Nicole Agyei-Odame on bringing her lived experiences to role on the Board of Governors

A portrait of Nicole Agyei-Odame

Staff member Nicole Agyei-Odame shares her experience of serving on McMaster's Board of Governors (Photo by Georgia Kirkos/McMaster University).

In March 2023, Nicole Agyei-Odame, undergraduate recruitment & academic advisor (international), was voted to the Board of Governors.

Nearly a year on, we caught up with Nicole to talk about her time on the Board, what it means to her, and why she encourages others to apply.

Why did you want to be on the Board?

Every few months I aspire to try something new that reignites my imposter syndrome. Most times it’s out of curiosity to better understand what is happening in spaces that differ from my everyday role or interests. In this case, it was exploring the role of becoming a board member at McMaster University to learn more about internal and external affairs.

I was also inspired by my previous colleague Liz Way, who served on the board in the past and spoke highly of her experience with learning about how important university decisions are made and making strong networking connections.

Now that I have been elected, I have achieved another instance of overcoming the pleasantly uncomfortable feeling of imposter syndrome and am reminded of the importance of my voice and presence in these spaces.

What is your role on the Board of Governors?

I have been elected as a Non-Teaching Staff board member for a three-year term (2023 – 2026). The role requires attending meetings to discuss various decisions to be made for the university, listen to, and provide feedback on various projects, policies, tasks and reports taken on by different sectors.

As these decisions impact students, staff faculty, academics, university reputation, research, and so on, it is important to have a diverse group provide perspectives on the topics.

The board is made up of appointed and elected internal and external members who can provide insight into decisions based on their professional, scholarly, and/or lived experiences.

What can you share about the work you have done on the Board so far?

There are 5 meetings for the 2023–2024 year. As my term has just begun, I have attended two official meetings to date. Every meeting is a collection of different ongoing reports and projects – some of which are confidential. However, open session materials can be found on the University Secretariat website.

Per the open session materials, previous topics discussed included the 2023 Equity and Inclusion Annual report, the status of the university’s financial state, and the use of generative artificial intelligence and its place at the university.

What’s in store for the rest of your term on the Board?

I hope to have more opportunities to provide my perspective on topics I am passionate about. This includes our international student population and their relationships to cultural, academic, and professional resources on campus.

Through my capacity as an academic advisor, I look forward to speaking to decisions that may affect all students – especially in the Social Sciences – with learning, research opportunities, and future goals.

From an equity perspective, I look forward to working with members of the board to continue creating a more inclusive and vibrant campus while using my lived experiences as a young, Black, woman staff member to contribute to change.

Finally, I hope my experience will encourage future applicants to overcome hesitancy and take up space in rooms where important discussions and decisions are influenced and made.

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