Learn more about our students’ experiences and career paths

Many of our students have gone on to work with governments, multilateral organizations, universities, nongovernmental organizations, and private sector employers across Canada and in many other countries.

Others have gone on to further education, pursuing Masters degrees, PhDs, or law degrees, from respected programs around the world.

Read more about some of our alumni in the profiles below. 



Claudia Arrieta

BA 2015

Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC)


Claudia graduated with her bachelor’s degree in 2015. She completed a major in international studies, with a concentration in security and conflict. While at SFU, she was an active member of the International Studies Student Association, starting as a member at large and finishing her tenure as President. She was also a recipient of the Dr. Alfredo Hurtado Scholarship and, in 2014, she travelled to Montenegro to participate in Model NATO.

Her experiences at SIS taught Claudia to think critically, to start negotiating before you get to the negotiating table, and to lead with authenticity.

After SFU, Claudia completed her Juris Doctor at UBC. While in law school, she volunteered at the Law Students’ Legal Advice Program. She represented clients in Small Claims Court, before the Immigration and Refugee Board, and before the BC Human Rights Tribunal. She also travelled to the Kwadacha and Tsay Keh Dene First Nations to participate in circuit court.

Claudia was called to the bar in 2018 and has been practicing insurance defence in-house at ICBC since then. She can often be found at the Supreme Court of British Columbia, arguing in Chambers or assisting senior counsel at trial. Claudia cannot wait to conduct her first trial as a “first chair”. She is certain the skills she learned at SFU will play their role in helping her become the best lawyer she can be.

Alicia Blimkie

BA 2016

Department of Justice Canada


Alicia Blimkie graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Simon Fraser University in 2016 with a major in International Studies and a minor in World Literature. During her degree, she was a member of the International Studies Student Association and was Editor-in-Chief for the first edition of Confluence, the student association's journal. She also completed an internship with the United States Consulate General in Vancouver and studied abroad in the Hague, Netherlands, where her interest in law developed. 

Alicia graduated with a Bachelor of Civil Law and Juris Doctor from McGill University’s bilingual Faculty of Law in 2019. At law school, Alicia was an editor for Inter Gentes: The McGill Journal of International Law and Legal Pluralism and volunteered with a number of immigration-focused legal clinics. In 2018, she spent the summer working at the Ateneo Human Rights Centre in Manila, Philippines. 

Since being called to the British Columbia bar in 2021, Alicia has worked as counsel with the Department of Justice Canada. Alicia's practice is varied, including administrative law, constitutional law, environmental law, and personal injury litigation. 

Alicia's time in the International Studies program, as well as her internship with the U.S. Consulate General, taught her to write succinctly and clearly, a skill she uses often when writing legal arguments or case status reports for clients and managers. Alicia's advice to students would be to engage in as many extracurricular experiences as possible, as you'll learn best what you enjoy doing when you have the opportunity to apply your skills outside of the classroom.

Melissa VanderHouwen

BA (Hons) 2011

Associate Lawyer
Moore Edgar Lyster LLP


After completing a double major in International Studies (Honours) and Economics, Melissa VanderHouwen attended law school at the University of Ottawa. She now practices at a progressive labour, employment, and human rights law firm in Vancouver, where she provides advocacy to unions regarding a wide variety of labour matters, and advice and representation to non-unionized employees on many workplace issues.

Melissa also has a particular interest in advising and advocating for unions and individuals on a variety of human rights issues. Her interest in human rights was kindled during her time at the School for International Studies, where she was given the opportunity to explore conflict, inequality, and injustice on a global scale. She now advocates for clients in human rights matters as part of her daily work, and draws regularly from what she learned at SFU.

Her time in the International Studies program taught her to think critically about the information we receive, the narratives we are given about people’s stories, the gaps in knowledge we have about the truth, and the nebulous nature of what “justice” means. Much of her legal practice involves telling people’s stories in a way that will be persuasive to an adjudicator, and seeking to enforce their rights in a deeply flawed legal system. Melissa draws heavily on the perspective she developed at SFU to advocate for her clients’ rights, and to push for equality and justice.

