Jan. 26, 2022Print | PDF
In early 2021, fourth-year Economics and Finance student Samuel Oluwalana founded Black Students of Lazaridis (BSOL), a student club within the Lazaridis Students’ Society (LazSoc) at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University. The club was founded to build connection and community amongst Black students at Laurier, and the students have had a successful first year doing just that.
In their first year of operation, BSOL has grown to a membership of 30 members and 12 executives. To be a BSOL member, students need to identify as being Black and be a student at the Lazaridis School at the Waterloo or Brantford campus. In other words, anyone in the Bachelor of Business Administration, Economics, Business Technology Management programs or students pursuing a management option. In the future, the club hopes to open membership to Black graduate students within the Faculty as well. Students can get involved by visiting BlackStudentsOfLazaridis.com to join the mailing list or become a member. The mailing list provides students with access to job opportunities, newsletters and information about upcoming events.
BSOL’s vision statement is:
“Black Students of Lazaridis (BSOL) aims to create an inclusive space where Black students at the Lazaridis School of Business & Economics can connect, learn and share experiences with one another. Through our platform, students can get access to resources and tools to help aid them in their professional and academic careers. BSOL aims to help bridge the gap and create employment opportunities for Black students.”
Upon Oluwalana’s graduation, two new leaders have stepped into the role of co-presidents of the club. Romario Brown, a third-year Economics and Financial Management student, and Laetitia Batcha Toukom, a third-year BBA student specializing in Accounting with a minor in Computer Science.
BSOL has hosted several virtual events, connecting the Black student community within the Lazaridis School, and with external partners and alumni. In the summer of 2021, CPP Investment Board participated in a BSOL-exclusive information session to network with student members, and in the Fall, BSOL hosted a resume workshop in partnership with the Laurier Career Centre, prior to the BSOL Finance Industry Night – a networking and educational event focused on learning about opportunities in the finance industry.
“Through hosting industry nights, like the finance one we had in November 2021, members have been able to meet industry professionals who have since taken them on as mentees,” said Brown. “I think it is imperative to have resources, mentorships and connections available to the Black community at the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics. I am incredibly grateful for the Laurier Alumni Network, which has been very supportive and has helped BSOL develop relationships with successful Black Laurier alumni to serve as mentors to our members and executives. On a personal level, being able to pay it forward, I'm proud to say that through leveraging and sharing my connections within the Capital Markets space, I've been able to help two BSOL members land Investment Banking positions at reputable Canadian banks.”
From the inaugural meeting in March, through the industry night in November, BSOL has seen increasing registration and engagement from the Black student community at the Lazaridis School. Moving forward, BSOL plans to continue to host personal branding workshops and industry nights for other industries such as accounting, marketing, and tech.
We spoke with BSOL’s co-presidents, Romario Brown and Laetitia Batcha Toukom about this past year as a club, and what it means to them to be part of the Black community at the Lazaridis School at Laurier.
I believe that having a club dedicated to supporting Black business students is especially great for networking and mentorship opportunities. Although I haven't even met most of my team in person, I feel I've made more connections with other Black business students in the last year than I did during the semester and a half that I was on campus. I've witnessed members secure great summer internships because of their connections with senior students through the club, and aside from career-related support, I have personally received program and course guidance from older students, which has helped me tremendously.
Before coming to Laurier, I worried that I would not fit in and that there wouldn't be much representation of other Black students at the university. Once I came to Laurier, I quickly realized that many other Black students were on campus and a few Black-run organizations existed. Despite this, I still found it hard to connect and meet other Black students within the Lazaridis School. Through the BSOL community, it means a lot to me that Black students can share cultural similarities, meet other Black students, connect, and share resources.
Being one of the club's co-presidents means a lot to me, especially since it's our first full year in operation. There was no blueprint to rely on, we just had to figure it out as a team. I feel I have a responsibility to make sure that the club is successful this year and that we make a good enough mark so that it can continue to run well into the future. Romario and I want the club to be successful and deliver the value that we envision.
In terms of how it supports my aspirations and values, I'd say that it has allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone and further develop my leadership skills. Since my first year, I've been very involved with multiple clubs and organizations within the Laurier community, however, being co-president of BSOL is nothing like the other positions I've held. I'm grateful for the opportunity and the experience I've gained thus far.
The one thing I hope for this club is continuity. I'll be graduating in 2023 and I hope that the club will continue to grow and thrive after I graduate.
As a co-president of BSOL, it’s so important to me to develop mentor and mentee relationships with members and executives of the club and within Canada's broader corporate Black community.
Despite not being accepted into the co-op stream, I was able to form my own pool of connections, find resources, and develop a whatever-it-takes approach to break into the competitive finance industry as a first-generation Black student. Through these efforts, I was able to gain mentorship from a successful senior Black student within the Lazaridis community. By taking me under his wing, I developed significantly as an individual, a student, and as a candidate for Investment Banking and front office finance roles. Since the beginning of this mentorship –and now friendship – I have attained significant experience in finance roles at well-recognized banks and organizations across North America.
Given the importance this mentorship has played in my growth, academic achievements, and successes within the corporate setting, I feel strongly about the benefits of mentorship and guidance, especially within the Black community.
The nature and responsibilities of this role powerfully align with many of my values and aspirations, allowing me to continue to give back to the Black community. As someone born and raised in Jamaica, I've been fortunate to adopt many principles of Jamaican culture that greatly influence who I am today. A few of the adopted principles revolve around the importance of remaining humble and giving back to your community whenever possible, which I have carried with me from a young age. As a senior student now myself, I'm in the position to share advice, resources, and my connections with other Black students to help them become the best version of themselves and achieve their personal goals. I have learned first-hand the importance of having support, mentorship, and like-minded individuals in your life, which is why I am happy that through BSOL, Black students can access these same supports.
I hope to see more Black students within the Lazaridis School and in leadership positions in clubs.
When I accepted my offer into the BBA program, I had already done a lot of research about the clubs and resources on campus, and I was a bit hesitant because I wasn't sure if there would be many other people who looked like me in my program. I hope that having a club like BSOL on campus will help many other Black high school students considering the Lazaridis School feel like there is representation and space for them to meet, network and build relationships with other Black Lazaridis students as well as take advantage of all the resources and events that come with being a BSOL member.
Our club also gives Black students leadership opportunities in different areas such as finance, accounting, marketing, operations, and tech, which are crucial for employers, and especially valuable for students looking to get into the co-op program or looking for internships, co-ops, and jobs after graduation. I'm glad that our club can provide a step in the right direction to solving these issues.
As a co-president of BSOL, I have made it a personal goal to create on-campus allies for BSOL in an effort to create a more diverse and inclusive experience for Black students. I would love to see BSOL members continue to leverage the many opportunities that have now become available since the spark of the social conversations in 2020. As BSOL continues to grow and members demonstrate what it is like to be a Black student at the Lazaridis School, I hope to increase the awareness of the Black community that exists here. Hopefully, other Black students get inspired to become a fellow golden hawk.