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.
Reporting and Operations Officer
United Nations Assistance Mission to Somalia (UNSOM)
Jenna Dixon currently works as a Reporting and Operations Officer for the United Nations Assistance Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) in Mogadishu. She previously worked as a Field Verification Officer for the UN Verification Mission in Colombia (UNVMC), monitoring the reincorporation of FARC ex-combatants and the security of rural communities in accordance with the Colombian Peace Agreement, and as a Resettlement Analyst for UNHCR in Costa Rica and Ecuador. 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 did 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, and she highly recommends the co-op program. She left SFU with a network of colleagues and former professors who continue to be of tremendous support as she pursues a career with international organizations.
Strategic Advisor to the Director General of Gender-Based Violence Policy
Women and Gender Equality Canada
After completing her MAIS coursework and extended essays, Tori relocated to Ottawa to take a co-op position with Global Affairs Canada, where she worked on files related to Canada’s international food security policy. Tori then took a co-op position with Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), contributing to a policy initiative concerning natural resource development projects. Following this co-op term, Tori was ‘bridged’ from that co-op position to employment as a policy analyst in the same team.
Tori has since fulfilled positions at Environment and Climate Change Canada where she worked on Canada’s review of its environmental assessment and regulatory processes, and Indigenous Services Canada where Tori worked on research supporting Indigenous businesses and international engagements. Since 2019, Tori has served as the Strategic Advisor to the Director General of Gender-Based Violence Policy at Women and Gender Equality Canada.
For Tori, the MAIS program was a valuable experience because of the opportunities it afforded her 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.
Gender Equality Advisor
United Nations Development Program (UNDP)
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. 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 Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where she works as a Gender Equality Advisor for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and has adopted two adorable Haitian street dogs.
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.
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.
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.
Northern Council for Global Cooperation
Brittney Potvin graduated from the MAIS program in 2015. After completing the program, Brittney returned home to Ottawa, where she interned with the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) International Operations department. Motivated by her strong interest in Latin America, Brittney applied to the International Youth Internship Program (IYIP) in Nicaragua and was selected for a position with Cuso International. For 6 months she lived and worked in Managua, supporting the marketing department of the Association of Producers and Exporters of Nicaragua, advancing her Spanish skills, and gaining experience working in global development. Upon her return to Canada, Brittney worked as Communications Coordinator for the Inter-Council Network, supporting a national conference on public engagement for professionals working in global development, provided volunteer communications support to the UN Association in Vancouver and completed a digital marketing certificate with Brain Station.
Brittney is currently the Program Coordinator with the Northern Council for Global Cooperation in Whitehorse, Yukon. She is responsible for recruiting youth from the North to participate in the Global Affairs funded International Aboriginal Youth Internship initiative (IAYI), which will provide 100 Indigenous youth with opportunities to live and work overseas with non-profit organizations working on a diversity of global and local issues. Brittney looks forward to working closely with Indigenous communities in Canada and partner organizations overseas.
Brittney credits the skills she gained as an MAIS student for her career achievements to date and would highly recommend the program to others keen to engage in deep (and fun!) interdisciplinary conversations about global issues.
Philip Roy is a graduate of both the BA and MA programs at SFU’s School of International Studies, focusing jointly on international governance and security. He is a recipient of the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship, the Consular Corps of British Columbia Graduate Entrance Scholarship, and the Government of Canada’s Western Regional Director General’s Award for outstanding public service. Philip has worked in various capacities in Canadian federal government departments, specifically Global Affairs Canada and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. He is now a program manager at a private research institute focusing on complex systems, where his work primarily addresses the challenge of quantifying warfare and the underlying mathematics that serve as both the framework and predictive model for violent events. In collaboration with organizations all over the world, the institute’s modest goal is the betterment of humanity. He is honoured to be a part of that effort.
According to Philip, ‘The MAIS program honed the skills needed to be successful in my chosen field, while imparting the collective wisdom of its diverse, experienced faculty. After graduating from the program in 2015, the continuing support of the school and my cohort proved the lasting value of the degree’.
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.
My experience as an MA student at SFU’s School for International Studies began in 2008, after what I imagine to be a common international experience: going out into the world as an intrepid young backpacker and returning home years later a committed, if often frustrated, development worker. I came to the School to learn how be more effective in that role and, thereby, to ‘make the world a better place.’ I left with a radically new conception of that world and my place in it.
The year-long MA program was intense, challenging and, by and large, a lot of fun. I formed bonds of friendship with a cohort of inspiring people who shared common humanitarian commitments born of strikingly diverse experiences. The faculty at the School demanded much of us, but rewarded us with carefully considered assessments of our work and guidance toward our academic and professional objectives.
It was during my experiences as a MAIS student that I found my feet as a scholar. After graduating, I set out into the world once again, but soon found myself back at the School for International Studies, this time as a Ph.D. student under Professor John Harriss. If the intensity of the MAIS had been akin to a 10,000m race, it had prepared me well for the marathon that is a Ph.D. Shortly after completing my Ph.D. in 2016, I accepted a position in Jasper, Alberta where I am working to establish a strategy for successful immigrant and refugee settlement.
McMaster University, Department of Health, Aging & Society
Mark Norman graduated from the MAIS program in 2009. His MA project critically analyzed the growing global phenomenon of “sport for peace,” which seeks to use sport-based interventions as peacebuilding tools in war-torn or otherwise divided societies. Following this interest in the relationship between sport and social development, Mark undertook a PhD in the Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education at the University of Toronto. He graduated in 2015, having completed a thesis that examined the sociological significance of sport and physical recreation in the Canadian federal prison system.
For the next two years Mark worked as a project manager at the Centre for Sport Policy Studies at the University of Toronto, and taught at University of Toronto (Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education) and Ryerson University (Department of Sociology). In 2017, Mark began a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship at McMaster University. Based out of the Department of Health, Aging & Society, Mark is undertaking a research project to explore alternative forms of physical recreation and therapeutic interventions in the Canadian corrections system, with a specific focus on animal-assisted interventions and yoga.
Mark has published research in journals including Sociology of Sport Journal and International Review for the Sociology of Sport, and chapters in a number of edited books. Mark received graduate paper awards from the North American Society of the Sociology of Sport and the International Sociology of Sport Association.
Mark currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, with his wife Melissa and infant son Elliott.
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.
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.