Office of Community Engagement team

Matthew Grant

Telephone: 778.782.8082


Director, Community Engagement

Community engagement involves partnership and collaboration between universities and our broader communities to recognize, share, co-create, and apply knowledge to move the needle on issues that matter. KM & KT, CBRPARCELTSLCE, experiential learning, engaged scholarship, research impact, and other areas that centre mutual learning and discovery in their processes all offer rich opportunities to make a difference through community engagement.

SFU’s Office of Community Engagement is at the nexus of this work, establishing and deepening relationships, identifying strategic opportunities to build reciprocal partnerships (and building them), advancing thought and innovation to address societal needs, building and institutionalizing infrastructure, and participating in community-engaged learning and research initiatives.

Why community engagement matters to me:

At its heart, community engagement is about learning together, discovering new knowledge together, and making a difference together. It is about anchoring opportunities for learning, discovery, and impact deep within relationships that are characterized by aspects of partnership, equity, and reciprocity. It offers approaches to teaching, research, and scholarship that are inclusive and equitable—ones that bring together people from the university and broader community to think, collaborate, learn, and commit to building a better society with each other.

We need this. Honouring different forms of knowledge and building our appetite to learn more and make change together is crucial if we are to address today’s most insistent challenges, like food insecurity, lack of affordability, climate change, unsustainable practices, issues of social justice, disparate access to education, and more.

I feel both honoured and called by the responsibility to contribute to this important work.

Rachel Nelson

Telephone: 778.782.8082


Associate Director, Partnerships and Programs

I work to build relationships with people interested in making a difference through the combination of university and community knowledge, resources and passion. My focus is on developing authentic, respectful, sustainable and mutually valuable partnerships with community. One of the main channels for this work has been through the SFU Surrey – TD Community Engagement Centre, where we work in collaboration with people and organizations in Surrey to co-develop activities and initiatives for the purpose of building more resilient communities. 

Why community engagement matters to me:

At its core, community engagement is about people. I believe that a synergistic connection exists between the effectiveness of initiatives and the quality of relationships. Bringing our whole authentic human selves into relationships and acting with empathy, humility and flexibility is just as important as anything else in this work. Principled practice of community engagement is a powerful way for the university and community to work together on addressing the complex challenges our society is facing in the 21st century. I think bringing the strengths and assets of the academy and community together in ways that facilitate the genuine respect for different forms of knowledge and that provide the fertile ground for co-creation of ideas and action has the potential to catalyze lasting and meaningful change on issues that matter to us all.

Chris Yakimov

Telephone: 778.782.8082


Associate Director, Digital Community Engagement

I work to realize and mobilize the vision, values and principles of community engagement within digital strategy and production. My goal is to ensure that digital media enhance relationships – that communication is authentic, real, brave, and valuable – and that we are accountable for how we go about it. From time to time, I teach in SFU's Semester in Dialogue – a commitment that reminds me that the ultimate goal of digital community engagement is helping people to come together in real life.

Why community engagement matters to me:

We need a bigger tent. The complex challenges facing us today require us to be better at harnessing our diverse strengths. Community engagement, for me, pushes the boundaries of what we call knowledge so that more people can be involved in the practice of thinking together, and so that knowledge practice becomes more than just thinking – it becomes feeling, acting, and remaining mutually accountable together, too.

Janet Yan

Telephone: 778.782.7484


Communications Officer, Community Engagement

As a communications officer at the Office of Community Engagement, I provide leadership in the design, production and function of print, web, digital and other communications. My goal is to support the implementation of community engagement and brand marketing strategies through creative communication, connecting our message to the community in a creative way to facilitate better understanding and strengthen relationships.

Why community engagement matters to me:

Community engagement is a way to gather the rich resources available and harness the values of different groups to address complex challenges in our society and help unlock the immense potential of the future.

Tara Flynn

Telephone: 778.782.7484


Coordinator, Civic and Community Engagement

I work closely with civic and community partners in Burnaby to co-create lifelong learning events and to support city-wide community engagement. In developing partnerships, I’m guided by values like inclusion, diversity, equity, and knowledge creation, to name a few. One of my main tasks is to act as Director of Connect Fest (previously Burnaby Festival of Learning), where I work to bring SFU’s community engagement vision and values alive in partnership with the community. My other focus is food security. I work with Burnaby organizations and community members on programs that address food insecurity—because food is essential for building culture, good health, and a sense of belonging. 

Why community engagement matters to me:

In relationship with others we are awarded a unique gift­­ – the gratification of learning something new about others while learning or rediscovering something about ourselves.

Community engagement opens up an opportunity to share diverse perspectives, learn through an individual’s story, and contribute toward the greater good when we feel moved to do so. A profound result of community engagement is the collective (and sometimes subtle) knowing that you have just experienced something transformative with others – joy, wonder, amazement, sadness, bewilderment ­– the spectrum of human emotion and our capacity for multiplicity within these experiences is endless. In moments of true presence with others, we can mediate our tendency to think our way through problems, and we give space to feel into the experience of creating solutions with others, making for a far richer outcome.

It is vital to the positive development of a community to actively choose knowledge and learning alongside empathy, cooperation and presence. Community engagement matters to me because it is so effective at co-creating initiatives and solutions to complex challenges, to my heart and mind, there is nothing quite as unifying as this shared understanding and experience with others. 

Tara was recently featured in a 2021 installment of "People of SFU". Check it out here.

Saba Fatemi

Telephone: 778.782.7484


Program Manager, SFU Surrey–TD Community Engagement Centre

I oversee and coordinate the recruitment, orientation, and supervision of SFU-student staff and volunteers who support our collaborative community programs. Through partnerships with various community organizations, we co-create and deliver free programs for newcomers and vulnerable populations, fostering authentic relationships and ensuring mutual benefit. By integrating feedback from a wide range of stakeholders and overseeing the day-to-day management, implementation, and assessment of programs, I help contribute to an inclusive approach to community engagement, strengthening our collective learning, deepening our knowledge, and making a meaningful impact on issues that are of vital importance to both the university and the community.

Why community engagement matters to me:

I have always been amazed by the vast wealth of knowledge and experience held by people in our communities. I feel honored to be able to learn from our partner organizations, the populations that we serve, and our SFU-student staff and volunteers.

I am grateful that our programs integrate different perspectives into their development and implementation, drawing from the wealth of knowledge and experience in both the community and the university. In this way we ensure that CEC programs remain sensitive and responsive to community priorities, commitments, and aspirations.

It is also very fulfilling to see SFU students learning from the people they collaborate with, growing personally through these opportunities while simultaneously growing academically through their courses: a beautiful illustration of how two types of learning and growth come together to help students flourish and evolve into well-rounded citizens and future leaders.

Tiffany Chen


Communication Assistant, Community Engagement

As a member of the Office of Community Engagement team, I provide support in the development and execution of marketing and communications. From creating content to joining in on events, my focus is to share the values, the vision, and the opportunities our programs can offer. Through the Student Community Engagement Competition and SFU Surrey – TD Community Engagement Centre, we work to collaborate with different people and organizations to help create more impact within our communities.

Why community engagement matters to me:

We often forget how impactful and successful our communities can be. They offer a lot of opportunities for people to connect with each other in different settings. “The impact of one interaction or connection can be simple and memorable or it can be outright transformative. Community engagement provides us the chances to openly share in the challenges we face in our society, and to come together to meaningfully address them.”