Melissa’s legal practice can be found here.


Aske Nørby Bonde

BA (Hon) 2013

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark


Aske Nørby Bonde graduated with a BA Honours in International Studies in 2013. During his studies, he was actively involved in student life and served as Secretary General of SFU’s own Model United Nations club and conference. Extracurricular activities complemented his courses as learning opportunities and were also a great way to make new friends. As an international student, the welcoming attitude of classmates and staff quickly made him feel at home in a friendly and encouraging learning environment. According to Aske, questions were critically approached from different angles in the interdisciplinary IS programme, fundamentally challenging and enriching his preconceived ideas of society. He describes the programme as academically demanding but also incredibly flexible with every semester providing the opportunity to choose between courses, internships, exchanges and field school.

Shortly after finishing his BA in IS, Aske did a Master’s degree in Development Studies at the Graduate Institute in Geneva, Switzerland. He felt particularly well prepared for the Master’s degree, being familiar with central concepts in subjects such as international relations, economics, and sociology from his studies at SFU. After graduation, he chose to dedicate a year to attempt to learn Arabic in Jordan while doing short-term consultancies for a UN agency. He subsequently worked at the Foreign Service of the European Union in Brussels. Since 2019, Aske has worked as a diplomat for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark where he says he continuously benefits from the global outlook and critical reflections promoted at SFU’s School for International Studies.

Joseph Aris

BA 2017
LL.M. (University of Edinburgh)

Foreign Service Officer
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada


At the time of writing, Joseph is a brand new Foreign Service Officer and is looking forward to beginning his rotational career shortly in a currently undetermined embassy overseas. Prior to joining the School for International Studies at Simon Fraser University, Joseph served as an infantry reservist in the Canadian Armed Forces with the Royal Westminster Regiment.

Throughout his BA, Joseph took advantage of the range of courses offered by the School for International Studies, and found particular interest in security and conflict related courses. He greatly enjoyed the interdisciplinary nature of the IS program, and was especially drawn to anthropology and sociology as a lens in which to understand and analyze developments at the local, regional and international level. He greatly values his time spent in small-sized classes having difficult but critical discussions with classmates and professors on a range of international issues.

In addition to his courses, Joseph completed a number of full-time internships spanning 20 months in total at the Mexican Consulate General in Vancouver, Global Affairs Canada's Trade Commissioner Service in Vancouver, and the Embassy of Canada to Thailand in Bangkok.

After graduating from the School for International Studies, Joseph obtained his LL.M in International Law from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, with a dissertation titled "Evaluating Legitimate Expectations: Demarcating the Limits of State Deference and Regulatory Measures in the Renewable Energy Sector". After obtaining his LL.M, Joseph worked as a legal clerk at an international commercial arbitration center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, before being selected into the Foreign Service with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. 

Humanitarianism & Peacebuilding

Lauren McCarthy  

BA 2013

Country Camp Management Coordinator
Danish Refugee Council


Lauren graduated with a BA from SFU's School for International Studies in 2013 and soon began an internship with a French humanitarian NGO in South Sudan. She started her career in the finance and program development sector and transitioned to camp management and humanitarian coordination when the ethnic-political civil war broke out at the end of 2013. Since then, she has worked in South Sudan, Iraq and Yemen.

In 2017, Lauren completed a Masters degree in migration and development at SOAS in London, UK. Her research focused on humanitarian “accountability” and how humanitarian systems perpetuate, rather than challenge, the power imbalance between providers and receivers of humanitarian assistance.

Since early 2019, Lauren has been in Yemen, where she works with the Danish Refugee Council (DRC). She is the country coordinator for the agency’s camp management operation, which supports civilians displaced by the ongoing proxy war. Her work involves managing camps and humanitarian programs to increase the quality and effectiveness of service provision (water, sanitation, shelter, food, protection, and health care) for displaced people in camp-like settings. Her experiences at SFU – notably, the opportunity to take a leadership role in SFU’s chapter of Schools Building Schools (an NGO), and mentorship from this organization’s founder, Craig Vandermeer (MAIS 2011) – are key factors that Lauren credits for launching her career in the humanitarian sector.

