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Headshot of Sandy Deng on the left and text on the right that reads: UM 2020 2021 convocation celebration.

Meet the ’20 and ’21 grads (again) – Sandy Deng

Catching up with our graduates ahead of Convocation Celebration on March 11

March 7, 2023 — 

When Sandy Deng [BSW/20] came to Canada from Sudan as a government sponsored refugee and as a young mother, she had only one goal in mind: to get postsecondary education, something her parents had impressed on her as a path to a better life. Even though she had the ambition and passion to go to school, she said it was hard to find a balance between supporting her family and pursuing her studies.  

But she persisted and graduated in 2020 from UM with a Bachelor of Social Work. She then moved to Vancouver to work as an Academic Program Facilitator at Pacific Community Resources Society where she is currently leading a tutoring program for youth in downtown Vancouver.  

“One of my courses in the UM Inner City Social Work program focused on large metropolitan cities in Canada and the social issues that people are facing in areas considered to be low-income. It opened my eyes to what area of social work I want to be in.” 

Now, three years post-graduation, Deng has even bigger aspirations. She says her next step is to get her master’s in public policy, which will help her get into politics or academia. The program will also provide her with the opportunity to work with people who share her interest in social policy, immigration and human rights.  

“I was never taught by a Black professor, and I thought why is that. I know people who are educated and who can be in those positions, but the opportunity is not there and that is where we need to start making changes. I want young women who look like me to dream that they can come to Canada as a refugee and make it.” 

Deng says she wants to be an active minority, someone people can see and relate to and have a say in decisions. She believes representation matters and says her lived experience as a refugee, Black woman combined with her educational background can work together to help further her cause at the decision-making table. 

“Any marginalized person who has a dream, who has ambition shouldn’t have these barriers put on them that prevent their contribution to society. Even though I just have one perspective to add to the conversation, it has the possibility to serve a reminder for others and create possibilities for positive change.”   

While many of these goals are still a few years out, Deng is excited to take a step back and celebrate the accomplishment of her UM degree at the 2020 and 2021 Convocation Celebration. 

“It was always my mother’s dream to see me walk the stage. I also want to show my kids that if I can go to school with four kids at home while also still working full-time, there’s no excuse for them not to get an education. And for all the young immigrant and refugee women who think they can’t get an education, my walking across that stage shows them they can.”  

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