Jenny Kwan graduated from SFU with a degree in criminology. She first considered studying business administration, but it was her experience at SFU that changed her mind and led her into criminology and eventually into politics. Jenny is currently a member of the Legislative Assembly of BC and represents the people in the Mount-Pleasant area. In 1993, she became the youngest-ever member of the Vancouver city council, and in 1996, she was elected to represent the Vancouver east side community.
When asked about her experience at university, Jenny responds with a wistful tone. In her mind, the experience was pleasant and enjoyable and perhaps one of the most memorable moments of her life, especially being able to be part of the criminology program. Not only did she learn a lot of valuable lessons, but it also had a tremendous impact on her life and career. Through her criminology classes, she learned that there are many complex factors that can influence people’s lives. She had the chance to understand some of the issues revolving around the law and learned to appreciate those complexities. In particular, she appreciated the professors at SFU who served as role models for her and influenced her tremendously while she was there. Bruce Alexander, for instance, (the 2007 winner of the Sterling Prize for Controversy) introduced Jenny to some of the drug issues in the Vancouver downtown eastside community, which is relevant to what she does now as a politician.
Reflecting back to her time at the university, Jenny believes that her biggest challenge was probably the level of maturity she had as a freshman. After taking a few courses in business, she realized that it wasn’t really the thing for her. She felt that there was something else that she wanted to do but didn’t know exactly what it was. Finally, it all came together during a summer when she took time off from school to work and travel to China and Hong Kong. It was then that she had the opportunity to do some soul searching. She tried to seek answers to deeper questions such as the purpose of her existence and why her parents decided to immigrate to Canada. She realized then that Canada held many opportunities for her; it was just a matter of making the best of it. When she came back to Canada, she knew exactly what she wanted to do. She wanted to make a difference -- to contribute to society and help the less fortunate.
Perhaps one of the biggest impacts that SFU had on Jenny was progressive thinking. Her courses taught her to look at the world differently and introduced her to all sorts of global issues that would eventually aid her in her career. All of this was worth more than gold to her.
When asked to offer some advice to current students at SFU, Jenny says: “At SFU, you are not alone, and I think that is the beauty of it. There are many students just like you. They are all struggling at one point trying to figure it out, although there is never a clear answer. But I always say this: invest in yourself and believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will. Be confident in your decision and trust yourself. Take the risk and go forward. And although as I said, the answers are sometimes not as clear-cut as you might like, you will find them eventually if you continue to believe in yourself”.
Jenny has never stopped caring about her community and has never stopped being passionate about her job and helping others.
Find out more about Jenny Kwan and the BC Legislative Assembly at www.leg.bc.ca/mla/38thparl/kwan.htm