Agents of Change Student Executives, Amy Karpenko and Nivedita “Nivi” Varagunan
London, ON – On May 25th, 2020, George Floyd, a 46 year-old Black man, was killed by a white police officer during an arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit bill in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This tragic event evoked an immediate response from Brescia students, who felt the urgency to stand up against all acts of racism and social injustice that they felt were happening on campus.
Following this event, and the London Black Lives Matter rally, several students reached out to senior leadership at Brescia, asking for change on campus. It was through these calls that Brescia’s Special Advisor to Principal, Diversity and Inclusion, Lissette Ochoa, and three student leaders, decided to establish Agents of Change at Brescia. This important new University program was designed to raise awareness of racism on campus, while hosting programs and activities to amplify the voices of students of colour at Brescia.
“Since our founding at Brescia in 1919, the Ursuline Sisters always encouraged students to use their voices to make a difference and to lead,” says Lissette Ochoa. “The Ursulines were in many ways activists themselves. And, I believe that anyone can be an activist. You don’t have to have be an influencer or celebrity – you simply have to have a voice, and be willing to advocate for others. With Agents of Change, we are asking our students to find an agent of change within themselves and use their voices to take a leading role in helping to raise awareness of systemic racism, while amplifying the voices of those marginalized.”
In May 2020, the Agents of Change began their recruitment process, before officially launching in June 2020. They currently have 20 members, including students, faculty and staff and three student executives. The student executives include: Hannah Hodder, a third-year Criminal Justice student who was co-organizer of the Black Lives Matter Woodstock Rally; Amy Karpenko, a fourth-year Health Sciences and Nutrition & Families student who is a stalwart ally encouraging others to “talk the talk and walk the walk” and Nivedita “Nivi” Varagunan, a second-year Foods and Nutrition student, active on the Brescia University College Students’ Council (BUCSC) and a passionate online advocate.
Since launching in June, the agents have hosted one “Check Your Privilege” workshop, which brought 35 students, faculty, staff and community members to campus. This workshop, facilitated by the three senior student executives, gave the opportunity for participants to learn about privilege, then proceed to “check themselves” in terms of racial privilege in their lives. The workshop will now be a mainstay on campus, being offered three times a year.
The Check Your Privilege workshop is only the first initiative of many, with additional racial training seminars and events planned in the near future. The Agents will also support conversations and work being done with the King’s/Brescia Joint Principals’ Anti-Racism Working Group.
Reflecting on the Agents of Change and its role at Brescia, student executive Nivi shares, “I am excited to have a part in the future of Brescia and work towards an inclusive and diverse environment for everyone!”
For more information regarding Agents of Change, please visit: https://www.brescia.uwo.ca/communications/media_relations/media_releases/2020/agents_of_change.php. For further information about the King’s/Brescia Joint Principals’ Anti-Racism Working Group, visit: https://www.kings.uwo.ca/about-kings/office-of-the-principal/kings-brescia-joint-principals-anti-racism-working-group/.
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Brescia University College, Canada’s women’s university college, is affiliated with Western University. The 1,600 women registered as either full- or part-time students at Brescia study a wide variety of subjects in the Schools of Behavioural & Social Sciences, Food & Nutritional Sciences, Humanities and Leadership & Social Change in an empowering, compassionate, student-centred and invigorating environment. Degrees are granted by Western. The Catholic University College welcomes students from all backgrounds and values diversity. For more current and archived news, a listing of faculty experts, and photos please visit our Online Media Room, at www.brescia.uwo.ca/communications/media_relations