SFU applauds its YWCA WoD nominees

April 24, 2014

SFU staff, faculty, students and alumni are all well represented among the nominees for the YWCA’s 2014 Women of Distinction Awards, from the founders of key engagement and entrepreneurial ventures to scientists and environmental innovators.

The winners will be announced June 3. SFU nominees include:


Justine Bizzocchi, founder of SFU Venture Connection, the first early-stage business incubator program supporting student entrepreneurship at a B.C. university. Since 2008 SFU Venture Connection, which started at SFU’s Surrey campus in partnership with Coast Capital Savings, has helped launch more than 120 new businesses and has provided mentoring, training and support services to more than 3,100 student and alumni entrepreneurs.

Environmental Sustainability:

Diana Allen, earth science professor, is one of the first hydrogeologists in the world to systematically study the potential effects of climate change on groundwater sources. Allen combines research with local community collaborations and has made significant contributions to developing public policy. She recently advanced research on the secondary effects of climate change on human and ecosystem health.

Non-profit & Public Service:

Shauna Sylvester, executive director of SFU Public Square and Carbon Talks, and a fellow at SFU’s Centre for Dialogue has been engaging the world through pioneering roles with civil society and social justice organizations for more than 25 years. She now works to lay the foundation for civic engagement and dialogue, empowering stakeholders to collaboratively advance policies and take action on pressing social issues.

Young Woman of Distinction (students): 

Vuitton Chan, a criminology/communication student, co-founded a leadership-development program called Project S.C.R.A.P. (Sustainable Creations through Recycled Art Projects). A volunteer for numerous social empowerment agencies, she was recently recognized with a Vancouver 24 Hour News Top 24 Under 24 Award.

Tesicca Truong, is a member of the Engaged City Task Force and former board chair at Sustainable SFU. She has been recognized as one of Canada’s Top 25 Environmentalists Under 25.

As well, there are several SFU alumni nominees:

Arts, Culture & Design:

Susan Van Der Flier, a board director with the Vancouver Opera. Her volunteerism and philanthropic support have greatly impacted the organization’s success. She also works to provide deaf individuals with access to the performing arts.

Education, Training & Development:

Deborah Jacobs, who has headed the education department for the Squamish Nation for the past 30 years. She is also a member of the Assembly of First Nations’ B.C. Aboriginal Languages portfolio.


Almira Bardai, who co-founded Jive Communications. Bardai is a member of the Forum of Women Entrepreneurs and has been nominated for Business in Vancouver’s Influential Women in Business awards.

Environmental Sustainability

Sofi Hindmarch is a wildlife biologist whose work focuses on barn owls and their Lower Mainland habitat. She also leads children and youth through hands-on encounters and contributes to highly specialized research.

Non-profit & Public Sector:

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade. Under her direction, the board has become a leader in social policy issues, including advocating for stronger services and childcare support for Surrey families.

Technology, Science & Research:

Jennifer Gardy, a science alumna who has made significant contributions to research, and to science communication and mentorship as a popular science TV show host on the Nature of Things and the Daily Planet and through countless hours mentoring young scientists.

The YWCA Women of Distinction awards are given annually to recognize outstanding achievements and contributions to the wellbeing and future of the community. More than 250 women have been honoured since the awards began in 1984.

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