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Breadth of ability and talent helps Brenda Tang harness dialogue to solve societal problems
SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue hosts a broad range of initiatives that use dialogue to solve some of society's most complex problems.
The Centre’s important work would not be possible without hardworking staff members like Associate Director Brenda Tang, a key figure in making sure the Centre operates smoothly and that the programs, practitioners and students are able to thrive.
Tang, who is among the exceptional SFU employees who have been honoured with a 2021 Staff Achievement Award, embodies the values and spirit of the Centre with her kind heart, creative mind and enthusiastic persona.
“Every day is different and that's what I love about the work,” says Tang, who won her staff achievement award for outstanding work performance. “The one big consistency is that I get to work with people every day at the Centre who are the most hard-working, dedicated and passionate folks I've ever met.”
Tang coordinates a team that includes fellows, researchers, students and external collaborators. In her role, she has delivered strong leadership and inspired excellent work performance from her staff and co-workers. Tang drives success in many areas, including finance, human resources, operations, events management, fundraising and student, alumni and faculty engagement. She also helped steer the Centre through its recent growth spurt, and plays a leadership role in advancing anti-racism and decolonization work.
During her undergrad Tang worked as a student temp, exploring different departments at SFU. Upon graduating, she immediately began to work full-time for SFU in a unit that was previously called Dialogue Programs. She briefly left to work in the corporate world and rejoined SFU in 2007, where she has been ever since.
Looking back on her career at SFU, Tang reflects on some favorite projects, including a project in the Summer 2018 Semester in Dialogue focused on Urban Energy Futures. At the end of the semester, the students hosted a dialogue focused on social challenges related to electric vehicles in B.C.
“The students did a stellar job on the event,” says Tang. “They showcased their learnings. The turnout was fantastic and I thought their process design for the dialogue was excellent.”
The dialogue event displayed the deep appreciation students had for the guidance by a staff member of one of the Centre’s fellowship programs, a leader in the field of e-vehicles in Canada. Post-event, Tang recalls the excitement among students, how they spoke with pride about each other, while snapping group photos and celebrating.
“I'm proud of how the Centre connected its fellow’s programs with our network to provide access to the students,” says Tang. “It really does bring experiential learning to a new level when we are able to provide such connections.”
To further support the students in the Semester in Dialogue, Tang and other Centre staff founded the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue Staff Award for Promising Future Dialogue Practitioners. The award is funded through personal donations from Centre staff and financially sponsors Semester in Dialogue students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to due to financial barriers.
Another memorable experience for Tang with the Centre was her work on the Chinese Canadian Museum project in 2019. Throughout this project, she was able to travel with the social enterprise team to hear from fellow Chinese Canadians on what they would like to see in a museum that honours their past and looks into their future.
She recently learned that the museum will soon be coming to fruition and says she is proud the Centre contributed to the important discussion.
As an advocate for supporting student experiential learning, bringing people together and leading core operational teams, Tang’s work at SFU has been vital to the success of Centre’s programs.
“It is such an honor to work alongside my colleagues who have a deep commitment to dialogue, engagement and student learning, and who consistently lift each other up, collaborate and support one another.”
SFU’s annual Staff Achievement Awards recognize staff members for their achievements and contributions to the university or the community. The awards are a way to showcase some of the great work being done at SFU and in the community by inspired and outstanding staff members. Read more