Raisa Afrida (BMgt ’18) speaks articulately and with passion. Her tone, although warm, is intense — the sort of voice that carries the resonance of someone who is deeply kind but has endured much; a person who despite facing many challenges, is not jaded.
As a new Canadian, Raisa was subject to racial discrimination and marginalization, and she’s very candid about the fact that racial prejudice is still an issue in our society.
“There are people who believe that immigrants are takers — that we don’t contribute to society, but rather draw from it. Changing that perspective in others is incredibly difficult,” says Raisa, an immigrant from Bangladesh who was among the first group of graduates from the Dhillon School of Business in May 2018.
When the University of Lethbridge announced the Faculty of Management would be transforming thanks to a $10-million gift from entrepreneur Navjeet (Bob) Dhillon, Raisa’s whole perspective on her education and future was also transformed.
Dhillon is a first-generation Sikh immigrant who built a TSX-traded capital corporation from the ground up. He says the gift is his way of giving back, and chose uLethbridge as the recipient, calling the school “a world-class university the world needs to discover.”
Raisa, who attended the U of L Calgary campus, says the newly named Dhillon School of Business is a game changer for immigrant students from all over the world.
“Here’s an immigrant who is not only greatly successful, but giving back in great ways too,” she says. “The name of the school alone changes the conversation. It opened the door to discussing campus diversity. My professors gave me the platform to talk about it. One of the things I like most about the Calgary campus is that classes are small, so students can really be heard.”
The Dhillon School of Business ignited Raisa’s passion for social responsibility in education, and she plans to devote her professional life to promoting inclusivity in post-secondary education.
“Bob Dhillon is an inspiration,” says Raisa. “When I met him he was so kind and generous. It got me thinking, if he can do what he did, what am I capable of accomplishing?”