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‘There’s more I can do’: Joy MacPhail MPPA Leadership Scholarship recipient seeks to make more significant impact

Stories | 03.07.24

After 15 years working as a banking professional, Oluwakemi “Kemmy” Uwaya was ready for a change, one that could help the lives of others.

“I always felt that I was working for the benefit of a company or the bank,” said Uwaya. “I wanted to do something that was to the benefit of people, especially those of young people and women.”

So, in the fall of 2023, she left her home country of Nigeria and arrived in Canada to study at Adler University in the Joy MacPhail Master’s in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) program — and in the last six months as a student, Uwaya has already made her mark in the Vancouver community.

She founded the Ultimate Women’s Network, which aims to empower or support women facing financial, health, social, spiritual, or emotional challenges. She joined the Heritage Vancouver Society’s Board of Directors and also helped organize two events focusing on climate justice and immigration.

For her work, Uwaya has been named the recipient of the MPPA Leadership Scholarship. She was awarded at the second annual Joy MacPhail Women’s Leadership Showcase on March 6, an event that supports and promotes the next generation of women leaders like Uwaya.

Photo of Kemmy Uwaya accepting the scholarship

Kemmy Uwaya (center) accepts the MPPA Leadership Scholarship with Joy MacPhail and Adler President Raymond E. Crossman during the 2024 Joy MacPhail Women’s Leadership Showcase.

“It was exhilarating to find out I was chosen for the scholarship award,” she said. “And I’m not talking about the amount. Being recognized meant so much to me, especially since I am new to Canada.”

Uwaya earned management and business degrees at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology in Nigeria and Aspen University, an online university based in Phoenix, Arizona. Over the past decade, she has taken on different roles at several banks, including customer service, chartered banker, and management consultant.

“But you know, I kept telling myself, surely there’s more I can do,” Uwaya said.

This led her to start a non-governmental organization in Nigeria that conducted weekly empowerment seminars and programs that helped young people work toward self-efficacy and self-leadership.

“I was inspired by my dad,” she said. “He was someone who taught me to live selflessly.”

Although she was already changing lives, Uwaya kept thinking there was more she could do or learn.

“It is often difficult for women like me to reach our potential in my country, especially when things are not going well economically, socially, and politically,” she said.

So, in 2022, Uwaya began searching online for educational opportunities and found the MPPA program at Adler University’s Vancouver Campus. It took another year and a half for Uwaya to start the program.

“I came across Adler University, learned about its mission and principles, and said, ‘OK, I think this is the place for me,” she said. “Through the MPPA program, I hope I get the skills I need to formulate, design, and implement policies that will make the most impact.”

Photo of Women's Leadership Showcase

The Joy MacPhail Women’s Leadership Showcase, held March 6, brought together a group inspiring women to help support and promote the next generation of leaders.

Accepting the scholarship during the Women’s Leadership Showcase, Uwaya was able to hear and learn from keynote speaker Sen. Marilou McPhedran and a panel of influential leaders. Panelists included Queenie Choo, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., one of the largest nonprofit social service organizations in Canada; Ninu Kang, executive director of Ending Violence Association, which has facilitated training in anti-violence and anti-racism across North American and the globe; Vancouver City Councilor Sarah Kirby-Yung; and Jennie Thomas, who serves as manager of social development for the Cowichan Tribes.

The annual showcase and scholarship are first-of-its-kind initiatives following the creation of the Joy MacPhail Fund in 2023, designed to support MPPA program students. The master’s program was renamed in 2022 in honor of MacPhail for her years of dedication to the University as a board member and her contributions to community health and wellness as a longtime member of the British Columbia New Democratic Party.

Along with Sen. McPhedran and the panelists, Uwaya also had the opportunity to meet and get inspired by MacPhail at the showcase. Uwaya said she decided to apply for the scholarship after learning more about MacPhail and her work.

“Joy has accomplished so much and has helped so many people,” Uwaya said. “She is a great example of a leader I aspire to be. And I would describe the Adler journey as being in the right place at the right time for the right purpose.”

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