People of SFU

Six leaders honoured by SFU for the inspiring difference they are making

August 14, 2023

We are proud to recognize Amyn and Shein Rajan as the 2023 recipients of the President’s Distinguished Community Leadership Award. We are also excited to honour three recipients of the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award: Elizabeth Model, for her contributions toward the growth of Surrey; Kali Stierle, for her service and dedication to the Indigenous student community at SFU and beyond; and SFU Black Caucus (founding members Henry Daniel and June Francis), for building a better SFU through equity and racial justice.

These prestigious annual awards celebrate the inspiring difference that our community members are making to shape a brighter future. Our honourees this year truly exemplify the university’s deep commitment to advancing an inclusive and sustainable future. Because of their exceptional leadership, SFU—and the world—are in a better place.

Amyn and Shein Rajan


In 2014, SFU computing science alumnus Amyn Rajan (BSc ’93), who was a recipient of the $12,000 Gordon M. Shrum Entrance Scholarship in 1986, stated that his goal was to give back to the university a hundredfold what he had received through the scholarship—a remarkable goal that he and his wife Shein have since doubled.

In 1972, both Amyn and Shein and their families were thrown out of Uganda, the country of their birth, by dictator Idi Amin. Canada graciously welcomed them along with many other immigrants and refugees with open arms. Both of their families struggled to establish themselves in Canada. Amyn’s family lost their house the year he graduated from high school, and his family’s business went bankrupt at the same time he graduated from SFU. The entrance scholarship that SFU awarded Amyn was critical in helping him get a solid education and setting him up for success in life.

Amyn went on to start his first company, Orbital Technologies, in 1997. Amyn and Shein married in 2001 and continued their business success with two other companies: Simba Technologies and Bit Quill Technologies. They are proud to have built three very successful technology businesses in Vancouver, creating new jobs and employing more than 300 people.

As followers of the Aga Khan and using their Shia Ismaili Muslim ethics, the Rajans have committed to giving back both time and resources to SFU, Canada and the wider community.

The couple has uplifted the SFU community in many meaningful ways, from supporting women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and undergraduate entrance scholarships, to fostering an understanding of Muslim societies and developing a thoughtful partnership with Aga Khan University and The University of Centra Asia through student exchanges and collaborations that address pressing global issues like pluralism, climate change and environmental sustainability.

The Rajans have also served as advisory members for SFU’s Power of Engagement 50th anniversary campaign and, since 2011, Amyn has been part of SFU’s Faculty of Applied Sciences External Advisory Board and served as its chair for eight years.

Their impact extends beyond SFU, having contributed to initiatives such as the World Partnership Walk, Aga Khan Foundation Canada, Ismaili Centres in Toronto and Houston, and the Aga Khan Museum. The couple’s commitment to building greater diversity and inclusion in education, as well as the technology industry at-large, have transformed countless lives throughout British Columbia. Amyn currently serves on multiple boards, including the Scleroderma Association of B.C. where he is actively raising funds for research into this rare and dangerous disease.

SFU is proud to recognize Amyn—our very own distinguished alumnus—and Shein for their inspiring philanthropy and dedication to community, education and equity.

Elizabeth Model


Elizabeth Model has raced on all seven continents—Ironman in six and a marathon in Antarctica—but something always draws her back to beautiful British Columbia, where she was born and raised.

As the current CEO for the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association (DSBIA), Model has made invaluable contributions toward the positive growth of the Downtown Surrey community. In particular, she continues to be an incredible supporter of SFU with raising the profile of SFU’s Surrey campus and its role as the catalyst for growth in Surrey City Centre.

Since 2009, Model has served as an active member of the SFU Surrey Community Advisory Council. She played a pivotal role in advocating for SFU at senior levels of government, including funding for the university’s new School of Sustainable Energy Engineering building in Surrey and the proposal for an SFU gondola to Burnaby Mountain.

Under her leadership, the DSBIA also initiated an Economic Impact Study for SFU’s new medical school in Surrey—which was subsequently sent to key government officials—and demonstrated consistent and outstanding commitment to SFU’s co-op program. Since 2019, the organization has hired and provided mentorship to students for nearly 160 work terms.

