Students sitting around a table talking

Campus initiative brings Black students and mentors together

Patricia Lonergan

The University of Toronto Mississauga is bringing together Black students, faculty and staff to help build community and showcase Black excellence in academia and on campus.

Black Table Talks, which takes place Thursday, March 5, is an opportunity for participants to share experiences, network and share stories about overcoming adversity academically, personally and professionally.

The event is intended to support Black students and let them know they have a community here, says Nythalah Baker, UTM’s director of equity, diversity and inclusion. “This is about acknowledging that race-based discrimination still happens,” Baker continues, adding this will show students there are supports on campus while helping to build a “sense of belonging” and “reduce isolation.”

Heather Hines, director of undergraduate programs and student services at the Department of Management, has helped organize the upcoming event. She says she doesn’t remember seeing a lot of people that looked like her when she was in school, noting she earned three degrees and never had a Black professor.

Black Table Talks will give today’s students an opportunity to network and meet Black faculty and staff at UTM. Students will move between tables during four rounds and meet with faculty and staff from various units. While there will be informal guiding questions, Hines says the discussions will ultimately be determined by students. For example, if a student wants to become a professor, there will be people there to show it’s possible and talk about what it took to achieve their goals, Hines explains.

Hines wants students to know there are people on campus who acknowledge and understand the challenges some of them have overcome to be here, and that there are people committed to creating a safe space to learn, develop, grow and thrive. “People at this institution are rooting for them,” she says, adding it’s her hope that students leave feeling empowered.

This is the first year Black Table Talks has been held on campus. The event expands on what other groups, including Connections and Conversations, are doing to support UTM’s Black community.

Response to the event has been positive, Baker says, noting there are 30 registered participants. While registration is now closed, students can still attend the event.

Black Table Talks takes place 12-2 p.m. in the UTM Room (Davis building, 3141) on Thursday, March 5.