Antoine-Samuel Mauffette Alavo understands the power of a university education, but he is also a champion of experiential learning. He will lean heavily on both in his role as McGill’s inaugural Black Student Affairs Liaison.
In line with McGill’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism, the University created the Black Liaison position. Mauffette Alavo’s mandate is to ensure that McGill’s Black students are supported and that their concerns and needs are communicated with McGill’s senior leadership in a timely and effective manner that is centred on their success and wellness.
“It’s classic liaison work – I will facilitate two-way communication,” says Mauffette Alavo via Zoom. “I am to be the voice for Black students, and I will communicate their concerns to administration. Then I will report back to them with answers and concrete results. Or, I can help them if they want to bring forward investigations or start processes.”
Working within the Equity Team within the Office of the Provost & Vice-Principal (Academic), Mauffette Alavo will collaborate with faculties and key university offices – such as Student Services, Enrolment Services, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and Teaching and Learning Services – on relevant initiatives, particularly those related action items within McGill’s Action Plan to Address Anti-Black Racism.
Wealth of experience
The Montreal native comes into his new position, which began officially on January 11, with wealth of experience.
Mauffette Alavo knows firsthand what life is like for Black university students, having earned his BA (double major in Political Science and International Development Studies) from McGill in 2007, and a Masters in Global Studies from Université de Montréal in 2011.
But he’s also spent eight years advocating on behalf of McGill students, first as the Student Liaison with the Arts Internship Office, and most recently as the Field Studies Internship Officer in the Faculty of Science. He knows how to navigate University processes and who to talk to when problems arise.
“When I was working in Arts, people would naturally come to me looking for help in securing funding for an internship. But they also came to me to discuss finances, visas, all sorts of things,” says Mauffette Alavo. “I was referring them to the right people and the proper channels.”
“I’ve also had to deal with a few crises, like [students experiencing] discrimination abroad. In my role as Student Liaison, a big part of my role is say ‘OK, something happened, this is what we have to do.’”
“I understand how important it is for students to have a person with whom they can confide one-on-one,” he says.
Strengthening links between McGill and Montreal’s Black community
While pursuing his BA at McGill, Mauffette Alavo himself benefitted from internships that helped him work in Peru and Brazil. The internships “changed my life,” he says, and he is determined to have similar opportunities for McGill’s Black students.
One of his goals is to establish funded internships within Montreal’s Black community – a situation that would benefit students, faculties and the larger community.
“I want Black students who come to McGill to have access to long-term funding,” says Mauffette Alavo. “This will help increase enrolment of Black students,” he says.
Mauffette Alavo also wants to promote McGill as a viable option for Black Montrealers. This includes helping to strengthen the links between McGill student groups and the local community, and “reaching out to underserved communities like CEGEP Ahuntsic and Montreal North high schools.”
Building upon success
Not even a month into his new job, Mauffette Alavo is aiming high, hoping to build on the successes he helped nurture in his days in the Arts Internship Office. “Sometimes, two or three years after we helped a student get an award or funding, they would become a Rhodes Scholar, or get into Yale Law,” he says with a smile. “We see Black excellence all the time in our alumni. It’s inspiring.”
But for now, he wants McGill’s Black student body to know he is their go-to person.
“I understand what students are going through and how they feel – depending on the period of the year, the period of their studies, and what their goals are,” says Mauffette Alavo. “I was there, with the same hopes and aspirations. And then, I also saw the possibilities that are there after graduation.”
“I will support our students’ success and help them get to where they want to be.”