New graduate Kabba Gizaw pursued excellence in both academics and community service

June 20, 2022 by Cynthia Macdonald - A&S News

For students, the recent past has certainly not been easy: the loneliness of the pandemic, coupled with multiplying incidents of racist violence, have left many of them dealing with painful feelings on their own.

Enter Kabba, an enterprising equity and initiatives student leader who used her time at U of T to bring students together through some very innovative events.

In early 2021, for example, Kabba co-designed an event called “Release,” billed as a collaborative discussion on mental health and wellness for students of the African, West Indian and Latinx diaspora.

“We wanted to create a safe space for students who are Black, Indigenous and of colour to come together and speak openly about their experiences in the presence of a registered psychotherapist,” she says. In the same spirit, Kabba also successfully organized a panel on the representation of healing and resistance through Indigenous traditional dance — bringing together the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education and First Nations House in a first-ever collaboration.

Diversity, equity and community service have long been important to Kabba, who graduates today from St. Michael’s College with a double major in Ethics, Society & Law and Sociology, and a minor in African Studies.

Her interest in serving the public good began while she was growing up in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.

She says: “As a Canadian-born, Ethiopian-bred, and Ugandan-raised student, I believe my international background is an important reason I developed a keen interest in Ethics, Society & Law, Sociology, and African Studies.”

She graduated as salutatorian of her class from the International School of Uganda in 2018. One of her recent significant achievements, and one she is still passionate about, has been collaboratively raising money from donors across the world to save Lake Tana. The largest lake in Ethiopia, its ecosystem is currently threatened by the advance of an invasive plant species known as the water hyacinth.

In her move abroad, Kabba chose St. Michael’s College for its diversified program structures and profound work-study opportunities. Plus, the opportunity to encounter a wide range of people from every possible background was something she valued, given her internationally diverse background.

“I appreciate the representation of diversity of U of T's student body,” she says. “Here, you are always surrounded by individuals from multitudes of cultures and backgrounds: being a part of this community was an extreme privilege.”

U of T gave to Kabba, but she gave a great deal back in return. In addition to fundraising and mentoring other students, she worked on the corporate relations committee for the University of Toronto Women’s Association — an organization that seeks to educate young women on how to navigate the professional world.

Despite her busy volunteer and work schedule, Kabba's academic attainments were also notable: she consistently made the dean’s list, was the recipient of a St. Michael’s College Silver Medal, a finalist for the John H. Moss Scholarship, and was recently named a University of Toronto Alumni Association Scholar.

She  is still in the process of deciding which graduate school to attend in the fall. To date, she’s received offers from numerous well-known international universities, where she will specialize in the fields of public administration, business, or law.

As she reflects on four well-spent years at U of T, it is the community she’ll remember most.

“The ability to not only expand your knowledge from incredible professors, teaching assistants, and fellow classmates — and the opportunity to learn from and with one another as well — makes graduation all the more celebratory.”

Congratulations to U of T's Class of 2022!

Celebrate Spring Convocation 2022 with us on social media by using the hashtag #UofTGrad22 and tagging @UofTArtSci in your posts.