Atlantic universities join forces to attract Indigenous, Black students to business

A new program at universities across Atlantic Canada seeks to attract more Indigenous and Black students to business programs in an effort to diversify boardrooms across the country.

Atlantic Promise Scholars Initiative includes 11 universities in P.E.I., N.S., N.B., and N.L.

UPEI is one of 10 universities in Atlantic Canada signed onto the program that seeks to attract Indigenous and Black students to business programs. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

A new program at universities across Atlantic Canada seeks to attract more Indigenous and Black students to business programs in an effort to diversify boardrooms across the country.

The Atlantic Promise Scholars Initiative includes 11 universities from the four Atlantic provinces and provides financial aid and other supports to Indigenous and Black students.

Tarek Mady, the interim dean of the faculty of business at the University of Prince Edward Island, said the program is going to make a "huge difference."

"This will benefit students individually, that's the short-term effect," said Mady. 

"But we're hoping that in the long run, it will actually contribute to the mandate of creating a much more diverse business community."

The initiative started at Dalhousie University in Halifax in March 2020, but was expanded this spring to include business schools across the region.

The universities taking part in the initiative are:

  • Acadia University in Nova Scotia.
  • Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia.
  • Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia.
  • Memorial University of Newfoundland.
  • Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.
  • Mount Saint Vincent University in Nova Scotia.
  • Saint Mary's University in Nova Scotia.
  • St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
  • Université de Moncton in New Brunswick.
  • University of New Brunswick.
  • University of Prince Edward Island.

The program has partnered with Atlantic Business Magazine to encourage top CEOs and leaders in the business community to donate to the program at the university of their choice.

Mady said each individual school will determine what programs or supports are put in place, such as scholarships.

He said at UPEI, a consultation process with leaders in the Black and Indigenous communities is underway to determine the specific needs of Island students.

"We want to give the consultation process as much time as possible to truly develop programs that are impactful," he said, adding that the programs may not be in place by this fall.

Kim Brooks, the dean of the faculty of management at Dalhousie University, said the idea for the program came from students, against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"The students I was meeting with really challenged the faculty to do more and do better for our Black and Indigenous students in particular," said Brooks.

 "It was very grassroots. It was about students wanting to see more diversity in the programs."

Every student has a story

Brooks said the initiative at Dalhousie goes beyond financial support and ensures "wrap-around support" for students during their studies and once they graduate.

That includes creating peer networks, connecting students with work terms and providing mentors and role models. She added that the university works closely with each individual student.

"It's assuming that every student comes with their unique history and story and trying to think about how we can adjust what we're doing to meet whatever that need and story is," said Brooks.

Brooks said when Dalhousie started to approach other Atlantic universities to come on board, there wasn't any hesitation.

"It's not about Dalhousie, or [Memorial University], or UPEI having a cohort of their own alumni that we keep close to our chest, it's about saying that every one of these students are going to make a difference in our region," she said.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


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Aly Thomson


Aly Thomson is an award-winning journalist based in Halifax who loves helping the people of her home province tell their stories. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding justice, education and the entertainment industry. You can email her with tips and feedback at