Learn more about our students’ experiences and where the MAIS helped them go
Many of our students have gone on to work with multilateral organizations, governments, and the not-for-profit sector internationally and across Canada. Others have gone on to further education, including PhDs and law school.
Below are a few profiles of our Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) alumni that highlight how the MA in International Studies can contribute to a world of possibilities.
Special Assistant, Political Affairs to the Chief of Staff
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
Jenna Dixon (BAIS 2010, MAIS 2015) currently works as the Special Assistant, Political Affairs to the Chief of Staff for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in Baghdad. Since starting her career with international organizations in mainly conflict and post-conflict zones she has supported efforts in peace-building, political inclusion and humanitarian issues. Jenna previously worked for the UN Verification Mission (UNVMC) in Colombia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE SMM) in eastern Ukraine, the UN Assistance Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) in Mogadishu and UNHCR in Ecuador and Costa Rica.
This work builds on the interest and expertise in International Security, Conflict and Development that Jenna developed through her studies as an undergraduate and graduate student at the SIS. During her BA, Jenna completed an extended minor in Latin American Studies as well as an exchange term at the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires. In the MA program, Jenna focused one of her final extended essays on the Colombian refugee situation.
Jenna chose the MAIS program mainly because of the excellent experience she had with the SIS professors and staff while in the undergraduate program at SFU. She left SFU with a network of colleagues and former professors who continue to support her in her career.
Senior Policy Analyst
Women and Gender Equality Canada
After completing their MAIS coursework and extended essays, Tori moved to Ottawa for two co-op positions with the federal government – first with Global Affairs Canada to work on international food security policy, then with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada working on Indigenous economic development. Following these co-ops, Tori was “bridged” into full time, indeterminate employment.
Tori has since taken on many new experiences and files within the federal government, including at Environment and Climate Change Canada where they worked on Canada’s review of its environmental assessment and regulatory processes, and Indigenous Services Canada where Tori worked on international engagements and supporting Indigenous businesses to export. Since 2019, Tori has been with Women and Gender Equality Canada and is currently a Senior Policy Analyst working to advance and implement Canada’s first National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence.
For Tori, the MAIS program was a valuable experience because of the opportunities it afforded them to work with accomplished, multidisciplinary faculty and peers. As well, the option to complete co-op terms was a key factor that influenced Tori’s decision to enroll in the SIS for graduate school, as this was a springboard for work experience and career development.
Tori continues to be active with our MAIS program, offering advice to our students about work with the federal government.
Tori also holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of British Columbia and has been a visiting student at the University of Victoria and L’Université Sainte-Anne. They have relocated back home to Vancouver, BC (taking advantage of remote work!) with their wife and two rescue dogs.
Reforestation Project Manager
Vanessa Milost graduated from MAIS in 2020 with a thesis that delved into the impact of collaborative research between higher education institutions in the Global North and Global South. Her research examined its role in bridging gaps in knowledge production and its potential to either mitigate or perpetuate power imbalances between wealthier and less affluent countries, using her home country of Brazil as a case study.
During her two-year tenure at SFU, she had the opportunity to explore a diverse range of interests, including research, teaching, and entrepreneurship. This experience equipped her with knowledge and skills that have proven invaluable in pursuing her passion for amalgamating business and social impact. Concurrently with her studies, Vanessa served as the Operations Director for Aplica!, an educational advisory company she co-founded in 2016 to assist Brazilian students in their pursuit of higher education in the US and Canada. Aplica! received the Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection Female Founder Award in 2019 and remained engaged with the Coast Capital Venture Connection at SFU until 2021.
Since her graduation, Vanessa has been dedicated to her career as a project manager. Initially, she worked at SkyHive, a B Corp-certified technology startup specializing in labor market analytics and reskilling. More recently, she has been with Taking Root, where she focuses on advancing value chains for smallholder farmers involved in Nicaragua's largest reforestation project. This involves promoting sustainable harvesting of wood and its transformation into products within the circular economy framework.
Vanessa holds a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in Economics and International Studies from Bryn Mawr College (2014) and is currently enrolled in the Business Management Certificate program at SFU's Lifelong Learning.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
Kyle Nelstead had originally intended to work in the field of international studies after completing his undergraduate degree in 2012 but found himself working in the Information Technology (IT) field instead. After graduating from the MAIS program in 2019, Kyle was able to pivot his career back toward his passion of working in the International Studies/Relations field.
