Four years ago, Marlee Sansom arrived at the University of King’s College eager to start her university education. Young Sansom from Toronto, Ont., knew one thing for sure when she was applying for university. She wanted to study outside of Ontario. She applied to schools in the Maritimes and in Quebec. After receiving her letter of acceptance to King’s, Sansom was awarded the Dr. Carrie Best Memorial scholarship which was the deciding factor for her. The scholarship honours Dr. Carrie Best who was the second Black publisher in Nova Scotia, an accomplished writer and a tireless human rights activist in Canada. Sansom had also visited King’s where she was able to visualize herself as a student. “I was lucky enough to visit King’s and that helped.” She soon packed her bags and joined the Class of 2022 as a Bachelor of Arts student.
Sansom spent the first two years of her program attending in-person classes. When the pandemic hit, her classes moved to online delivery.
Earlier this month, a more experienced Sansom completed her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Law, Justice & Society and a minor in Contemporary Studies. In the Law, Justice and Society major, Sansom was introduced to the study of law, the Canadian legal system and had the opportunity to examine the role of law in society. In her Contemporary Studies minor, she explored a variety of courses such as Memory and Late Modernity, Science and Culture, and Society, Politics and Literature, to understand the contemporary world. “That was really interesting,” she said of her courses adding that there were many “amazing” people in her Contemporary Studies classes.
“I met such exceptional people. I met my best friends here and I made a lot of connections in Nova Scotia,” Sansom said. “I guess my King’s isn’t the school or isn’t the academic aspect but the more personal social aspect.”
One of Sansom’s highlights at the university was the work she did with the Racialized Students Collective. “We’ve made a lot of moves towards I think creating a lasting presence and the people before us also worked really hard to do that,” she said. She also enjoyed her time in improv. She urges other students to get involved in different clubs and groups. “I think being a small university gives you the opportunity to make an impact on your peers in quite an intimate way,” she added.
While Sansom is thrilled to be celebrating her success and her years at King’s, she does not sugar-coat things. She admits to having a bittersweet experience with some years being particularly challenging. One of her wishes is for King’s to add texts from people like Audre Lorde and bell hooks into the Foundation Year Program (FYP). In FYP students read texts that are considered foundational to Western culture to gain insights into developments considered fundamental to the emergence of the modern world. “I think King’s is a very challenging school if you’re a student of colour…because the curriculum is incredibly white,” Sansom explains. “My hope is that as King’s is trying to diversify the school, that they take a really intense look inwards and [ask]…is this a safe space for BIPOC people?… It’s not just about getting people there… It’s about [asking] is this place safe enough for people to stay and want to stay?” she said.
Sansom is honoured and grateful to have been voted valedictorian of her graduating class. “I want to be able to celebrate my class in a way that doesn’t focus necessarily on academia or academic accomplishments but rather personal accomplishments and truly the accomplishment of graduating at whatever capacity it happened,” she said. Sansom is encouraging her fellow graduates to celebrate their accomplishments saying, “whether it is with a degree you planned on or with a third program you ended up with.”
“I really do believe that the best forms of learning happen when you allow yourself to learn from all the things around you,” Sansom said. For incoming students, she advises, “find your people” adding that focusing on their studies is crucial but it is important to have a circle of support with people going through similar experiences, “and then also people to have fun with.”
“I’m taking a 360,” Sansom said of her after-graduation plans. At King’s, Sansom became involved in the King’s Theatrical Society where she reignited her love for theatre after writing it off when she graduated from a theatre high school. “I loved it. It was student-run, it was very creative,” she said. Sansom just wrapped up the first feature film she has acted in called Bystanders scheduled to premiere in September. “This film came to me and when I got it, I was like that’s my switch,” she said.