Jenna Dixon

BA 2010

Special Assistant, Political Affairs to the Chief of Staff
United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)


Jenna Dixon (BAIS 2010, MAIS 2015) currently works as the Special Assistant, Political Affairs to the Chief of Staff for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in Baghdad. Since starting her career with international organizations in mainly conflict and post-conflict zones she has supported efforts in peace-building, political inclusion and humanitarian issues. Jenna previously worked for the UN Verification Mission (UNVMC) in Colombia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE SMM) in eastern Ukraine, the UN Assistance Mission to Somalia (UNSOM) in Mogadishu and UNHCR in Ecuador and Costa Rica.

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 completed 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.

Communications & Journalism

Tina Lovgreen

BA 2014

Senior Manager of Media Relations, Issues Management and Social Media 


Tina Lovgreen received her undergraduate degree from SFU in 2014, with a major in International Studies and a minor in Communications. She also holds a diploma from BCIT for Broadcasting and Online Journalism. 

Tina is currently the Senior Manager of Media Relations, Issues Management and Social Media for TransLink. In her role, she oversees the transportation agency's communication with both the public and media, while helping build the agency's brand and advocacy for more sustainable modes of transportation in Metro Vancouver. 

Before going into the field of communications, Tina was a journalist with CBC News in Vancouver, B.C. She has reported on matters of national and international importance, from the shooting down of Ukrainian Flight 752, which killed 176 people onboard, to the destructive wildfires of 2017, which ravaged our province. 

For Tina, enrolling in IS was a no brainer. She was always interested in international relations and global politics. She grew up in Tehran, Iran, to an Iranian mother and Danish father. She lived in Copenhagen for a short time and moved to Vancouver in 2000.

Studying IS has given Tina the foundation necessary for both her career in journalism and communications. Tina says one of the strengths of the IS program is the value it places on international experiences. During her time in the program, she had an opportunity to live in Berlin for a semester and improve her German. She attended Humboldt University and was able to dig deeper into the history of the city and EU politics. A once-in-a-lifetime experience, this opportunity significantly enriched her perspective on international affairs.

For prospective students unsure about whether to enrol in IS, Tina's advice is to dive in with both feet: “This program gives you a comprehensive base and understanding for countless career paths, it's well respected, and it's more important than ever before to understand the world around us.” 

Policy Analysis, Public Administration & Public Service

Joyce Yan

BA 2014

Privacy & FOI Officer, College of Pharmacists of British Columbia


Joyce Yan graduated from SFU’s School for International Studies (SIS) in 2014, with a specialization in international development, economic and environmental issues, along with a major in political science. At SIS, she found her passion – an area of study that not only combined her interests in environmental sustainability and social justice, but also gave her the opportunity to travel, make long-lasting connections, and apply an interdisciplinary lens on real world issues.

After graduating, Joyce attended Queen’s University and completed an MA in Global Development Studies in 2015. Her area of focus was at the intersection of climate change adaptation and the political economy of development.

Joyce’s professional interests pivoted to focus on civil liberty issues, specifically on access to information and privacy rights in British Columbia. She was the Program Director and Interim Executive Director for the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA) where she worked to develop policy and to reform BC’s and Canada’s information and privacy laws. During her tenure with BC FIPA, Joyce also completed her Master of Public Administration from the University of Victoria in 2021 where she focused on the political and social economy of public policy with emphasis on the power dynamics between the different levels and types of government.  

Joyce is currently the Privacy & FOI Officer with the College of Pharmacists of British Columbia where she is responsible for managing their privacy management program to ensure that operating standards are met in alignment with the College’s statutory mandate, strategic plan, and values. She works closely with other provincial regulatory bodies and various BC government ministries.  

