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 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 major 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 -- he wasn’t too sure if school was the right fit for him and other factors, like work, were pulling him away. As time went by, the jobs he had weren’t making him happy, and that was the push to return to school in September 2019 to pursue his 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 advisor Kathy Fellowes, Daley-Lewis had a plan cemented in time management to help maintain a school-life balance.
One of Daley-Lewis’ most memorable moments includes the opportunity to meet and connect with guest lecturers in Dr. Mingyuan Zhang’s course, Reading Ethnography. For him, 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 that have inspired him to think differently about the discipline. The first is Assistant Professor Lena Mortensen, who teaches the course 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 during the shift to virtual lectures, he was always one of the first students to start online discussions and even got the class motivated 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 on grad school, Daley-Lewis is interested in pursuing paleoanthropology, (the evolutionary history of mankind). He plans on fusing 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 that question, even with reservations, it always ended up being a good question and it helped other people, too. It gave me confirmation that it’s OK to step out of your comfort zone.”
Looking back on his academic journey, one of the greatest lessons Daley-Lewis has learned about himself is the power of self-confidence and putting insecurities aside 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.”