Almost 10 years, multiple jobs, two kids and a global pandemic later, Kadeem Daley-Lewis feels just as energized getting his degree now as he would have in 2013 when he originally planned on walking across the stage at the University of Toronto’s Convocation Hall.
“I didn’t give up on my journey. I went back and finished what I started,” says Daley-Lewis, who is graduating from U of T Scarborough with a bachelor’s degree in evolutionary anthropology and a double-minor in biology and sociocultural anthropology.
“It’s never too late. I feel as happy now as I would have been back then. Never give up, always go for your dreams and don’t be fearful because that might hinder your process.”
Daley-Lewis started at U of T Scarborough in 2009 but soon took a break as he questioned whether school was the right fit and other factors, including work, pulled him away. But, as time passed, he says he found his work wasn’t making him happy – so he returned to school in September 2019 to pursue a passion for anthropology.
“I’ve always been an academic person, even though I wasn’t doing well at the time. I always wanted to be in the sciences in some way and the jobs I had definitely made me feel like I had to do more with my life.”
With the help of academic adviser Kathy Fellowes, Daley-Lewis built a time-management plan to help maintain a school-life balance.
One of his most memorable moments was the opportunity to meet and connect with guest lecturers in Mingyuan Zhang’s course on reading ethnography. He says it was one of the most engaging opportunities to learn and understand the discipline at a deeper level.
“The people that we were reading about would often come and do guest lectures for us,” Daley-Lewis says. “That was really engaging because it made me feel more involved in what I was studying and it made it feel more real because you read about these people’s works and now you can ask them questions.”
Daley-Lewis credits two professors from the department of anthropology who have inspired him to think differently about the discipline. The first is Assistant Professor Lena Mortensen, who teaches a course in ethnographic methods in anthropology at U of T Scarborough.
“She helped me understand the usefulness of interviewing and participant observation, seeing the value from engaging with a group of people and telling a story you wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
The second is Assistant Professor Julie Teichroeb, who taught Daley-Lewis in two anthropology courses. Teichroeb says that, amid the shift to virtual lectures, Daley-Lewis was always among the first students to begin online discussions and often motivated the class with his light-hearted humour.
“Kadeem was one of the most interactive students with really thoughtful, inspiring and funny comments,” Teichroeb says. “I think people like that, where their level of engagement is so high, really bring the class into the topic.”
With his sights now set on grad school, Daley-Lewis is interested in pursuing paleoanthropology, the evolutionary history of mankind. He plans on marrying his passion for research and teaching to become a professor in the future.
His advice for incoming students? Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
“Every time I asked [a] question, even with reservations, it always ended up being a good question and it helped other people, too,” he says. “It gave me confirmation that it’s OK to step out of your comfort zone.”
Looking back on his academic journey, Daley-Lewis says one of the greatest lessons he learned was the power of self-confidence and putting aside insecurities to reach your full potential.
“I’m a lot more confident than I let myself believe, and a lot more capable than I thought. With this renewed confidence, I feel like I can go out into the world and achieve anything.”