During his studies at SFU, he focused most of his work – including both extended essays – on international refugee issues. He also volunteered as a section editor for the ISSA journal and its first publication.
After graduating, he worked for an NGO helping to sponsor refugees to come to Canada through Canada’s Private Refugee Sponsorship program. Today, he works for the federal government with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) managing grant and contribution agreements for settlement organizations across the province that provide support to newcomers to Canada.
Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society
Born and raised in Nigeria, Benedicta Bawo has developed a keen interest in law, mental health, and international development. In 2019, she moved to Canada and enrolled in the Master of Arts in International Studies (MAIS) where she served as a research assistant to Dr. Elizabeth Cooper. From the onset, Benedicta was driven by a deep passion for African feminism, mental health and issues of social justice. During her time in the MAIS program, she enjoyed all courses especially those focused on the African region like ‘Social Movement in a Changing Africa', which honed her research skills and policy brief writing abilities.
During her program, Benedicta was committed to community service and volunteered with Coast Mental Health and WAVAW (now SALAL Sexual Violence Support Centre). Here, she gained valuable insights into the challenges faced by marginalized individuals, especially those living in low-income conditions.
After obtaining her MAIS degree in 2021, Benedicta began working at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre (DEWC), channeling her passion into action. She currently works as a Policy Analyst at the Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society (VAFCS) where she utilizes an intersectional and trauma-informed approach to address gender-based violence in the Urban Indigenous community. Her work includes creating and facilitating training on safety planning, financial literacy and abuse, all while emphasizing Indigenous ways of supporting survivors of gender-based violence.
Benedicta cherishes the bonds forged with her course mates and mentors during her MAIS journey. She remains grateful for the program's transformative impact, the guidance of her mentors, and the lifelong friendships she has cultivated.
In addition to her MAIS degree, Benedicta holds a B.Sc. degree in International Law and Diplomacy from Babcock University (2017). Today, she resides in Vancouver with her partner, cherishing moments with family and friends.
Social Research Institute at the Institute of Education, University College London
Hayley Jones completed her BA and MA at the SIS in 2008 and 2011, respectively. Her thesis for the MAIS program focused on patterns of labour market insertion amongst families enrolled in Brazil’s Bolsa Família program, based on fieldwork in several favela communities in Rio de Janeiro.
With the encouragement of her thesis supervisors and the MAIS director, she decided to expand this research through doctoral studies at the University of Oxford. Her doctoral research focused on young people’s schooling and labour market experiences and life trajectories in the context of the Bolsa Família program and the potential for the program to facilitate intergenerational poverty reduction.
Upon completing the DPhil, Hayley took up a post as a Fellow in the Social Policy department at the London School of Economics and Political Science. She is now Lecturer (Assistant Professor) at the Social Research Institute at the Institute of Education at University College London, where she teaches Master’s students on the MSc in Social Policy and Social Research and supervises students on the MA in the Sociology of Childhood and Children’s Rights.
Monitoring and Evaluation Manager
Commonwealth of Learning (COL)
Alexis Carr graduated from the MAIS program in 2014 and currently works in Research, Monitoring and Evaluation for the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), an intergovernmental organisation focusing on learning for sustainable development. With an undergraduate background in English, history and liberal arts Alexis enrolled in the MAIS program after working for three years in rural Mexico as an English instructor and programme developer. A recipient of a Graduate Fellowship, Alexis was also awarded Graduate Research Travel funding to undertake original research in Mexico for her major project, and was subsequently nominated for the SFU Convocation Medal. Currently, Alexis supports the design and implementation M&E systems and action research projects at COL. Significant accomplishments include: the development of an empowerment framework, which has been used in more than five countries; authorship of a ‘Measuring Empowerment Toolkit’ launched by COL and UN Women at the 8th Pan-Commonwealth Forum in 2016, and co-authorship of numerous papers and presentations which have been presented at major global events and conferences. A lifelong learner, Alexis has gone on to do additional coursework in data analysis, research methods and survey design. She credits the MAIS program with providing a solid grounding in international development theory as well as practical research skills, both of which are essential to her current work.
