Like an itch that needs scratching, when Hanna Daniel sees something that cries out to be done, she doesn’t regard it as optional.
So when the business student arrived at the University of Alberta and realized there was no campus group for black students, she got down to the business of starting one.
After a fair amount of work overcoming challenges to get the group off the ground, Daniel and her co-founders launched the university’s first Black Students’ Association in 2018 with a growing membership of undergraduate students representing Africa, the Caribbean and North America. It was a safe forum to air shared experiences of racism and discrimination, but most importantly, to foster student development and empower community interaction between students, she says.
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“I think we’ve set it up for success, and the past two years of leadership have been really strong, so I hope it continues forever,” says Daniel.
That was just the beginning of four whirlwind years in a business program that included almost as much voluntary service as time in class. Nothing new for Daniel, who says her most memorable experiences come from outside the classroom.
A 2022 graduate of the University of Alberta’s School of Business, Daniel focused on business economics and law while picking up sociology courses in criminal justice along the way.
During her degree, she served as a court worker for the Elizabeth Fry Society of Edmonton, helping lawyers provide support to individuals going through legal proceedings in adult criminal court who can’t afford legal counsel or don’t have the knowledge to properly navigate the justice system.
“As a visible minority and woman of colour, it’s been clear to me from a young age that we are not all born with the same amount of generational knowledge, wealth and privilege,” said Daniel.
“My criminology courses and placement with Elizabeth Fry highlighted the immense amount of work that needs to be done to make our justice system fair and equitable.”
In a long list of volunteer contributions, Daniel also served as volunteer co-ordinator for the Federation of Black Canadians, served in the university’s ambassador program and represented the Alberta School of Business as a part of the Alberta JDC West team.
She hopes to one day travel overseas to try her hand at development work overseas.
As the daughter of Ethiopian parents, Daniel craves diversity in almost everything she does – of background, experience and opinion.
“I like meeting new people and absorbing different perspectives,” says the Utah native who moved to Edmonton with her family as a young girl.
As an experiential learning teaching assistant with the Alberta School of Business, she helped students learn about various placement opportunities to further their career goals.
“She understands what resonates with students, what appeals to them and what their questions might be,” says Devan West, an experiential learning programs lead with the School of Business.
“Her ability to see things from a big-picture point of view is really phenomenal. She’s fantastic at connecting the dots and making information sing.”
The work Daniel has done for the school will continue to support students for years to come, adds West.
To cap off her degree, Daniel earned a leadership certificate from the School of Business and already has her first job lined up at a Calgary management consulting firm called Accenture.
But in the long run, she aspires to a career beyond Canada’s borders while continuing to scratch that insatiable itch to get things done.
“I would love to volunteer or eventually work internationally, maybe in Africa doing work that uplifts local economies and young people of colour who don’t get the investment they deserve. The impact is what’s most important for me.”
| By Geoff McMaster
Geoff is a reporter with the University of Alberta’s Folio online magazine. The University of Alberta is a Troy Media Editorial Content Provider Partner.
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