Janet Naidu, Caribbean Studies program alumnaDescribe yourself in 100 words or less

I have a passion for learning and contributing to the improvements in the diversity of human relationships and performance.  With over 20 years in my profession helping others (management and staff) to resolve difficult issues, including human rights, in the workplace, I am committed to addressing conflicts in an effective and meaningful way.  Apart from my investigative skills into important issues, I became a certified Co-Active Career/Life Coach so that I can further contribute to the discovery of our strengths to overcome potential barriers and succeed in our pursuits.  I am a seeker of pathways for continuous learning and growth.

What are the accomplishments (personal or professional) of which you are most proud?

I am most proud of having had the opportunity to work as a change agent in the position of Manager, Diversity Management and Ombuds Office at the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).  Over the years, I have introduced several policies and programs such as the Harassment and Discrimination Prevention; Intimidation and Violence Prevention and Racial Profiling Prevention.  Most significantly, I have introduced initiatives on valuing diversity, equity and inclusion which have helped to foster enhanced employee engagement.

My personal accomplishments include my ability to fulfill the responsibilities of my occupation while I continued to raise my son as a single parent and most importantly, to fulfill my desire to achieve higher education at the University level.

Additionally, I continued my love for poetry and writing has always been my dream.  I was able to succeed in creating three collections of poetry, Winged Heart (1999), Rainwater (2005) and Sacred Silence (2009). Several of my poems have a retracing of cultural heritage and resettlement elsewhere and I believe my exposure to the Caribbean Studies program have enhanced my awareness of this journey.

What is your fondest memory from your time at the UofT?

My fondest memory is of the great support I received from the University professors and administrative staff.  Being a part-time student, I was not in the loop and not always aware of resources available to me.  Receiving this type of ‘engaging’ support made a difference in my ability to press on with my studies and never to give up my dream.

Why did you choose the Caribbean Studies program?
I have always been interested in learning more about the Caribbean region and the diversity of the people who make up this part of the world. Although I had some knowledge of the colonial and post-colonial constructions, I still did not know some of the deeper aspects of the many histories and impact upon the various nations and peoples.  Coming to Canada in the mid-1970s placed me in a survival mode, learning more about Canada.  In recognition of my Canadian identity, I needed to understand more about the journey I have made as a citizen and the history of the region from which I have come.

Did your experience with the program influence your career path after graduating? If so, in what ways?

The Caribbean Studies program has certainly helped me in my career, both during my studies and after graduation.  During my work at the LCBO, I was able to bring a deeper knowledge in my profession of issues related to gender, race and color, religion, place of origin and other dimensions of diversity.  In addition, when addressing/investigating complaints, I was able to observe certain issues more deeply that may not have been accidental or the result of an oversight.

On the whole, the program itself allows one to explore deeper thinking, not just about the Caribbean region, but about ‘life’ and one’s journey in the world.  Having completed the program, when I speak at conferences about diversity, harassment or violence prevention, I believe that deeper knowledge has influenced my delivery of the material and message.

Do you have any advice for future students who may be considering the Caribbean Studies program?

Future students will benefit greatly from studying the diverse histories of the Caribbean.  Students will gain great knowledge of the fascinating historical realities of the Caribbean – its diverse population, languages, cultures, politics, societies and survival.  Ultimately, students will increase their knowledge of Canadian multiculturalism and diverse identities- be they race, colour, gender, sexual diversity, ability, thinking style or other.

Anything you’d like to add?

I feel proud that the University of Toronto has had the wisdom to create the Caribbean Studies program and that New College continues to sustain this important knowledge in the academic institution.