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Award Criteria & Nomination Process

The Viola Desmond Awards and Bursary program celebrates the past, present and future of the Black community in Canada. Awards are given to Black women who in their roles as students, staff, faculty and alumni, demonstrate that they are positive role models and advocates of the Black/African-Canadian community. 

The program is organized by the Black History Awareness Committee, created in honour of Viola Desmond and the catalyzing efforts she made towards achieving human rights for Black people in Canada. Award recipients play a vital role in keeping Viola’s legacy alive for future generations of Black women in Canada and beyond.

Learn more about Viola Desmond.

Nominations closed February 7, 2022

Awards categories, eligibility and nomination criteria

One reference letter required with each nomination

All nominations require one reference letter (maximum one page) provided by an individual who can speak to the nominee's contributions to the Black/African-Canadian community and/or how they are an active leader in their community or someone who has benefitted from the nominee’s work.

  • High school students may submit letters from their teacher, guidance counselor or school administrator.
  • Students (undergraduate, graduate and continuing education) may submit letters from their teacher, mentor, employer (volunteer, paid work, placement) or spiritual/faith/community leader.
  • Staff may submit letters from their supervisor/manager, colleague, committee/team leader or student. 
  • Faculty may submit letters from their supervisor/manager, colleague, committee/team leader or student.
  • Alumni may submit letters from their current or past teacher, or mentor. 

Optional supporting documents

Nominators can also choose to include a maximum of two of the following additional supporting documents: 

  • additional reference letter from another referee
  • resume or academic C.V. 
  • letters of recognition associated with another award, recognition, etc. 
  • articles about the nominee
  • videos highlighting the nominees work 
  • publications by the nominee 
  • links to associated businesses, groups, etc. that highlight the nominees work

The Ryerson student award nominee must:

  • Self-identify as a woman.
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African-Canadian ancestry.
  • Be currently enrolled as a full-time or part-time student at Ryerson.
  • Agreed to be nominated by their nominator.
  • Be in good academic standing (only those students with a minimum 1.67 cumulative grade point average and a clear academic standing will be considered).
  • Be a positive role model and advocate of the Black/African-Canadian community.
  • Be an active leader in her community, with examples to showcase that she has made a positive difference in areas such as equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, social justice and community development and engagement.

This award includes a $500 monetary reward.

The Ryerson staff award nominee must:

  • Self-identify as a woman.
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African-Canadian ancestry.
  • Be currently employed as a full-time or part-time staff member at Ryerson.
  • Agreed to be nominated by their nominator.
  • Reside in the Greater Toronto Area region.
  • Have enriched Ryerson’s and/or Toronto’s diversity through initiatives promoting Black history and celebrating the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural lives of Black people.
  • Be an active leader in her community who has made a positive difference in areas such as equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, social justice and community-building/engagement.
  • Have a minimum of five years of work/volunteer background and/or activist/advocacy experience with the Black/African-Canadian community.

The Ryerson faculty award nominee must:

  • Self-identify as a woman.
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African-Canadian ancestry.
  • Be currently employed as a full-time or part-time faculty member at Ryerson.
  • Agreed to be nominated by their nominator.
  • Reside in the Greater Toronto Area region.
  • Have enriched Ryerson’s and/or Toronto’s diversity through initiatives promoting Black history and celebrating the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural lives of Black people.
  • Be an active leader in her community who has made a positive difference in areas such as equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, social justice and community-building/engagement.
  • Have a minimum of five years of work/volunteer background and/or activist/advocacy experience with the Black/African-Canadian community.

The Ryerson alumni award nominee must:

  • Self-identify as a woman.
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African-Canadian ancestry.
  • Be a graduate of Ryerson University from any program.
  • Agreed to be nominated by their nominator.
  • Reside in the Greater Toronto Area region.
  • Have enriched Ryerson’s and/or Toronto’s diversity through initiatives promoting Black history and celebrating the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural lives of Black people.
  • Be an active leader in her community who has made a positive difference in areas such as equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, social justice and community-building/engagement.
  • Have a minimum of five years of work/volunteer background and/or activist/advocacy experience with the Black/African-Canadian community.
  • Have made a significant impact in their profession and/or community by developing or implementing an innovative program, process or product within the Black community.
  • Have reflected and recognized, in their actions and deeds, the importance of their Ryerson education and through their stature, integrity and ability they inspire students, faculty and staff within the Black community, both on and off-campus.

The local high school student award nominee must:

  • Self-identify as a woman.
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African-Canadian ancestry.
  • Be in her final year of secondary school in the Greater Toronto Area.
  • Agreed to be nominated by their nominator.
  • Be in good academic standing (only those students with a minimum average of 80% in 6 U/M credits or equivalent will be considered).
  • Plans to attend an accredited Ontario university or community college.
  • Be a positive role model and advocate of the Black/African-Canadian community.
  • Be an active leader in her community who has made a positive difference in areas such as equity, diversity, inclusion, human rights, social justice and community-building/engagement.

This award includes a $500 monetary reward.

Applications for the student bursary are now closed

About the Student Bursary 

All applications to the Viola Desmond Bursary are considered, evaluated and awarded by the Black History Awareness Committee.

The recipient is awarded $1,000.

Eligibility criteria 

The bursary applicant must:

  • Self-identify as a woman.
  • Self-identify as Black, African Canadian or have Black/African Canadian ancestry.
  • Be currently enrolled as a student at Ryerson and have clear academic standing (minimum 1.67 cumulative grade point average is required for consideration).
  • Be a positive role model and advocate of the Black/African Canadian community.
  • Have demonstrated involvement in the community through extracurricular activities both on campus and/or in the community.

Make a donation to the Viola Desmond Student Award and Bursary program

For the past 13 years, the Viola Desmond Awards and Bursary program has recognized the contributions of outstanding Black Canadian women in the Ryerson and greater Toronto community. Make a donation today and help us keep the legacy of Viola Desmond alive.