This article discusses depression and may be triggering for some readers. The Canadian Mental Health Association Crisis Line can be reached at 1-800-875-6213.
This year, McGill’s inaugural McCall MacBain Scholarship was awarded to 20 students nationally. Queen’s University’s Nicole Osayandè, CompSci ’21, was among the recipients.
The scholarship allows candidates who are interested in graduate and professional degrees to attend select fully-funded programs at McGill University. Its focus is to cultivate leadership potential and entrepreneurial spirit within the scholars.
Osayandè will be studying in the Biological and Biomedical Engineering Master’s program.
“Even if I didn’t get the scholarship, I would do the [McCall MacBain Scholarship] interview process all over again.” Osayandè said in an interview with The Journal. “I made some amazing friendships and met incredible people.”
Osayandè said the interview process had a focus on community and personal development.
“Not only did the scholarship program emphasize community, both local and regional, they emphasized the importance of leadership […] which is unlike many other scholarships I have applied to that only care about how successful you will be at the institution,” Osayandè said.
The scholarship committee was looking to invest in and enrich people, which made applying a highly positive experience, she explained.
As the founder of Queen’s Student Diversity Project (QSDP), Osayandè has been heavily involved in equity work at Queen’s. QSDP aims to diversify the university’s undergraduate applicant pool.
Osayandè formed QSDP in October of 2017 during her first month as a student at Queen’s. Her drive to create the club stemmed from the lack of diversity she came to find at the university.
“I thought there would be many people of colour. But that was not really the case, as there were only a few students of colour,” Osayandè said.
QSDP has grown significantly during Osayandè’s time at Queen’s.
“This is by far my biggest legacy project, uniting students based on their differences while holding the University accountable.”
Osayandè’s accomplishments haven’t come without hurdles. Despite maintaining a high GPA in her third and fourth years, she remembers the challenges endured.
“I am a high-functioning individual with clinical depression, and I’ve always felt one step behind people.” Osayandè said. “At the end of third year, I was so close to calling it quits, but the pandemic allowed for me to take a breath of fresh air.”
Osayandè believes it’s important for students to have access to doctors who understand the communities they’re working with.
“I ended up being diagnosed with depression from a Black doctor. The doctor mentioned how common it is for therapists to overlook depression, especially in Black girls who attend predominantly white institutions,” Osayandè said.
“People don’t realize that depression takes many forms, and when others diminish or exaggerate someone’s condition, that can cause a lot of harm.”
Osayandè’s depression affected her McCall MacBain application. However, with her mother’s encouragement and support, she regained her confidence and applied for the scholarship.
Osayandè’s next goal in her education is to pursue a support system for students from minority groups beginning their studies at predominantly white institutions. She intends to provide an identity-specific approach as opposed to grouping all people of colour together under one term: BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour).
“We can all connect on trauma, but those traumas are very different,” she said. “For example, I am a settler, so I can empathize with an Indigenous person, but I cannot claim I understand what it means to be Indigenous.”
Osayandè wants this next phase of work to be pervasive, aimed towards improving mental health supports and university hiring. She also hopes to one day establish scholarships of her own.
“When I become financially able, I want to create scholarships not based on merit. I want scholarships to give students money because they simply want to go to school,” Osayandè said.
“We exclude a lot of populations when we don’t provide resources for people to go to school for free without being the best of the best […] Academic intelligence does not equate to excellence in general.”
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