New College Alumna Dionne Falconer (1992)Describe yourself in 50 words or less.

I think life should be lived fully and beautifully. I have a sense of humour and like to be engaged in the world. I’m interested in other people; their thoughts and feelings. I am self-reflective and believe in fighting against injustice and oppression (racism, sexism, homophobia, biphobia, heterosexism, transphobia, classism…).

 

Why did you choose New College (be honest) and what were your expectations?

I chose New College because it seemed more progressive than some of the other colleges. It had subjects I was interested in like Women’s Studies, African Studies and Caribbean Studies. It was also smaller than most of the other colleges and I found this appealing. I expected to have a lot of new experiences and for my mind to be expanded through my classes, professors and new friends. I wasn’t disappointed.

 

Was there anyone in particular at New College (staff, student or faculty) who had a strong influence on your life or made a lasting impression on you?

One of the faculty members I appreciated at the time was Linda Carty. She identified as a Black feminist and brought an integrated race, gender and class analysis into the classroom. She was instrumental in deepening my understanding of socio-economic issues and how they are racialized and gendered. I recall being in her class following the École Polytechnique (Montreal) Massacre when 14 women were killed simply because they were women and the news reported that the gunman was “fighting feminism.” I remember feeling incredibly vulnerable yet undeterred to sit in a class and be identified as a feminist. There was a sense of solidarity and strength in this moment of profound pain and sadness.

 

How did your academic and social experience at the University/College prepare you for life and your career?

While at the university, I was able to balance academics, social activities and politics. I went to the library and studied just enough to achieve my academic goals while leaving time to contribute to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and to play dominoes with other students in the West Indian Students Association (WISA). I have carried this philosophy of “balance” throughout my life and career.

 

Tell us about some of the lessons you learned and how valuable they are today?

My time in university was a time of politicization, activism and personal growth. I learned it was important to stand up for what I believed in – raise my voice and show my convictions even in the face of opposition or when what I had to say was unpopular. I also learned that I would never be standing alone as I stood on the shoulders of those who came before me and alongside those in the struggle and the many allies.

These lessons remain valuable as injustices and my contribution to the struggle against them continue. Over the years, the world has become better in some ways and people have grown and changed. This makes me feel optimistic and ever hopeful.  After all, apartheid in South Africa did end in my lifetime.

 

What was important to you then – what is important now?

My values have remained consistent over the years, especially with regards to social justice and maintaining balance in my life. The people in my life – family, friends, lovers, colleagues – have always been and continue to be important to me. Each person has made a unique contribution to making my life full and beautiful.

 

What are your major accomplishments and who had the most influence on your career?

I’m proud of my contribution to the AIDS movement in Canada. I first became involved as a volunteer in the late 1980s and I’ve remained involved and committed to the cause of preventing the spread of HIV, addressing the issues that make people vulnerable to HIV (stigma, discrimination, human rights violations, poverty…) and loving, caring for and supporting people living with HIV/AIDS. Throughout the years, I’ve played different roles in the movement – volunteer, staff, Board member, consultant – and with each, I feel I have made a difference in the lives of others which has been both rewarding and motivating.

My work in HIV/AIDS and social justice has allowed me to work internationally through my consulting business, DA Falconer & Associates Inc. It has taken me to many countries on the African continent, throughout the Caribbean and to Eastern Europe. These experiences have let me live my values and have given me a global perspective which informs my professional and personal life.

An influential person on my career was Camille Orridge, current CEO of the Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network. She encouraged me to do the Master of Health Science in Health Administration program at the University of Toronto. At the time, I had begun to pursue getting a Social Work degree and following various conversations with Camille, I decided to make the switch. It was challenging to go through the program while working full-time but it was the right decision for which I have no regret and I’m ever thankful.

 

Do you have any final comments?

I appreciate the opportunity to be showcased as a proud alumnus of New College. My time there was well spent, valuable and important. Thank you!