Graduated from UTM: June 2018
Degree: Honours Bachelor of Arts
Program(s): Sociology major, Political Science minor, History of Religion minor
Awards & Accolades: Served as Mississauga’s Poet Laureate, won the 3M National Student Fellowship, the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Award, Canada’s Top 20 Under 20 Award, and the YMCA Peace Medal
Current Role: Poet, speaker, writer, performer (https://www.lifeaswali.com/)
Photo Credit: Lane Dorsey
What have you been doing since graduating from UTM?
Wali: Since graduating from UTM, I’ve been building my brand as a writer and poet. I am currently working on two books, both set to be launched in 2022. Prior to COVID, I had the opportunity to tour Canada coast-to-coast as a poet performing my own original pieces, and close out President Barack Obama’s keynote presentation in Toronto with a bespoke poem.
What was your favourite Sociology course taken at UTM?
Wali: My favorite Sociology course at UTM was the Sociology of Masculinity. Professor Jayne Baker taught the class, and was also my professor for Intro to Sociology in first year. I was hesitant about taking the class in the beginning, admittedly, only taking it because I needed to fill a gap in my schedule, but I quickly realized that this was about to be the most important class that I was going to attend in my university career.
As a man, I never thought deeply about the privileges that I have over the women in my life. Being socialized in a patriarchal environment and being largely influenced by superficial men in mainstream media, the world around started to change every lecture I attended. I began to realize that masculinity is so much more than what I was taught by the mainstream media, or by rigid cultural norms that affirmed unhealthy relationships with ourselves, and with others. I hope that my work and my own experience can be encouraging to other men. We need more men to take a step towards understanding what masculinity truly means.
Were you involved in any clubs, teams, or extra-curricular activities while at UTM?
Wali: While at UTM, I served as Mississauga’s Poet Laureate. The position is given to a poet within the community that exemplifies the narrative of our city. I was given the opportunity to perform my poetry at Mississauga Celebration Square, and write pieces which went on to become public art pieces around town. In my senior year, I played on the men’s junior varsity basketball team. Let’s go Eagles!
What tip or suggestion would you like to pass along to current students?
Wali: I’d encourage students to take a chance with the classes they enroll in, to be open-minded about their studies and start with what interests them. Be brave and stay curious. Learn from your experiences and bring them into the academic environment. The Sociology of Masculinity class is just one of the many examples of how we can bridge the gap between academia and personal narrative. When we start with our life experiences and bring them to the classroom, that’s when I believe the best learning occurs. All of us are capable of reading and remembering what’s written in a textbook or a journal article; but understanding it comes from our vested interest or personal experience.
What’s next for you?
Wali: Next up, I’m going to be releasing my two books in 2022! I’m also currently in the process of applying to Master’s programs and continuing my journey in academia! I might even be back at UTM in the near future!
Thanks Wali, we wish you all the best!