Congratulations to Karine Coen-Sanchez and Marthe Foka: Pioneers of Black Mentorship at the University of Ottawa

Faculty of Social Sciences
School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies
Equity, diversity and inclusion
Black community
Group of students
As inclusion and equity become paramount issues within educational institutions, the University of Ottawa stands out with the launch of a revolutionary initiative: the Black Student Mentorship Program (BMP).

Designed by Karine Coen-Sanchez (Faculty of Social Sciences) and Marthe Foka (Faculty of Education), both doctoral candidates at the University of Ottawa, this program serves as a beacon of innovation and support, specifically dedicated to the black student community to help them overcome systemic challenges and reach their full potential.

The BMP emerged from a disturbing but necessary observation: academic institutions, heirs to colonial structures, often maintain, knowingly or unknowingly, barriers to the advancement of minorities. Personally affected by these obstacles, Karine highlights that even having grown up in Canada, she often felt disconnected from conventional academic services. This reality is especially striking for those like Marthe, who arrived in 2017 and encountered a complex and unwelcoming educational system.

Aware of the difficulties faced by black students, often marginalized, they took the initiative to create a space dedicated to discussing these experiences and combating exclusion. Their goal? To establish a program that not only meets academic needs but also the professional expectations of black students, by offering tailored and personalized support. This support is manifested through seminars on interview techniques, advice on professional opportunities in Ottawa, and personalized guidance that enriches the university experience.

Beyond academic support, the BMP is committed to organizing cultural and community events that strengthen bonds among students and provide a platform to celebrate and promote diversity. These initiatives help build a sense of belonging and a strong community within the university, essential for student well-being and success.

The founders of the BMP, through their leadership, not only encourage students to overcome challenges but also cultivate leadership skills among them, preparing the next generation of enlightened and inclusive leaders. They envision a future where the program not only addresses immediate needs but also contributes sustainably to improving the educational system to be more inclusive and equitable.

The BMP at the University of Ottawa represents more than just a mentorship program; it is a striking example of what commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion can achieve in higher education. Karine and Marthe have created a model that will hopefully inspire other institutions to implement similar measures to support their marginalized student communities. Their hard work and dedication to making the University of Ottawa a welcoming place for learning for everyone deserve recognition and celebration.

Thanks to leaders like them and innovative programs like the BMP, Black History Month can transform into a constant and enriching presence, ensuring that every black student has the opportunity to shine and succeed in an environment that truly values diversity and inclusion.

To learn more, please contact the BMP at [email protected] and follow them on Instagram and X