Spelling Out the Next Chapter: Hanif Brown settles into new life in Canada at STU

Hanif Brown has found becoming a national spelling bee champion and moving to Canada to study have their similarities: both take dedication and commitment to pursuing your goals in the face of change.

“Each season of spelling, there was change regarding what needed to be done to grow and win,” he said. 

“At STU, I remind myself of the children who would come to spelling training for the first time in a different atmosphere, with a new workload and approach. The growth they made over time, not just as better spellers, but as well-rounded individuals inspires me.”

Brown, a first-year student from Kingston, Jamaica, began competing in spelling bees when he was nine years old. He won his first competition—held at Airy Castle Primary School—and discovered a passion for spelling to which he dedicated himself until he became the best.

He won the Gleaners National Spelling Bee in 2011 and later represented his country at the Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, USA. ­

“When I won the National Spelling Bee finals of Jamaica I immediately ran off stage and was hugged by my coach, parents, and supporters,” he said. “It was a moment of pure joy and relief after many months of preparation.”

At the Scripps, Brown finished 27th out of 275 competitors after being eliminated in the semifinals.

“An environment that facilitated growth seemed like the next best step for me”

When Brown came to St. Thomas it was the first time he left Jamaica for a destination other than the Scripps. When he arrived on campus, he was surprised to see how welcoming and friendly everyone was.

“At first I was surprised, but then I learned it was the norm,” he said. “I’ve absolutely loved my experience here thus far.”

The small class sizes, unique opportunities, and campus community lived up to Brown’s expectations. He wanted to go somewhere where he would grow and he has found that at St. Thomas.

“A liberal arts university gave me the opportunity to explore a variety of courses, and the community engagement, study abroad opportunities, and internships in an environment that facilitated growth seemed like the next best step for me,” he said.

In just a few months, Brown’s made friends from all over the world and has enjoyed learning about different cultures while sharing his own.

He’s even warming up to the Canadian winter.

“As cold as it might be, I do enjoy the snow because it makes everything more interesting during outdoor adventures,” he said.

With Economics as his intended major, Brown is open to exploring a number of future endeavors—becoming an entrepreneur, an investor, working for an established business, or possibly contributing to a new innovative project.

Hanif was recently featured in Sports Illustrated—check out the story here.