Kirsten Pontalti graduated from the MAIS in 2010 with a final project that focused on children and youth in conflict-affected ‘fragile’ states. With three young children of her own, she planned to graduate and work for a development organisation. But mid-way through the program, the MAIS director encouraged her to pursue her doctoral studies (DPhil) at the University of Oxford. The DPhil was the beginning of a life-changing experience for her and her family, who accompanied her for a term at Oxford and ten months of fieldwork in Rwanda. In 2017, Kirsten successfully defended her dissertation “Coming of Age and Changing Institutional Pathways Across Generations in Rwanda”.
Following completion, Kirsten returned to Rwanda to share her findings. She is excited to now be working as an Associate at Proteknôn Consulting, a group of senior researchers and practitioners internationally focused on child and youth well-being. She is also pursuing further academic research related to children and youth, social change and conflict.
Kirsten is grateful for the camaraderie and support she enjoyed with her MAIS colleagues and professors as well as Ellen’s perpetually warm welcome! She also really appreciates that the MAIS gave her the practical skills and theoretical grounding she needed to succeed in her DPhil.
International Markets Program Assistant
Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology
Pamela Thindwa was born and raised in Malawi, also known as the “Warm Heart of Africa.” The growth of social media and the globalization of digital entertainment meant that she was exposed to many different perspectives. She became particularly interested in the global North-South divide and she developed a passion to work in international development.
Pamela is currently employed in the International Markets division of the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Jobs, Trade and Technology. Their mandate is to support BC’s economic development with an international platform. This work requires strong writing and analytical skills as well as the ability to work in a fast-paced environment. According to Pamela, she developed such skills and abilities during her time in the MAIS program. Pamela also credits the MAIS with expanding her understandings of international development. Furthermore, she appreciated having the option to complete two extended essays through which she could develop expertise related to two specific issues. The 12-month timeframe of the MAIS suited Pamela because she was eager to move on from the classroom and gain hands-on experience working in her field of interest.
Before the MAIS, Pamela earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics at the University of Nebraska in 2012. At the University of Nebraska, Pamela served as president and vice-president of several student organizations including the Model United Nations and Omicron Delta Epsilon (an Economics Honorary Society). She also interned for developmental influencers such as the Center for Global Health and Diplomacy, for which she worked as an Assistant Editor for their quarterly publication.
Senior Policy Analyst, Human Rights and Inclusion
Global Affairs Canada
During the last year of her MAIS, Leanne worked in a co-op position that was later extended into ongoing employment as a Gender Equality Policy Analyst with the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA, now Global Affairs Canada) in Ottawa. In 2013, she went on to work for the Ministry of Education of Ethiopia as a Gender Advisor and later as an independent consultant with the German development agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Ethiopia. She has also worked as a Gender Equality Advisor for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Leanne has also worked on issues of women’s political and economic empowerment in Burma (Myanmar) with non-governmental organizations such as Educational Initiatives, Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR) and Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA). She was lead researcher on a report entitled “Violence Against Women Prevention and Response Services and Access in Myanmar”, which has been published in both English and Burmese.
“I am grateful for the knowledge and skills base I developed as a student in the SIS program,” says Leanne. “In particular, my courses in Political Economy and my Independent Studies in Gender helped to shape my career path, giving me the critical perspective required to analyze persistent inequalities and injustices in development practice and to devise strategies to address them. Above all, the best part about my time in SIS was the bonds I formed with my brilliant and diverse classmates, many of whom remain close friends.”
Leanne currently lives in Rabat, Morocco where she works as a Senior Policy Analyst in Human Rights and Inclusion for Global Affairs Canada.
Associate Program Manager
Daniel Mundeva graduated from the MAIS program in 2016. He is currently an Associate Program Manager at the Mastercard Foundation where he supports initiatives and programs that aim to address youth unemployment in sub-Saharan Africa (Daniel’s motherland). With this role, Daniel travels extensively to different African countries to support organizations that work with the Foundation to improve education and skills training for young, African leaders.
Daniel credits a few opportunities he accessed during his MAIS studies to helping him get to where he is today. For instance, while he was writing his thesis, he undertook an internship with Vancouver’s Local Economic Development Lab (LEDlab). During this work, Daniel supported grassroots initiatives that promote income-generating activities for marginalized communities in the Downtown Eastside. Within this role, he learned a lot about project management and gained stakeholder engagement knowledge, which are crucial skills that he uses in his current work.