In addition, Joyce has also started her own privacy consulting business, which helps small- and medium-sized businesses meet their privacy compliance requirements. 

The skills and confidence Joyce gained through her time at SIS allowed her to pursue a professional career in governance and civil liberties. She says that the ability to leverage network connections with various public sector organizations, government ministries, and external stakeholders, as well as the ability to conduct thorough research and analysis, and manage diverse and competing priorities, stem from her experiences in SIS.

King Cordova Albaña

BA 2017

Senior Project Manager, WelcomeBC
BC Ministry of Municipal Affairs


King Cordova Albaña graduated from SFU’s School for International Studies in 2017. Along with being named to the Dean’s Honour Roll, he was the convocation speaker of his graduating class and was a recipient of numerous scholarships and awards, including the Irving K. Barber International Scholarship. He is the first and only student to have received two awards for Best Undergraduate International Studies Essay, in 2014 and 2017. His first paper to receive this recognition examined Australia’s securitization of asylum and migration in the Pacific region. In the second essay, which he wrote for a seminar on the practice of diplomacy, King examined the role of diplomacy in the resolution of the Canada-EU Turbot War.

Prior to completing his degree, King worked as a project manager for some of the most complex mega-events across the globe, including the Vancouver Olympic Games, London Olympic Games, Toronto Pan American Games, and G8-G20 Summits. Having lived, worked and studied in Asia, Europe and North America, as well as having visited more than 100 cities around the world, his passion for global citizenship and international affairs drove him to pursue a degree in International Studies in hopes of one day becoming a public servant.

Today, King works as the senior project manager of WelcomeBC for the Ministry of Municipal Affairs’ Immigration Programs Branch. According to King, his prior project management experience, backed by the invaluable skills and knowledge he acquired from the School, enabled him to successfully transition and thrive in a meaningful career where he can positively contribute towards the betterment of society.

Ali Wagner

BA (Hon) 2013

Policy Analyst
Natural Resources Canada


Ali Wagner graduated from the School for International Studies’ honours program in 2013 and she currently works for the federal public service in Ottawa. Coming from rural Alberta, she was eager to learn more about the world and SIS provided her with an opportunity to do so, in its interdisciplinary program that engages and challenges students in a variety of fields. During her studies, she received support to pursue a second language, which took her to Guatemala for three months of full-time study. She also completed a student exchange to Istanbul. She was very active with the International Studies Student Association (ISSA), serving as President in her last year. In this role, she encouraged student connection and sought greater equity in the hiring of SFU professors. She also completed an honours thesis in her final year, on women and leadership in post-communist countries.

Her time at SIS sparked a continued interest in international relations, gender and sexuality, and social policy, which led her to complete an internship at Amnesty International in Ottawa and to apply for a graduate program in global public policy. She received a full scholarship to the Erasmus Mundus MA Program in Public Policy and spent two years studying in Budapest and Barcelona.

In 2017, Ali took a position at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in a one-year auditor development program. She then began a two-year policy analyst development program at Natural Resources Canada (NRCan). At NRCan, she has worked as a policy analyst on international files related to Canada’s natural resources and cleantech policies, focusing on a variety of international partners, including Germany, the UAE, Mexico, and the United States. Ali says her IS degree provided her with essential knowledge about government and global affairs, strong critical thinking skills, and in particular a broadened worldview – all of which are invaluable for working in the public service.

After graduating from her development program in July 2020, Ali began a new position at NRCan that involves analyzing policies and managing programs to promote renewable energy technologies for rural and remote communities in Canada.

Karen D'Souza

BA 2013

Program Officer
Employment and Social Development Canada


Karen D’Souza completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in 2013, with a major in International Studies, specializing in Comparative World Politics, Culture and Society. After graduation, she worked with the Immigrant Services Society of BC (ISSofBC), which helps new immigrants and refugees settle down and find employment in Canada. Following this, she worked in various capacities within the Government of Canada, including processing of Employment Insurance, Passports, Pensions and Social Insurance Numbers. She currently works as a Program Officer within the Program Delivery Branch of Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), which delivers grants and contributions that help support jobs, training, and social development for Canadians. 