Model has served on numerous boards and committees throughout her career, welcoming the diversity, learning and challenges they bring forth. She has also raised thousands of dollars for people with disabilities and accessible housing with her sporting endeavours. Model’s knowledge, expertise and passion for the province she calls home has made a positive difference for those she serves, including SFU.

Kali Stierle


Kali Stierle is currently completing her undergraduate degree at SFU’s Beedie School of Business, and has been changing the university in extraordinary ways with every step.

As an urban Indigenous person of Nêhiyaw (Cree), Métis and German descent and a member of Peepeekisis Cree Nation, Stierle has spent countless hours volunteering for the Indigenous student community and her local Aboriginal Friendship Centre.

Since starting at SFU, Stierle has served as a board member for the First Nations, Métis & Inuit Student Association, as well as on the university’s First Peoples Gathering House Committee, Aboriginal Reconciliation Committee, San’yas Anti-Racism Committee, Surrey Indigenous Welcome Figure Committee, and Simon Fraser Student Society Council, to name a few. Notably, she spearheaded and organized the first “Honouring Indigenous Students'” powwow on Burnaby Mountain, which created an important space to share culture, build relationships and celebrate as one.

Stierle’s impact on Indigenous communities reaches far beyond SFU. During the pandemic, she co-founded a virtual support group and wellness workshop series for Indigenous university students in the Lower Mainland to provide kinship, cultural connection and mental health resources. She also collaborated with the Fraser Region Aboriginal Friendship Centre Association and DIVERSECity on the development of a Decolonization Toolkit for immigrant and newcomer youth.

While Stierle plans to use the accounting knowledge and expertise she gains at SFU to advocate for economic empowerment and sovereignty for Indigenous nations across Canada, she is already making a significant difference in the community by supporting income tax filing for individuals at homeless shelters in the region.

Her selfless service and commitment to Reconciliation, inclusive and meaningful engagement, and amplifying Indigenous voices has undoubtedly helped to build many bridges between students and university stakeholders alike.

SFU Black Caucus


SFU Black Caucus was co-founded by professors Henry Daniel and June Francis in 2020 in response to the deep trauma that was inflicted on the Black community following the death of George Floyd. Since then, it has been creating space for the flourishing of the university’s Black faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members through advocacy, mutual support, Black recognition and celebration.

The Black Caucus builds on a history of Black contributions and advocacy at SFU, including the Black Canadian Studies Association, founded by Professor Afua Cooper in 2009 while serving as Ruth Wynn Woodward Endowed Chair at SFU; the new SFU Institute for Black and African Diaspora Research and Engagement; and the SFU student-led initiative that resulted in the Senate approving a motion to hire at least 15 Black faculty members.

Today, the Black Caucus works with SFU’s administration to address systemic and institutional barriers to equity and inclusion of Black and African faculty, staff, and students. Francis, who is a professor at SFU’s Beedie School of Business, also served as a special advisor on anti-racism to SFU President Joy Johnson in 2021. During that period, SFU signed the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education, joining more than 40 other universities across Canada in a commitment to rectify anti-Black racism.

The following year, with Francis as co-lead, SFU and the University of British Columbia co-hosted a public symposium on the charter called Community Making and Black Flourishing Through the Scarborough Charter. Daniel, SFU Distinguished Professor, moderated a thought-provoking panel at this symposium to highlight some of the barriers that Black people face when navigating post-secondary institutions. Daniel also mentors and supports numerous Black students across SFU.

In 2022 and 2023, the Black Caucus played a key role in hosting the university’s Black Graduation Celebrations for friends, family and loved ones to reflect on the accomplishments of Black students. They also recently launched a vital project to reclaim and document Black history at SFU.

SFU is honoured to recognize the SFU Black Caucus for their essential work towards equity and racial justice. The group’s commitment to dismantling colonialism and systemic racism has helped improve the lived experiences of the university community and build a better SFU.