By Joseph Mathieu

Anytime Carleton University alumna Denise Siele engages with people or organizations, as an adviser, consultant or political candidate, she does so wholeheartedly.

Denise Siele

Denise Siele

She has been a director on the founding board of the Youth Services Bureau of Ottawa Charitable Foundation, the director of Stakeholder and Community Relations for Equal Voice, and she continues to serve as a director on the Telus Ottawa Community Board. Her role in the latter is to connect, advise and engage community groups to apply for funding for their education, health and environmental projects.

Her entrepreneurial gusto led her to co-found Hill Solutions Public Affairs in 2004 after studying Public Affairs and Policy Management at Carleton. She went on to work in politics in several ways, from advising on political campaigns and running her own 2018 campaign for the federal Conservative nomination in Nepean, to working as press secretary for the Conservative leader in 2020.

“My engagement is in the spirit of community building,” she says.

Siele was born in Nairobi and came to Ottawa because of her mother’s job with the Kenyan High Commission. Siele decided to stay after her mother’s diplomatic posting ended to attend Carleton’s Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs. “Not only was Carleton close enough to home, but it automatically felt like home,” she says.

She had always been an A student, so she was taken aback when she received a B- in a second-year Canadian history course. Her essay about Newfoundland and Labrador’s entry into Confederation in 1949 wasn’t thoughtful or analytical enough, she says.

“I am thankful to that professor for putting my feet to the fire because it gave me such a desire to learn about Canadian history.”

Denise SieleThe desire grew into a love of all things historical and cultural, which makes her current position as the Senior Communications Manager at the National Gallery of Canada a dream job. That love of history also helped her see how – as a Black woman – she fits into Canada’s story.

“When I think about Canadian history, I think about people who look like me who fought, served and died for this country,” she says. “That’s a story that ought to be told.”

Siele thinks of February as the month where Canadians can celebrate and applaud the contributions of African-Canadians.

“Black History Month is important because it’s like a focus — like a laser — so folks can look back and remind themselves. Let’s also remind ourselves that Black people don’t stop being Black on March 1.”

She hopes all Canadians know why first-generation Canadians can be so passionate about the country’s history:

“We’ve chosen Canada for very specific reasons. There’s a promise here and it’s so important that people understand that.”

View of Ottawa's National Gallery Museum and Byward Market during Winter Season Horizontal

During Black History Month, Carleton University is celebrating the many achievements and contributions of our Black community members. Visit our Black History Month page through the month of February to read new stories about our staff, faculty, students and alumni.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2021 in , ,
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