At its Fall 2023 Convocation ceremonies, British Columbia’s Royal Roads University awarded York University Professor Andrea Davis an honorary doctor of laws degree in recognition of her pioneering work bringing Black studies programming to Canadian academia.
A professor in York’s Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Davis teaches courses in Black Cultures of the Americas and is the founder and program co-ordinator of the University’s Black Canadian Studies Certificate. Introduced in 2018, it was one of only two university programs of its kind in Canada at the time.
“Black students at York in 2016 were asking for programs that reflected their histories and experiences,” said Davis in a recent interview with Royal Roads University. “They were not really interested in a program about anti-Black racism per se, because those programs are not for Black students; they’re educating someone else. Black students wanted something that could speak deeply to them, about not just their experiences but their thoughts and their ideas.”
Davis took that request and ran with it, and is now continuing her transformative work by developing a Black studies major.
In her 20-year academic career, Davis has worked to advance equity, access and justice in post-secondary education, and has been a fierce advocate for students. An accomplished teacher, she has won teaching awards at the Faculty, university and national levels, including a 2021 3M National Teaching Fellowship. A former Canadian Commonwealth scholar, her research focuses on the literary productions of Black women in the Americas, with a particular interest in the intersections of the literatures of the Caribbean, the United States and Canada. Her work encourages an intertextual cross-cultural dialogue about Black women’s experiences in diaspora.
The doctor of laws, honoris causa, is Royal Roads University’s highest honour, awarded to people who reflect its vision and values and have achieved a significant record of success and community service.