Finding the courage to be seen

"Dare to be braver today than yesterday, and do the same tomorrow."

UBCO Electrical Engineering student Aliyah Ayorinde smiling at the camera. She is centred outdoors as a panel of building windows frames her on the left.

Aliyah Ayorinde

  • Degree: Bachelor of Applied Science
  • Grad year: 2022
  • Program: Electrical Engineering
  • Campus: Okanagan

I am proud and honored to have been an engineering student at UBC Okanagan for the past 4 years. During this chapter in my life I’ve learned so many interesting things about myself and the world, and leaning into the curiosity has led me to some amazing people and fascinating opportunities. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in a number of roles with the Student Experience Office, and I served as the POC Ambassador for the Pride Resource Centre as well. Wherever I find myself, my primary goals are to help build accessible and inclusive communities and to hopefully inspire others to live wholeheartedly. In my free time, you could probably find me dancing, studying sustainable fashion, or creating niche playlists, and I’ve also been putting my attention towards developing an accessible study platform for neurodiverse students.

Why did you choose to go into your field of study at UBC? 

To be completely honest, I think it’s more accurate to say that I was pushed towards engineering than I chose it. Growing up, I was always strong in math and I developed an interest in physics as soon as I was old enough to understand what it is, so I heard that I should go into engineering from a lot of adults in my life. I’d been interested in UBC though, for quite some time before decision day. I love BC’s beautiful landscapes and culture and have always wanted to study at a top institution; having studied at a relatively small high school, I decided that UBC Okanagan was the perfect fit! On the first day of classes (which I pretended I wasn’t extremely excited for), all of the professors were kind and welcoming, and the synergy of the engineering community inspired me to stay.

Tell us about your experience in your program. What have you learned that is most valuable? 

I’ll address the elephant in the room; in engineering, women are rare, Black women are even rarer, and neurodivergent Black women are practically unheard of. I spent the better part of my degree wrestling with an intense feeling of imposter syndrome and questioning any recognition I received, much to the detriment of my mental health. With the help of an amazing friend, I came to really understand that I earned my place and that I deserve to take up space as much as anyone else. This inspired me to not only speak up for myself but to be more fearless in advocating for others with marginalized identities as well. 

What advice would you give a student entering your degree program? 

My biggest piece of advice would be to know yourself and understand the individual skills you possess outside of math and physics that can enhance your university experience. Also make sure to take time to explore wellness, whatever that means to you! 

What are your future plans to make a difference in our world? 

In the future, I hope to continue advocating for integrating diversity into various spaces and learning more about how to serve the community through empathy. 

How did your studies in the Faculty of Applied Science prepare you for the future of work?

In my opinion, the beauty of engineering is that it is inherently future focused. Engineering doesn’t just embrace ephemerality, it thrives off of it. I think that approaching anything from the lens of an engineer creates a resilience and adaptability that can be transferred to any career and can be useful in any scenario. In particular, learning how to approach a problem is one of the most important skills in engineering, and I employ the practice wherever I can. 

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