By Genevieve MacIntyre | Photos by Nick Pearce

Ever since Cole Harbour-born-and-raised Destiny Renzelli was a child, she saw herself as a future Dalhousie University student. This was in large part thanks to the time she often spent around the Studley campus with her mother – a long-time Dal staff member at the Killam Library.

A university student in a DAL hoodie sits on the steps of a stone building on a university campus, writing in a notebook.

“I grew up being around the campus and imagining myself as one of the students someday,” says Renzelli. But it wasn’t until her grade 12 year, while reviewing the academic program offerings, that a nudge from her brother helped her decide what to study.

“He said to me, ‘what about English? You’ve always been good at that!’ And that was the moment it clicked,” Renzelli explains. Soon after, she learned that she could study creative writing as well. “My first thought was, ‘I can take that?’ I had always been [creating] stories, even before I knew how to write, and the thought of being able to do that made me certain that was what I wanted to study.”

Now in her fourth year of studies at Dal, Renzelli is moving closer to completing a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in English and Creative Writing. She says her experience studying in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has been great and she applauds her profs particularly from her first year, when all learning was online, and her second year, when the teachers and students had to move between online and in-person learning. Her third year was her first experience with fully on-campus classes. This shift allowed her to feel more connected to Dal, with more opportunities to connect with peers, like joining the Dalhousie English Society, and evolve her craft as a writer.

“The class that has been the greatest experience for me has been the poetry class I started taking this year,” she says. “I have always centered my writing around fiction pieces, of any genre, but I have found a new passion for poetry writing as well.”

Support from donors helped her focus on student life

Like many other full-time students, Renzelli has felt the pressures of financing a post-secondary education while also living the new, exciting, and personally formative experiences of a university student. To help make ends meet, Renzelli, who is African Nova Scotian, applied for bursaries reserved for students from underrepresented populations. She received bursary support for the past three years.

Renzelli says that the funding she received through bursaries supported through the Dalhousie Fund has helped her manage the financial burden of things like textbooks and tuition statements. This alleviation of some of the financial stress has helped her focus on her schoolwork and excel in her classes.

“Without these bursaries, my student life wouldn’t have been the same as it is now,” adds Renzelli.

Many of the bursaries and scholarships available to Dalhousie students are funded by annual gifts from alumni. With help from donors, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is advancing its commitment to equity through important channels like scholarships for students from populations that have historically been underrepresented in higher education settings as a result of structural inequalities.

A university student wearing a black ballcap and DAL hoodie stands with hands in her pockets.

“I can’t even begin to express my gratitude,” says Renzelli, adding that she encourages other students to apply for any awards they might qualify for, because it can make a huge difference to your academic and student life.

With aspirations of a career that involves professional editorial work, writing and publishing fiction and poetry, Renzelli is proud to be the first person in her immediate family to complete a university degree. She is looking forward to her future convocation date when she’ll finally get to cross a stage with her family – her greatest source of motivation – cheering her on from the audience.

Support for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences students does important things like providing scholarships for deserving students from underrepresented populations and competitive financial support for international graduate students.