School of Criminology

Aleksandra Ciesielska chases her dream to defend and serve others

June 09, 2023

Aleksandra Ciesielska's determination is unparalleled. She figures out what she wants, how to get it, and then she goes for it.

With an exceptionally high academic standing and a long list of awards under her belt, Ciesielska is ready to embark on exciting new professional and academic challenges. Following her Convocations this June, Ciesielska is pursuing a step up on her career ladder and graduate school.

Closing this chapter of her academic journey on a high note, Ciesielska is this year’s recipient of the Gordon M. Shrum Gold Medal, Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) most prestigious undergraduate medal.

“Her volunteer work on and off campus reflect the values recognized by the Shrum medal, which recognizes academic excellence and qualities of character, commitment to the university, and extra-curricular participation,” says Lara Campbell, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS).

FASS reception. Convocation, June 6, 2023

Ciesielska joined SFU’s School of Criminology in 2019 to pursue a BA in Criminology. From the very beginning, her desire to make connections and drive to serve others led her to engage in several volunteer opportunities. She served as a Writing and Learning Peer Educator for SFU’s Student and Learning Commons helping students improve their skills such as studying strategies, time management, and exam preparation. She played different roles as part of the Criminology Student Association and was a member of the Active Bystander Network, a group that raises awareness of sexual violence and creates a culture of care and consent at SFU.

Along with pursuing a minor in Business Administration and completing a certificate in Police Studies, Ciesielska decided to challenge herself through the Criminology Honours program.

“Aleksandra strives for success," says Rylan Simpson, Assistant Professor and Ciesielska’s honours thesis supervisor. “Her ability to balance her various responsibilities is remarkable. I was very impressed by Aleksandra’s performance.”

Aleksandra Ciesielska after presenting her honours thesis. April 28, 2023

In addition to the Gordon M. Shrum Gold Medal, Ciesielska has received the following awards and scholarships:

  • Dean’s and President’s Honour Roll (Spring 2020, Summer 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Fall 2022)
  • Undergraduate Open Scholarship (Summer 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Summer 2021, Fall 2021, Spring 2022, Summer 2022, Fall 2022, Spring 2023)
  • SFU Alumni Scholarship (Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Spring 2021, Fall 2021, Fall 2022)
  • Anne Cubitt Undergraduate Scholarship (Spring 2022)
  • School of Criminology Alumni Scholarship (Summer 2020)

As a child, Ciesielska's dream was to become a doctor. Science and math were all she wanted to do, but the story changed in Grade 11 when for the first time she disliked a science subject–physics. Around the same time, she started watching shows about policing and border security and a new path stretched out before her. From scrubs and scalpels to uniforms and handcuffs, her new dream was to go into law enforcement.

“I think one of my main motivating factors to be in law enforcement was that if there’s anything I feel needs to be changed I can help to do it as opposed to not getting involved,” she says.

Ciesielska has been working for the CBSA for more than two years, and reminiscing about her beginnings at the agency, she confesses initially she wanted to become a police officer. Working at the CBSA was a strategic move to gain experience at a law enforcement agency to then be a better candidate for policing. Little did she know she would find a sense of purpose, a connection to something larger, and the inspiration for both her work and academic pursuits.

“I really think that border officers can make a big impact on the safety of Canada and I’ve always liked to serve people,” she says. “I wanted to find a job where every day at work I felt that I’m serving people in some way.”

Ciesielska got accepted to SFU’s criminology master program, and she aims to continue her research on border security.

“I want to see how we can improve border services not only in Canada, but around the world as well.” Ciesielska says.