The Power of Giving Back

Making a Lasting Impact

Victoria Chukwuma, Comm’23, was born in Nigeria. When she was 10, her parents moved the family to Canada, and they eventually settled in Brampton, Ont. To this day, Victoria is amazed at everything her mom and dad did for her and her brother and two sisters. “I’m in awe of how hard they had to work to get us to where we are today.”

It was her dad who spurred her interest in commerce. He studied business in Nigeria “and was always analyzing situations using a business perspective,” she says. Though Victoria considered attending schools closer to home in Toronto, she decided to accept Smith’s offer and come to Kingston—a decision made financially easier by receiving donor and class-funded student awards. She aims to work in finance after graduation.

No matter where her career takes her, Victoria has already made a big impact at Smith. Last year, she cofounded the Smith Black Business Association (SBBA). The organization aims to take down barriers that get in the way of Black people having prosperous business careers while also promoting professional development and being a safe space for Black students.

Getting the Smith Black Business Association off the ground was not easy, but Victoria (who is its co-chair) felt it had to be done. Even before the murder of George Floyd last May, she wondered why there was no Black business organization at Smith. Her commitment only grew after Floyd’s murder and the subsequent launch of the Stolen by Smith Instagram page. After that, she recalls, “I had a lot of people asking me questions. I felt like I was speaking for every single Black person. I thought, now we had to launch.”

The SBBA held a number of virtual events this past year and it received significant recognition. It was named the Commerce Society’s “Committee of the Year” for 2020-2021, won “Event of the Year” for its taster event, “Exploring Allyship: The Power of Change”, and received the Queen’s Alma Mater Society’s “New Club of the Year” award. Victoria is looking forward to building on that momentum. Among her aims: to get more alumni involved in the SBBA and to develop a mentorship program.

“Once I leave Smith, I’m excited to see how it grows,” she says, adding: “Everyone has their way of protesting; this has been my way of fighting for Black lives.

Victoria Chukwuma“I had a lot of people asking me questions. I felt like I was speaking for every single Black person.”
Joel Vidad“My hope is to allow new students to feel represented...that they are not alone dealing with equity issues.”

A Commitment to Student Success

Joel Vidad, Comm’23, grew up in a Toronto apartment complex to parents who moved to Canada from the Philippines. Many of his neighbours were immigrants, and he remembers the strong sense of community around him. It’s a feeling he takes with him wherever he goes—including to Smith.

“Every year, I meet new Canadians within my school, and me being a Canadian-born citizen, I cannot imagine the sacrifices that were made in pursuit of becoming Canadian,” he says. “I feel it’s my role to foster belongingness so that everyone can both support and be supported by each other.”

At Smith, that has meant getting involved in organizations that promote community. Last year, Joel joined the Queen’s Student Diversity Project, a student-led group that provides a safe space for Queen’s students and encourages equity on campus. As the group’s project manager, Joel plans events that educate more students about diversity and inclusion. He’s also the external events co-ordinator at Q+, which empowers LGBTQ2S+ students at Queen’s, and he’s the education co-ordinator at the Smith Global Network.

In some ways, Joel is paying forward to today’s students the support he has received from school alumni. That’s because Joel is a recipient of the Commerce 1988 Honorary Award, created by the Commerce Class of ’88 to celebrate their 25th reunion. The award also honours the memory of classmates who’ve passed away: Chris Verney, Margaret Philp, Brian Pearson and Carolyn Anne Trausch. The award has supported 10 students since its inception in 2013 and is No. 5 on Smith’s Top 20 class endowments (as of April 2021). At almost $1 million, it aligns with Smith’s EDII Strategic Action Plan goal of moving five class endowed funds past the $1-million mark to promote socio-economic inclusion at Smith.

Joel, who is working toward a career in accounting, is grateful for the award and appreciates knowing that alumni are helping today’s students succeed. It’s another reason he’s committed to improving the student experience through organizations like Q+ and the Queen’s Student Diversity Project.

“I feel that these groups allow current and future Smith students to be proud of their identity and to feel that they belong,” he says. “My hope is to allow new students to feel represented in the student body, that they are not alone dealing with equity issues, and to be represented in the business world after graduation.”