Dr. Yolande Bouka, Surulola Eke and Olusola Ogunnubi Stéfanie von Hlatky, Dr. Stéphanie Martel, Jonathon, Andrew Grant

Front (L-R): Yolande Bouka, Surulola Eke, Olusola Ogunnubi

Middle (L-R): Stéfanie von Hlatky, Stéphanie Martel, Jonathon Rose

Back: Andrew Grant   

Neil Grenade (left) and Adekunle Omoboye (right).

Neil Grenade (left) and Adekunle Omoboye (right).

Juliane Okot Bitek (left) and Dr. Kristin Moriah (right).

Juliane Okot Bitek (left) and Kristin Moriah (right).

L-R: Taylor Cenac, Juliane Okot Bitek, Sailaja V. Krishnamurti

L-R: Taylor Cenac, Juliane Okot Bitek, Sailaja V. Krishnamurti

Trinda Penniston (left) and Mayah Palmer (right).

Trinda Penniston (left) and Mayah Palmer (right).

The true meaning of mentorship

The inaugural Faculty of Arts and Science Black Scholars Excellence in Mentorship Awards were awarded at a recent event at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

This award is designed to acknowledge and reward exceptional examples of peer-to-peer mentorship, both formal and informal. The values and principles of the award are derived from recommendations in the, FAS Strategic Plan, PICRDI Report, and reaffirmed through the Scarborough Charter. The creation of this award came from our new Associate Dean of Research, Stéfanie von Htlaky who was eager to finally see some movement on this.

“Originally, we had planned for 10 awards but once we saw how many nominations came in, we worked with our colleague James Fraser, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies to add to the funding available for this award,” explains Elliot Chapple, Director of EDII for FAS. “I say this to highlight how rich and deep these mentoring networks and supports are and how valuable they have been for the people involved in them. That is what we are here to celebrate.”

The awards recognize not just faculty contributions but also the contributions of graduate students, post-doctoral students, and staff. Chapple says that mentorship happens across all lines and all members of the community contribute in meaningful ways.

Fifteen awards were handed out - five graduate/postdoctoral fellows, seven faculty members, two staff members, and one mentorship group:

Graduate students/postdocs

Trinda Penniston - Trinda had multiple nominations that outlined her many accomplishments and call her a “trailblazing colleague” who has created a supportive and comfortable environment in her mentoring relationships with others as part of her role as a graduate student mentor with the Association of Graduate Students in psychology.

Neil Grenade - Neil’s nominators spoke of how he has taken on a leadership role in his lab and frequently mentors undergrad and other students but also spoke of how much they, as his co-advisor’s, learned from Neil. His keen insight into the importance of making your work available to the community through knowledge translation was a learning for them.

Olusola Ogunnubi - A PhD student in political studies, his strong nomination letter highlights “his passion to mentor young and aspiring students.” Specifically, he has supported other Black students like himself through academic and editorial assistance when they are attempting to publish their research in scholarly journals and refereed collections of book chapters as well as providing virtual and in-person mentorship advice through various platforms on scholarship and external funding applications to support their studies.  

Adekunle Omoboye - Adekunle is a PhD student in Chemistry and works with the Student Community Relations office as a Student Ambassador. Adekunle is an outstanding student leader and mentor to not only students living off-campus but his fellow Student Ambassadors. He has naturally taken a mentorship role with new Student Ambassadors, looking out for them while we are out in the community and providing positive feedback and contributions to help them succeed in their roles.  

Surulola Eke - Dr. Eke is Peacock Postdoctoral Fellow and Adjunct Assistant Professor in Political Studies. His nominator wrote movingly of how his own academic success is linked to the mentorship they both engaged in. “Dr. Eke taught me during my undergraduate studies. He made time to guide me on how best to tackle my academic challenges including explaining theoretical concepts that I struggled with and encouraging myself and my friends to form a study group. He also gave me the opportunity to engage with some of his draft academic publications and often asked for my critical feedback.”  

