Black students from UCalgary Law attend the BLSA National Conference in 2024
Members of UCalgary Law's Black Law Students' Association, along with Professor Gideon Christian (centre) at the National BLSA Conference in February.

April 8, 2024

Excellence recognized: UCalgary’s Black Law Students’ Association honoured nationally

Chapter wins award at 33rd National Black Law Students Association Conference

The UCalgary Black Law Students Association (BLSA) made history on Feb. 17, 2024, clinching the prestigious Large Chapter of the Year award at the 33rd National Black Law Students Association Conference in Toronto. Led by co-presidents Senait Yohannes and Hameedah Baruwa, along with a dedicated team of 28 members, this award symbolizes a remarkable journey of growth and empowerment within the Faculty of Law. 

Senait Yohannes and Hameedah Baruwa

UCalgary BLSA co-presidents Senait Yohannes, left, and Hameedah Baruwa

Path to chapter's success build on foundation of initiative

Yohannes recalls the stark reality upon her arrival at UCalgary Law in 2020 – amidst the challenges of COVID-19, she was one of only three Black students in her first-year cohort and one of six in the entire faculty. The notion of a national recognition for their chapter seemed inconceivable then. However, fast forward four years, and the UCalgary BLSA stands proud, showcasing a 600% growth, and a dedication to breaking down barriers for Black student applicants and nurturing an empowering environment for current students. 

The path to success for the BLSA at UCalgary was not by mere chance; it was built on a foundation of strong initiative. Established in 2018, the chapter has diligently worked to create community engagement, academic support, and professional development. In 2021, Keshia Holloman-Dawson, JD’22 in collaboration with the faculty, spearheaded the launch of the Black Student Equitable Admissions Process (BSEAP), that has been instrumental in attracting aspiring Black law students, with over 77% of current students being the first in their family to pursue a law degree. 

BLSA members

Members of UCalgary Law's Black Law Students' Association.

Innovative programing and dedication keys to success

Today, the UCalgary BLSA boasts a membership of 32 individuals. Despite being smaller in size compared to their east coast counterparts, their impact speaks volumes. The chapter’s proactive approach to social media engagement, with an Instagram following surpassing 1,400, and their efforts to establish partnerships with law firms in Calgary demonstrate a commitment to both professional growth and community service. 

BLSA Canada commended the chapter for its innovative programming and unwavering dedication to its members and communities. Baruwa emphasizes that the award is a testament to the exceptionalism of every Black student at UCalgary Law, dispelling narratives of doubt surrounding their achievements. 

BLSA with Ian Holloway

Members of the Black Law Students' Association with Dean Ian Holloway, far left.

Community and alumni support essential

Yohannes and Baruwa recognize that none of this would have been possible without the generous support of various law firms in Calgary, as well as the instrumental mentorship and guidance of UCalgary Law alumna, Patricia Sealy KC, LLB’98 who has been an incredible supporter of UCalgary’s BLSA chapter.

When asked about her involvement with the BLSA, Sealy remarked:

“Working collaboratively with passionate and incredibly bright students has been a pleasure and a learning opportunity for me. The future for BLSA is a bright one; what they have accomplished in the last three years has been astounding, from networking initiatives, conference attendance, to community presence. Their energy is infectious, and I thoroughly enjoy the mutual mentorship relationships that have resulted in my being involved with the BLSA.” 

Looking ahead, Yohannes envisions UCalgary Law as a beacon of support for future Black students, a place where they can find community and excel academically. It’s a testament to the transformative power of collaboration, determination, and service to a larger cause. 

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