An international student at Brandon University (BU) has had his master’s thesis named best in the country.
Ayodeji Osiname received the Margaret Haughey Award this spring for his Master of Education thesis on creating inclusive school cultures. The award, which is administered through the Canadian Association for the Study of Educational Administration (CASEA), recognizes superior research and writing by master’s degree students working in the area of educational administration and leadership, and is extremely competitive.
“He does brilliant work,” says Dr. Helen Armstrong, Professor Emerita at BU, who served as Osiname’s thesis advisor. “It is absolutely fantastic for him to win this award, especially as an international student in competition with native-born Canadians from much larger institutions.”
Osiname’s thesis, entitled “The Effect of the School Principal in Creating an Inclusive School Culture during Times of Change and Challenge,” examines the experience and work of school principals in southwestern Manitoba who are building inclusive environments for their staff, students, and parents.
“I found that the principals used different approaches, but common themes emerged,” Osiname says. “Most engaged in building positive relationships, and served as role models in their schools. To encourage openness, they urged people to express their opinions — even if dissenting — and created an environment where individuals felt safe to express their opinion.”
His research reflects what Osiname says he has learned from life.
“Growing up in Nigeria, I had to face threats to safety and survival. Despite that situation, and although my family could not afford much, my parents made sure that they instilled strong moral values and a belief that we had the skills to succeed as long as we kept working hard,” he says.
“During my master’s program, I have had opportunities to interact with several very different groups that I feel are marginalized by Canadian society: youth in foster care (often Aboriginal), senior citizens, African immigrants, and individuals that would self-identify as LGBTQ. With individuals from each of these groups, I have tried to listen closely so as to understand what they value and to embrace what I could learn from their experiences. Although they are often very different, I have learned that they all need caring relationships. The foster kids seek someone who will pay attention to them, the seniors long for people who will comfort them, the African immigrants hope for someone to support them, and those who identity as LGBTQ desire acceptance. It is important to create an environment where people feel safe, respected, valued, included, accepted, and loved.”
He credits Brandon University for supporting him through his master’s degree and thesis work, saying he chose BU especially for its size and professor-to-student ratio.
“It’s amazing, the kind of support I have had in the Faculty of Education. It’s incredible,” he says. “I have been blessed to work with an advisor like Dr. Armstrong. She is very knowledgeable and she was committed to pushing me to reach my academic potential. I’m so grateful.”
Dr. Armstrong says that the feeling is mutual.
“He is a wonderful human being. He affirms and validates everyone he talks to,” she says. “His work is so important in that it looks at how we develop a real affinity for one another, particularly how we honour and embrace diversity and still work together on common aims. It has huge, huge application.”
Osiname’s thesis will be available online through the John E. Robbins Library at BU. In the fall, he’ll be pursuing his PhD at the University of Manitoba.
“The Education Faculty is very proud of Ayodeji’s accomplishment,” says Dr. Heather Duncan, Dean of the Faculty of Education. “He has worked extremely hard during his time at BU, and always with a broad smile on his face. His achievement is well-deserved and reflects his dedication to learning and research as well as the commitment of faculty members to supporting and mentoring all students.”
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