During her time at SFU, Karen completed three work-study terms at the Human Security Report Project, an independent research centre that was based within SIS, which tracked global and regional trends in organized violence. Her work involved researching and critically evaluating articles and resources related to armed conflict, organized violence and other Human Security issues. This experience was invaluable as it gave her an opportunity to study in-depth the concepts and issues she was learning in class.

Karen appreciates the program's inter-disciplinary approach and courses, which helped shape her perspective on local and global issues, and how systems and structures perpetuate inequality. Her advice to students would be to take advantage of the wide variety of courses offered through the program and its excellent faculty, as they each offer a unique set of skills and perspectives that can support a range of career paths. 

Community Engagement & Community Service

Nicolas Tellez-España

BA (Hon) 2019

Employment Coach
YMCA of Greater Vancouver


Nic graduated from the School for International Studies (SIS) in 2019. After finishing his degree, he accepted a full-time position as the Community Engagement Coordinator for Mission Possible. A not-for-profit organization in the Downtown Eastside, Mission Possible supports those struggling with poverty, addictions, and homelessness to reintegrate into the workforce. In 2021 Nic moved on to work as an Employment Coach at the YMCA of Greater Vancouver, where he currently supports multi-barrier youth rejoin the workforce.

One of the main drivers in Nic’s decision to join the international studies program was the small and personalized nature of the School and the tailored approach to learning brought forth by professors. While at SIS, Nic took advantage of many opportunities including three co-op placements with the Consulate General of Mexico, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, and Schools Building Schools in Uganda. He served as the President of the International Studies Student Association and was a committee member of Confluence, the undergraduate journal in international studies.

In his last year, Nic pursued an honours degree, writing an undergraduate thesis focused on South American identity reformation during the pink-tide movement. His work earned him the Dr. Alfredo E. Hurtado Memorial Essay Award and later his thesis was published in the Temas Sociales journal of the Universidad Mayor de San Andres in Bolivia. The combination of experiences and opportunities that he had at the School, together with the great relationships he built during his time in IS, have been instrumental in both his professional and personal life.

Most recently, Nic became a Certified Leadership Coach (CLC) to better support the people he works with through non-directive coaching and empowerment. He is now working toward his accreditation as an Associate Certified Coach through the International Coaching Federation. He also serves as a board member for the YMCA’s Youth Leadership Council.

Alexander Dirksen

BA 2012

Director, Programs + Community Accountability
Community Knowledge Exchange (CKX)


Alexander graduated from SFU’s School for International Studies in 2012. He began his graduate studies the following year at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, at the University of Toronto. Upon finishing his master’s degree he returned to Vancouver, where he became active in the reconciliation space following the release of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report in 2015. Alexander began his career with Reconciliation Canada, where he had the opportunity to contribute to national awareness-building and advocacy efforts. His work continues to be driven by a deep commitment to decolonization, and to supporting community-rooted efforts and initiatives.

Alexander currently serves as Director of Programs + Community Accountability at Community Knowledge Exchange (CKX). He also serves on the Partnerships Advisory Committee for the Vancouver Foundation and as a board member for Apathy is Boring. His writing has appeared in Policy Options, Open Canada, and Citizenship in a Connected Canada (forthcoming from the University of Ottawa Press). In 2018, Alexander was recognized as one of 200 global “Leaders of Tomorrow” by the St. Gallen Symposium.

For Alexander, his BA in international studies has been foundational to his current work. The program provided him with a space for critical reflection and the opportunity to develop and strengthen his ability to see the interconnectedness of our communities and our world. In reflecting upon his time with the School, he says he is forever grateful to its faculty and staff, who invest deeply in their students over the course of their studies.

For those embarking on their studies at SIS, Alexander’s advice is to never lose sight of your potential to make a meaningful difference, or of the causes and communities you seek to be in service to through your work. 

