Bringing Ubuntu to CBU: Meet Keyser Titus

From envisioning a dream in Cape Town to making it a reality in Cape Breton, Keyser Titus has moved across the Atlantic to study in the MBA in Community Economic Development program at CBU. It is often said that a person’s friends can have a great impact on their life and that is exactly what happened for Keyser. After a friend of his graduated with an MBA from CBU in 2019, Keyser made the final decision to head to the Canadian east coast.

“I always had the desire to obtain an MBA from a prestigious institution,” says Keyser. “I had done my research on CBU and found that the MBA (CED) was a unique offering and the role the university plays in the local community really stood out to me. I wanted to become part of the fabric of this institution.”

Walt Disney once said ‘if you can dream it, you can do it,’ a quote Keyser holds very close to his heart. He uses a vision board to map out his goals and potential challenges to overcome in order to reach them. Studying at CBU was on Keyser’s vision board for several years, and now that dream has become a reality. 

“These images aim to set and give you direction in achieving your dreams and goals. Three  years ago, I began this process with pictures of living healthily, travelling and pursuing my MBA at CBU,” he explains. “In fact, I added a picture of the CBU campus with the words I just came from the library written on it.” 

The next three years weren’t all smooth sailing though. The COVID-19 pandemic affected people from all corners of the world and it was an especially hard time for Keyser, nearly causing him to give up on his aspirations. “I lost my mother in the middle of the pandemic which almost led me to give up on everything,” Keyser says. “Later, the Omicron variant caused further travel restrictions and it looked impossible to travel to Canada.”

Despite those hardships, Keyser kept pushing forward. “My faith plays an important role in my life and I remained positive, and things worked out perfectly,” he says. “My wife was very supportive during this time and continually encouraged me, and when the travel ban on South Africa was lifted toward the end of 2020, it was time to start chasing the dream again.”

The journey to Cape Breton wasn’t an easy one either due to travel restrictions and weather delays, but no matter what obstacles he faced, Keyser says nothing could have deterred the excitement he had to start his studies at CBU. The moment he had been waiting for finally happened in January of 2022 when Keyser found himself standing in the CBU Library, his vision board having come to life. 

After a few months apart, Keyser’s family was able to join him in Canada in the summer. “My wife Abigail is my pillar of strength and has played a cardinal role in me chasing this dream,” he shares. “Together we have two kids who bring us so much joy, my son Luka (9) and my daughter Harper-Grace (6). They have been resilient and have taken so well to Canadian culture, and they simply love school and have already made many friends.”

For Keyser, the experience on the Island has been overwhelmingly good so far, and he can picture himself staying in Cape Breton after his graduation in 2024. “The people on this Island are very welcoming. I only have good things to say, and can easily see how I can make this my home,” Keyser says. “I am really hoping that somehow and in some way I can use my talent on the Island. I love it here and I know I can add value to the local economy.”

The opportunity to meet other families from Africa has also helped Keyser settle down in Cape Breton. “I have met a host of families from Africa which has given me some of the vibrant African culture that I am so used to from back home,” he says. 

When Keyser thinks about the community in Cape Breton, he refers to the South African term ‘ubuntu,’ a word used to describe oneness. He says he has seen such unity in the area, especially when Hurricane Fiona hit the Island. “Ubuntu (pronounced Ooobuntoo) speaks to the fact that we are all connected and that one can only grow and progress through the growth of others,” he explains. “Nelson Mandela would regularly refer to this term when he described his greatest gift, his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us. In my short time on the Island, I have experienced the spirit of ubuntu pre-and post Fiona. I believe I am called to keep the flame of ubuntu alive wherever I go, and on this Island there are so many opportunities to share the spirit of ubuntu.” 

We are so glad to have students like Keyser, who bring so much to both our University and the Island as a whole.