Driven by a personal medical mystery, Shining Student Jayne Asekhauno is on the path to becoming a neurosurgeon.

When she was a baby, Jayne had a convulsion that frightened her parents. “They were really worried, and it was a struggle to travel with me because I was less than one year old,” she says. The doctors recommended a brain scan to determine what caused it. “Luckily everything came out normal,” says Jayne, who learned about the ordeal at the age of 11.

“When my mom told me about it, it was quite shocking, and I definitely found it interesting. And it just made me realize that being a neurosurgeon is something that I want to do.”

This inspires Jayne’s journey as a third-year neuroscience major in pursuit of a Bachelor of Science degree. “I chose the University of Lethbridge because it has an excellent neuroscience program,” says Jayne. She plans to graduate in 2024 and continue with her medical education. Jayne hopes she can unlock the mysteries of the brain and help others who find themselves in a similar situation.

As an International student from Nigeria, Jayne completed some of her studies online, in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She says the University of Lethbridge’s International Centre made her feel welcomed and part of the university community even though she was studying out of the country. When she first came to Canada to study on campus, Jayne found that she didn’t know anyone, apart from a few family members in Calgary. “For me, when I first got to Lethbridge, I was really lonely,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone, and it was really hard for me to make friends because I just didn't know how to put myself out there in a whole new country.”

That all changed when she attended her first University of Lethbridge Black Students’ Association (ULBSA) meeting. Now the President of the ULBSA, Jayne says it has been a place to build connections and get to know other students.

“I was looking for community here,” says Jayne. “I was really encouraged. The Black Students’ Association does feel like a family. I’m really thankful for the club.”

From her own experience, Jayne knows that coming to campus from a different country can be intimidating, which is why she reaches out to people she doesn’t know to make them feel welcome. “The part I enjoy most is meeting new students,” says Jayne. “I’m the kind of person that would just walk up to you and say ‘hello.’ It allows me to meet people when they just come in, who may not have anyone to guide them or help them with the transition to a new country.” Jayne says she will invite them to come to the ULBSA meetings and offer her contact information to provide a connection.

“That whole process makes me happy because I feel like somehow, I’ve done something,” she says. “It might be small, they might not come, they might not reach out, but they have it if they want to.”

The ULBSA, formerly the University of Lethbridge African Caribbean Association, was recently given a name refresh in order to demonstrate its commitment to inclusion. They wanted to ensure anyone with Black heritage felt comfortable to join. Jayne says the name change, in addition to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, has had an impact on the club, noting it has been a challenge to bring people together. She hopes students will connect during the bi-weekly club meetings, through social media and by attending the ULBSA’s events and activities.

There are two main events planned by the ULBSA in honour of Black History Month – Afro Print Revival Day on February 10 and the Black Excellence Gala on March 4. Originally scheduled during Reading Week, the date of the gala has been updated to allow more students the chance to attend and celebrate. In response to concerns that the new date doesn’t fall during Black History Month, Jayne says:

“You can celebrate being Black any month.”

In recognition of Black History Month, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team is asking three questions:

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a month that is set aside for us to celebrate the Black community. We get to celebrate our culture and our accomplishments. We get to celebrate our traditions and even our struggles.

What does authentic Black inclusion look like?

Authentic Black inclusion is giving Black individuals a seat at the table with the mindset that diversity makes a group stronger, not weaker.

What do you want people to know about you and your journey?

I would like people to know that being an international student is definitely not the easiest thing. But the structures that are set up to help international students succeed are extremely important and I see those structures in the University of Lethbridge. During COVID, I spent one year in Nigeria… and the International Centre was so helpful. They were encouraging, they would call, they would send emails just to check in. They wrote a letter to support my application and they made me feel like I was a part of the community although I wasn't here. So, I just want everyone to understand the importance of having that centre in universities and the amount of work that they put in. It's something to acknowledge.

The ULBSA has two main events planned for Black History Month.

Afro Print Revival Day – Friday, February 10 from 4-6 p.m. in L1060.
Everyone is invited to wear afro prints, enjoy food and music, and get to know the ULBSA community.

Black Excellence Gala – Saturday, March 4 at the Multicultural Centre.
This is a Black Tie event – wear black, white or silver. The red-carpet arrivals begin at 4:00 p.m. Tickets are available here.

Black History Month celebrates the resiliency, flourishing, and determination to work towards a more equitable, inclusive and diverse country. The University of Lethbridge celebrates Black History Month: Building a Culture of Authentic Black Inclusion: Moving from resistance to change. Learn more about what Black History Month means, why we celebrate, ways to get involved and access learning resources.