Disha Bhatnagar

BA 2016

Employment and Assistance Worker
BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction


Disha completed her bachelor’s degree in international studies in 2016, with a concentration in international development, economic and environmental issues. During her time in the program, she completed four co-op terms at various organizations, including SFU, Canada Border Services Agency, Indigenous Services Canada, and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. These co-op positions allowed her to apply the research, writing, and communication skills she had developed in her classes within a professional setting, and to further develop her client service and decision-making skills. Her co-op experiences also led Disha to her position as an Employment and Assistance Worker at the BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, where she assists British Columbians in need. Her work involves assessing eligibility for income or disability assistance and providing other forms of support. During the three years she has been in this role, she has witnessed first-hand the impact of policy changes on the lives of her clients living in poverty, which sparked her interest in pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy at SFU. Currently on educational leave and entering the second year of SFU’s MPP program, Disha’s aspiration is to help make sustainable changes that can improve the lives of Canadians living in poverty, with a particular focus on newcomers. She is now on a co-op term with BC Housing working on a project reviewing current definitions of low-income housing.

A highlight of Disha’s undergraduate experiences was the exchange semester she completed at Sciences Po Paris. At Sciences Po, she had an opportunity to combine the disciplines of her major (IS) and her extended minor (French) by taking an international studies course entirely in French, while also earning credits transferable to SFU. Her semester in France also gave her a chance to experience daily life in Paris and to travel across Europe on weekends with new friends she had made on her exchange.

Disha’s advice for future students is to go on exchange (or seek out any other international adventure), and also opt for co-op: “The experiences, skills, and connections you gain outside the classroom are just as important as the ones you gain inside it. And a degree in international studies doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work abroad. The skills and knowledge you develop through the program can be applied in many careers right here in Canada.”

Graciela Hernandez-Cruz

BA 2015

Advisor, Stakeholder Relations


After graduating from SFU’s School for International Studies in 2015, Graciela moved to Ottawa to pursue a career in government. Since then, she has held a number of positions with Global Affairs Canada. In 2018, during Canada’s G7 Presidency, she served as a communications officer with the G7 Stakeholder Engagement team. In this role, she worked directly with the Prime Minister’s office and met with civil society actors who were seeking to have their voices and ideas reflected in the G7 summit process. Graciela then served as the Desk Officer for Ecuador, a position in which she worked on political and trade files and served as the focal point within the Ministry for all Ecuador-related matters. She has also organized a successful bilateral consultation process between the Ecuadorian and Canadian Governments, which focused on shaping policy and facilitating initiatives of significance to both countries. After a 6 years in Ottawa she decided to move back to Vancouver. Since 2022 Graciela has been working at Vancity as part of their stakeholder relations team. She works with partners to achieve Vancity’s commitment to be net zero by 2040 across all mortgages and loans.

In December 2020, Graciela completed a master’s degree in Communications at Carleton University in Ottawa. As part of her graduate studies, she explored the use of social media by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, examining how it has enabled her to become a kind of celebrity politician.

Graciela says she is grateful to the International Studies faculty at SFU for designing courses that spur students to think critically about global issues and policies. She says that her studies at SFU have not only shaped her understanding of global affairs, they have also influenced her activism in important ways. Outside of work, she has been involved in grassroots organizing on a range of issues, including climate justice and a $15 minimum wage. Her experiences as an activist encouraged her to enter politics in 2019, when she ran for the federal nomination of the NDP in Ottawa Central. Although her campaign did not result in the outcome she had hoped for, Graciela encourages young women, people of colour, and queer people to run for public office, and she offers the following advice: “Navigating systems and structures of power is not always easy. With every success there will always be setbacks and that's okay! However, I encourage all young women, folks of colour, and queer people to take up space and aim to be in places they never thought of being in. We need them in politics now more than ever.”