Daniel found the MAIS program to be a great program and stepping stone for individuals who are interested in international work. He also enjoyed the flexibility that the program provided to students. In his case, the program allowed him to develop research skills he needed to explore issues affecting the natural resource sector in his home country of Tanzania. Daniel also has a BA in Environment and Sustainability from the University of British Columbia.
Associate Economic Affairs Officer
UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
Tanner Boisjolie graduated from the MAIS program in 2016 with a concentration in International Development. He considers the program to have been an invaluable experience that allowed him to strengthen his research and analytical skills, develop new interests, and make strong connections with advisors and classmates.
During his time at SFU, Tanner virtually interned with the United States Agency for International Development’s office in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he provided research assistance to the agency’s South-South and Triangular Cooperation program. With the support of a Graduate International Research Travel Award, Tanner was able to complete a thesis on the institutional arrangements supporting Indonesian and South African South-South Cooperation programs.
Following graduation, Tanner worked at the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver’s management section, where he was responsible for project management and logistics.
After passing the 2018 United Nations Young Professionals Programme (YPP) exam in Social Affairs, Tanner was offered a position as an Associate Economic Affairs Officer at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in Beirut, Lebanon. Tanner currently serves in ESCWA’s coordinating cluster on the 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, which provides analytical support to the implementation and follow-up and review of the agenda in the Arab region.
Tanner also holds a B.A. in International Relations from the University of San Diego.
Incline Village Community Hospital Foundation
Incline Village, Nevada, USA
Karli Epstein came to SFU after earning her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Northern Arizona University and studying African Politics for one year at the University of Ghana in West Africa.
After completing the MAIS at SFU, Karli moved to Lake Tahoe to do an AmeriCorps (domestic Peace Corps) term with a local hunger relief organization. She then went on to work with the National American Red Cross Disaster Services team as a Field Associate, and she served as a disaster preparedness and response expert to 12 states on the eastern seaboard. Karli also worked with Red Cross regional staff on disaster communications and marketing planning as well as on mass care preparations for post-disaster impact. Karli has responded to 10 national disasters, and spent over 4 weeks in New York and New Jersey as a Public Information Officer for the Red Cross after Hurricane Sandy.
Currently, Karli is the Executive Director of the Incline Village Community Hospital Foundation, where she is working to ensure that all residents in her rural mountain home in Nevada have quality access to health care services. Karli is also an adjunct professor for the School of Community Health Sciences at the University of Nevada Reno, where she teaches courses on Global Health and International and National Disaster Response.
Karli’s MAIS year at SFU was transformative in many ways. Not only did it inspire her to pursue a career in non-profit work and disaster response, but it also encouraged her to teach at the university level. According to Karli, SFU’s School for International Studies has some of the most brilliant minds in the field and fosters an environment where all opinions are considered worthwhile and productive. She will always be incredibly grateful for her time at SFU, and most importantly the lifelong friendships that she created there.
Director of Security Intelligence
Lions Gate Risk Management Group
Andrea Ringrose began her MA in International Studies, Complex Emergencies at SFU in 2008. After years of clinical research, travelling to a couple of the world’s sordid corners and beginning a doctorate in another field, Andrea returned to Vancouver to find the right interdisciplinary program and cohort of brilliant, adventurous minds - many of them close friends today. The accelerated program was intense and at times very challenging, but ultimately emboldening. The theoretical foundations, critical analysis training and learning opportunities from internationally recognized scholars helped to guide the next steps of her rewarding professional life.
Andrea's analysis of the ICC’s deterrence effect regarding sexualized violence resulted in her invitations to further train in behavioural threat/risk assessment, human security intelligence, and criminal investigate analysis. Currently, Andrea is Director of Security Intelligence at respected risk management firm LGRMG. In addition, she is a member of UBC Psychiatry’s Translational Psychiatric Genetics Group, a CMHA Certified Psychological Health & Safety Advisor, and a Certified Mental Health First Aid Instructor for the MCC. She has co-authored publications in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Bipolar Disorders, and the Journal of Genetic Counseling, and presented posters at Jean Piaget Society’s Annual Meeting, the International Conference on Early Psychosis and the Canadian Association of Threat Assessment Professionals Conference. Andrea is privileged to work in interdisciplinary capacities across borders, cultures and sectors as a human security professional. She spends her free time making music, exploring with her young family and hilarious dog Dr. Radio, and running her charity warmemup.org.