Eden Mekonen is a career advisor at the University of Waterloo’s Centre for Career Action (CCA), and one of two harassment advisors who are working with students to help them identify career paths and make decisions.

Having worked at the University for the past six years, Mekonen recognizes the need for trauma-informed career advisors to support students who have been affected by trauma, while helping to create a safe, non-judgmental place to explore and discuss career-related challenges. Along with other colleagues, she also helps students address harassment, whether it be physical, psychological or emotional.

Eden Mekonen

Eden Mekonen
Photo by Jessica Kalman

“I work with students to help them identify, understand and manage the impact of trauma on their work life, develop strategies to cope with traumatic experiences, and work to create an environment that is safe(r) and affirming,” she says. “A large part of my role involves helping Black students navigate systemic barriers and processes in co-op and petitions, which can impact their further education.”

According to the CCA career advisor, the majority of the students accessing her services are racialized students who often face barriers, which can include discrimination in the hiring process, lack of access to employment networks and lack of access to mentorship or career guidance. Many Black students face language barriers, lack of access to education and training opportunities and lack of knowledge about the hiring process and opportunities for further education.

“Advocating is a large component of my role when I am meeting with Black students,” she says. “I advocate for changing systems and processes that are not serving racialized students. By highlighting systemic barriers that students may face in pursuing their career goals and further education, I help to eliminate obstacles to their success.”

Mekonen also advocates for racialized folx outside of the institution. She has been volunteering in the Waterloo region for several years with the Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre and ACCKWA. Mekonen is working as a research assistant with Wilfrid Laurier University and Toronto Metropolitan University on a project which explores how the City of Kitchener meaningfully engages with Black and Indigenous communities. She is also a board member of Project Up (Unleash Potential), a non-profit organization committed to empowering young Black Muslim women by bridging talent with opportunities, and was a co-organizer in the Waterloo Region Black Lives Matter March in June 2020.

She holds a BA in History and Philosophy from Wilfred Laurier University and is completing a MA in Sociology at UWaterloo. Mekonen draws from her academic and practical experience and links to the community to provide access to resources, such as job training, educational support and financial assistance, to help individuals achieve their career goals.

Asked about her hopes for anti-racism and anti-oppression at the University, Mekonen says, the world thrives on racial capitalism. She says, “our systems and processes are built on it, and that includes the University of Waterloo.” Mekonen believes that not everyone can be their true self at the institution. She often questions herself, asking, “how am I meant to thrive in a system that was never built for me, or people like me?”

She challenges members of the University community to engage with different stakeholders and rightsholders and to ask themselves this important question: how am I creating space for those who do not have the privilege to change systems and policies in an organization/structure/system that was never built with them?

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