Security & Global Risk Analysis

Atul Menon

BA (Hon) 2015

Senior Manager, Country Risk Intelligence
Royal Bank of Canada


Atul completed his honours degree in international studies in 2015, with a concentration in security and conflict. He currently works at the Royal Bank of Canada in Toronto as a Senior Manager, Country Risk Intelligence. At RBC, Atul is in the process of establishing a Country Risk practice that deals with the bank’s global exposure to geo-political risks and to risks posed by financial crimes (e.g. sanctions evasion, terrorist-financing, etc.). Prior to RBC, Atul worked at Scotiabank as a Manager, Country and Industry Risk Analysis (Global Risk Management). His role at Scotiabank encompassed multiple projects, which included helping to elevate the risk insights and analysis produced by GRM, supporting the credit officers in adapting and enhancing industry risk reports, and building the bank’s capacity to deal with climate change related trends in the financial space. Atul holds a Master of Global Affairs from the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

According to Atul, his undergraduate experiences at the School for International Studies had many lasting benefits: “SIS had a profound impact on my personal, professional, and intellectual growth. I can unequivocally credit the IS department (including its wonderful staff, professors & students) with two very important things: encouraging a genuine hunger for knowledge (in all its complexity) and fostering a strong foundation in critical thinking. I could never imagine going elsewhere. The atmosphere at SIS welcomed some of the brightest students I have had the pleasure of knowing, many of whom remain my close friends to this day. The department provided a range of opportunities that brought out the best in me – from getting involved in the ISSA and working with the Canadian Journal for Development Studies, to holding research assistantships and writing an honours thesis. Choosing SFU-SIS is the single most important academic decision I have made. My advice for students is to take the opportunity to immerse themselves completely in the social and intellectual aspects of the SIS experience.”

Research & Academic Pathways

Samaah Jaffer

BA 2018

Ph.D. Student in Religious Studies, Yale University


Samaah Jaffer completed her undergraduate studies at SFU in 2018, with a joint major in International Studies and World Literature, and a minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic History. While completing her BA, she worked at SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement, The Peak, The Lyre Magazine, and was the B.C. editor at She also organized and presented at the 2017 Middle East and Islamic Consortium of BC student conference, where she received the Andrew Rippin top-essay award. As a recipient of the International Studies travel award in 2018, Samaah spent a semester studying Arabic in Cairo, Egypt. She returned to Cairo in 2019 to participate in the Summer Institute for Islamic Studies at the American University in Cairo.  

Samaah’s time at SIS was formative in shaping her thinking on Islam through a global lens. Discussion of Islamic history, law, and politics in IS seminars formed much of the foundation and inspiration for her graduate research.

In 2020, Samaah graduated from the MA/MSc program in International and World History at Columbia and the London School of Economics. She completed additional graduate coursework at the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU in 2020-2021.

Claire Sieffert

BA (Hon) 2016

Ph.D. Student in Sociology
New York University


Claire finished her honours degree in International Studies at SFU in 2016. During her time in the program, she learnt from a number of different experiences, including working as a junior policy analyst at Global Affairs Canada, participating in the Educational Network for Human Rights in Palestine/Israel’s (FFIPP) summer internship programme, and completing an honours essay on socialism’s contested meanings in Cuba.

After graduating, Claire joined Canada’s Parliamentary Internship Programme, where she worked for two Members of Parliament and researched how Senators understand their relationship to the public. In 2017-2018, she completed her MA in Sociology at the University of Toronto. She then worked at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy’s Global Justice Lab from 2018 to 2019. At the Global Justice Lab, her work examined topics like police oversight and the criminal justice system’s response to sexual assault in different countries. In 2019, Claire began her PhD in Sociology at New York University. With an interest in culture, organizations, and morality, she is particularly focused on how these dynamics unfold in accountability systems.

Throughout these experiences, Claire has drawn on the tools and questions that she developed at SFU’s School for International Studies, which she describes as a programme that truly fosters curiosity. Claire says she is immensely grateful to the staff, professors, and fellow students at the School; their encouragement to ask questions and read widely led her to pursue her current research direction.