout high school while maintaining a 90% average.

At McMaster University I have translated my previous success on basketball court to success in the business world. Starting in June 2014, I founded Canvas Group Canada, a graphic designer and web development company that cater to the growing GTA community. After a mere year and a half, Canvas has amassed over 30 clients including McMaster Student presidential campaigns and Social Science departments. I am also the co-creator Coursity.me, an app that converts a student course calendar, to digital calendar, that can be stored on any device.

Apart from entrepreneurship, I am also a leader in the community, I am the co-President of NSBE McMaster – an organization that seeks to increase the number of black youth entering and completing post-secondary education in STEM fields. I also served as the Telecommunications Chair for NSBE Canada.

 

PTB: How has your experience/time as a McMaster student created new opportunities for you—such as this experiences, what you have learned?

M: McMaster has broadened my horizon indefinitely. If you had told my first year self that I would be able to achieve half of what I achieved in and outside of the classroom, I would have totally believed it was a joke! The campus environment has been very inductive to make everyone feel like they have a voice and that their voice matters which led me to where I am today.

By being involved in so many organizations, I have been able to make life long friendships with some of the brightest people I know. I have also been made very valuable connections to industry through these organizations.

A: McMaster has been fertile grounds for me to grow as an individual. By participating in extracurricular activities like MacAfricans, NSBE and others, I have been able to meet people and build connection that have help me accomplish the things I mentioned above such as Canvas Group and Courtes.ty.

 

PTB: As a black student on campus, what does representation and creating spaces mean for you/what does that look like? How does your identity impact your role as a leader and member of the McMaster community?

M: Representation is definitely of value. I have had a lot of black students and women in their first year come talk to me and ask me how I was able to take on so many leadership roles and where I gained the confidence to do so. I can understand their enthusiasm as representation helps to bridge the gap between being inspired by a leader and believing you can be a leader yourself. Representation will not always be there though for several reasons. This should not be an obstacle for anyone as I encourage people to be trailblazers.

A: A great quote I like to use is “You can’t be what you can’t see.” So representation for me means strength group membership and the reach of diverse clubs and societies like NSBE, MacAfricans, the MSA, WiE and EngiQueers.

 

PTB: What inspires you? How will you as a leader in the future give back to the Black community in Hamilton and beyond?

M: People inspire me. Impact inspires me. Purpose inspires me. As a curious mind, I had been interested in a lot of things growing up and it was hard to focus on one thing. As I got more exposed to more problems in the world and more knowledgeable, a particular problem stuck with me and has not left my mind since. The desire to solve this problem brings purpose to my days and inspires me to give 100% of my abilities every day to bring me closer to my goal.

A: In short, Ideas, visionaries and those who believe. I’m genuinely inspired by those who have believed so whole heartedly in their dreams and passions that they made them come true. Talking to people with this kind of energy inspires me to keep pushing for my goals. As a leader in the community, I plan on giving back by working with McMaster to introduce funds and better programs that will help support Black and minority students get into McMaster and succeed here.

 

PTB: Any advice for students looking to get involved with Black Arts & Innovation Expo and leadership experiences on campus?

M: Just do it. Really. Apply for the scholarship and be honest with your application. For leadership experiences on campus: follow your passion and your interests. If your passion is not being done on campus, start it. Trust me, I did it and it is gather likeminded individuals and working collectively towards a common goal is one of the most rewarding things I have ever undertaken.

A: Don’t think – do! If you just get involved and start doing, people will reward your hard work and will start looking to mentor you and shape you as a leader.

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Shout out to Marquise and Abraham for following their passions, sharing their experience and challenging traditional notions of what it means to be a leader at McMaster! In particular, Marquise and Abraham both spoke about creating spaces and uplifting Black communities at McMaster and attracting incredible diverse talent to both the McMaster and Hamilton communities by intentionally creating representation and opportunities for leadership, innovation and black excellence!

Stayed tuned for weekly posts from Pop The Bubble as we explore how to get involved in the Hamilton Community. From profiles on community leaders and groups working to make Hamilton a more equitable community to engaging in Hamilton by exploring everything what Hamilton has to offer!

-Noel

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