Faculty members   

Katherine McKittrick - Dr. McKittrick is a professor of Gender Studies and Black Studies and a Canada Research Chair in Black Studies. Over the last 18 years, she has played an incredibly important role in mentoring Black faculty, staff, and students and is the first person that many people go to for advice and support when navigating the institution. Her nominator writes: “Over the years, I’ve benefited from Katherine’s generosity. She’s been generous with her time and with dispensing advice. Through Katherine, I’ve learned that some storms are worth weathering and when to put on boxing gloves to fight for change.”   

Vanessa Thompson – Dr. Thompson is an assistant professor of Black Studies and distinguished professor of Black Studies and Social Justice. She has brought an abundance of experience with social justice, activism, and community building to her work in building Black Studies at Queen’s and has mentored faculty and staff with this knowledge.    

Yolande Bouka - An assistant professor in the Department of Political Studies, her nominators write: “In terms of specific contributions that have made positive impacts, there are too many to describe in detail, but I will first and foremost note her convening of a writing group and retreat for early career Black women scholars, with the aim of holding space for these women, some of whom struggled with the pandemic, the emotional demands of the Movement for Black Lives, other care responsibilities, and the balancing act of doing academia in a time of intersecting crises.”   

Juliane Okot Bitek – Dr. Okot is an assistant professor of Black Studies and Gender Studies, with a joint appointment in English and Creative Writing. She is a poet, creative writing teacher, and an incredible mentor to students, staff, and colleagues and has made mentoring connections with other new racialized faculty in Black Studies, Gender Studies, and English, and has consistently mentored and advocated for Black students and staff.   

Daniel McNeil – Dr. McNeil is the Black Studies Program Director, Professor, and Queen’s National Scholar Chair in Black Studies.  Several former students wrote passionately about what his mentorship meant for them: “What makes Dr. McNeil an outstanding mentor is his willingness to take risks and his tenacity to work with difficulty. Equally commendable are his openness to dreams and goals of his mentees—never superimposing his academic vision onto others.”   

Kristin Moriah – Dr. Moriah is Assistant Professor in the Department of English. Her nominators write: “Working with Dr. Moriah has been a privilege because of her approach to mentorship. In our meetings, I am always treated as a colleague: Dr. Moriah makes me feel that my ideas matter and she is always available for brief questions or longer discussions about the work at hand.”   

Elisah Bisung – Dr. Bisung is an assistant professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. His nominators write: “In the six years since he arrived at Queen’s, Dr. Bisung has established himself as a highly respected mentor, teacher and supervisor immersed in networks of mutually supportive relationships that extend far beyond the academic community.”   


Mayah Palmer - According to her nominators “Mayah embodies the spirit of this award, working seemingly tirelessly, formally and informally, to make spaces around her safer and more inclusive for others. Mayah brings forth creative, important, and stimulating topics to lab meetings. She has introduced important ways of thinking in research and has encouraged me to assess the ethics of various types of psychological research."   

Taylor Cenac - Taylor is the former Black Studies Program Assistant, a role she had from October 2021 to January 2023. As the first staff person to be dedicated to the new Black Studies program, Taylor played a critical role in welcoming, onboarding, supporting new BLCK faculty members and predocs, walking them through Queen’s systems and processes, and connecting them to each other, to the department/university, and to the broader community. In this role, she worked closely with Gender Studies staff and providing mentorship for new and casual staff in that area.   

Group award

Black feminist Interludes - Black Feminist Interludes members are faculty members from across campus: Dr. Okot Bitek (GNDS/ENGL faculty member), Dr. Beauchemin (BLCK post-doctoral fellow), Dr. McKittrick (GNDS/BLCK faculty member), Dr. Grace Adenyi-Ogunyankin (GNDS/BLCK/GPPL faculty member), Dr. Moriah (ENGL faculty member), Dr. Bouka (POLS faculty member), Dr. Kesha Fevrier (BLCK/GPPL faculty member), Dr. Jennifer Leath (BLCK/RELS faculty member), Dr. Thompson (BLCK faculty member), Dr. Alanna Butler (EDU faculty member), and Dr. Chloe Savoie-Bernard (FREN faculty member).