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Where Does Social Change Start? Guelph-Humber Justice Studies Student, Tenisha Noel Says it Begins in the Classroom

Tenisha Noel typing on her laptop in the University of Guelph-Humber Learning Commons.

For Tenisha Noel, a fourth-year Guelph-Humber Justice Studies student, equity, diversity, and inclusion are not just words – they are aspirations that must be realized to improve our society.

She’s been exposed to the justice system and social justice issues through her studies, and Tenisha says she’s been witness to the law’s lack of equal treatment. 

Like Tammy Marquardt, for instance. Tammy was one of three speakers at the Alpha Phi Sigma's Criminal Justice Honour Society "Wrongfully Convicted Week." This student-organized event invited three wrongfully convicted Canadians to speak to Guelph-Humber Justice Studies students about their experiences. 

Tammy's case is tragic. Her son died in October of 1993 from suffocation, and in 1995, Tammy was convicted of her son's murder. It was later revealed that her conviction was mainly based on the faulty medical testimony of Dr. Charles Smith, who testified that Tammy strangled her son when new evidence indicated he had died from natural causes. The Crown later withdrew all charges against Tammy in 2011. Overall, Tammy spent almost 14 years in prison for a crime she didn't commit.   

Tenisha says she’s glad the spotlight has found people like Tammy. "There are so many stories out there that are untold...and there are still people who are suffering from wrongful convictions that we don't know about," Tenisha stated. 

Becoming a trailblazer  

When Tenisha graduates from law school, she plans to be a trailblazer. She aims to be a strong black lawyer in Canada in a field with little diversity. But she is inspired by other trailblazers who have made an impact. That is one of the reasons that she applied to the Lincoln Alexander School of Law because of the impact of its namesake who was the first Black Canadian Member of Parliament. 

"Lincoln Alexander [did] so many revolutionary things. I feel going to a school that honours his name would mean [a lot]," Tenisha said. 

Collage of two images. Left image has someone typing on their laptop. Right photo is a golden stole with Greek letters "Alpha Phi Sigma" and the Guelph-Humber Justice Society insignia.

Embracing the challenge 

Tenisha is busy taking advantage of all the professional development opportunities that the Justice Studies program can offer, including preparing her for law school. She's currently vice-president of activities for Guelph-Humber Alpha Phi Sigma, an academic honour society that includes members from Canada and the US. Tenisha is also a senior first-year experience leader at Guelph-Humber, and research assistant to Guelph-Humber Justice Studies Associate Professor, Laura McDiarmid. As well, Tenisha spends time as an outreach assistant for Black Student Support and Engagement and a research assistant for Soka Education, a collaboration between Guelph-Humber and Kansai Soka High School in Japan. And she's doing all of this while studying for mid-terms and preparing for the LSATs. 

Overall, Tenisha is committed to using the knowledge and professional development opportunities she has received from Guelph-Humber to help build a legal system where everyone is treated fairly. 

"We have to put equity at the forefront and recognize that there [are] faults in our criminal justice system," Tenisha said. "[It really makes] me think about what I want to do once I graduate from Guelph-Humber: What am I going to do with all the skills, the power, the knowledge that I have?” 

With many ways to contribute her time, talent, and education, the future is bright for ambitious students like Tenisha, who strive to use what they've learned to improve their society, one classroom and one case at a time.

Guelph-Humber's Justice Studies program is unique: this multi-faceted program offers students the theoretical and practical skills they need to succeed in the fields of law, law enforcement, or public administration, to name a few.   

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