Alumni

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 our alumni in the profiles below. 

Profiles

Nicolas Tellez-España

BA (Hon) 2019

Employment Coach
YMCA of Greater Vancouver

Biography

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.

Aske Nørby Bonde

BA (Hon) 2013

Diplomat
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Biography

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.

Lauren McCarthy  

BA 2013

Country Camp Management Coordinator
Danish Refugee Council

Biography

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.

Atul Menon

BA (Hon) 2015

Senior Manager, Country Risk Intelligence
Royal Bank of Canada

Biography

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.”

Ali Wagner

BA (Hon) 2013

Policy Analyst
Natural Resources Canada

Biography

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.

Tina Lovgreen

BA 2014

Journalist
CBC News

Biography

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 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 reporting on politics and international matters. The program has been pivotal in her career as a journalist and has given her the skills to understand global politics and to boil it down for the audience to grasp.

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.” 

Joyce Yan

BA 2014

Program Director
BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association

Biography

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. During her time in the program, she attended the Southeast Asia field school and was a recipient of the Saul N. and Deanna Silverman Back on Track Award. 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. During this time, she travelled to China where, as a visiting observer for research purposes, she attended the roundtable meetings of the China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development (CCICED)’s Task Force on Green Finance Reform and Green Transformation.

Joyce is currently the Program Director with the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA), and has been with the organization since 2016. FIPA’s work involves research, advocacy, law reform, and public education, on issues related to government transparency, freedom of information, surveillance and privacy, and civil liberties. At FIPA, Joyce has worked to develop policy and to reform BC’s and Canada’s information and privacy laws.  Most recently, she authored FIPA’s submission to the consultation on artificial intelligence initiated by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC). As part of the OPC’s review of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), this consultation process aimed to ensure appropriate regulation of artificial intelligence.

The skills and confidence Joyce gained through her time at SIS allowed her to step into the role of Interim Executive Director in late-2019, to lead the organization until a permanent executive director was hired. She says that the ability to leverage network connections with provincial government ministries and government watchdog organizations, as well as the ability to write briefs and reports, and to conduct thorough research and analysis, stem from her experiences in SIS. She is forever grateful for the camaraderie and support from her fellow students, colleagues, professors, and especially Ellen.

Disha Bhatnagar

BA 2016

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

Biography

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.”

Samaah Jaffer

BA 2018

MA, Columbia University MSc, London School of Economics

Biography

A settler on unceded Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territories, Samaah Jaffer graduated from SFU in 2018. She completed a joint major in International Studies and World Literature, and a minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic History. During her time at SFU, she worked at SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement and was the B.C. editor of rabble.ca. In 2017, she was awarded the Andrew Rippin Essay Prize for excellence in critical thought and scholarship within the field of Islamic Studies at the Middle East and Islamic Consortium of BC student conference. As a recipient of the International Studies Travel Award, she travelled to Cairo, Egypt in 2018 to study Egyptian Colloquial Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. She returned to Cairo in 2019 to participate in the Summer Institute for Islamic Studies at the American University in Cairo. Samaah recently completed a dual-degree program in International and World History, earning a Master of Arts at Columbia University in the City of New York and a Master of Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her interdisciplinary research is primarily focused on Islam and modernity, and her dissertation, titled “Covering Shari‘a: The Politics of Definition and Untranslatability in American Newspapers,” examines popular perceptions and negotiations of Islam through discussion of shari‘a in twentieth-century American media. Her time at SIS was formative in shaping her thinking of Islam through a global lens. Discussion of Islamic history, law, politics, and feminism in IS seminars formed much of the foundation and inspiration for her graduate research.

Claire Sieffert

BA (Hon) 2016

Ph.D. Student in Sociology
New York University

Biography

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.

Claudia Arrieta

BA 2015

Lawyer
Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC)

Biography

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.

King Cordova Albaña

BA 2017

Project Management Analyst
BC Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction

Biography

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 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 for some of the most complex mega-events across the globe, including the Olympic Games, 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 a project management analyst for the Government of British Columbia’s Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. 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.

Krystal Renschler

BA 2012

Portfolio Manager, Community Partnerships and Engagement
Vancity Credit Union

Biography

Krystal Renschler graduated from the School for International Studies in 2012, while working as an intelligence officer with the Department of National Defence. At the DND, she focused on conflict analysis and human security in the Horn of Africa. With a desire to shift from analyzing conflict to transforming it for good, Krystal further trained in mediation and conflict resolution. She was fortunate to join the Berghof Foundation in Berlin, an organization focused on conflict transformation in many conflict regions of the world, where she served as a consultant with the Peace, Mediation and Dialogue programme. Her work with Berghof included process design and analysis of group dialogue for transforming conflict into positive social change. Krystal has also worked with Mediators Beyond Borders in Sierra Leone, supporting community dialogue processes for sustainable peace and community resilience following the civil war and the Ebola epidemic.

From 2014 to 2016 Krystal served as a Rotary International Peace Fellow at Uppsala University in Sweden, where her research focused on post-conflict memory and reconciliation. As a fellow, she conducted in-depth field research with former Khmer Rouge soldiers and survivors of the Cambodian genocide to better understand what forms of memorialization contribute to individual and community healing following mass atrocity.

With a desire to better understand colonial impacts at home and put into practice the skills she developed abroad, Krystal returned to Canada in 2016 to work with Reconciliation Canada, an organization focused on revitalizing relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in Canada. Her role included co-leading a series of national engagements across the country to advance reconciliation through the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.

Krystal is currently a Portfolio Manager with Vancity’s Community Investment team. She leads a portfolio of work focused on building partnerships with local not-for-profits, Indigenous organizations, social enterprises, universities, and other entities, to contribute to social and economic inclusion. She sees this as an extension of her peace work in a more localized context, working at the systemic level to ensure those who have been socially and economically marginalized have equitable opportunities to participate in the economy and civic life. From her early work in conflict analysis and mediation, to her current work, Krystal considers herself equal parts process designer, strategist and facilitator, always working with collaborative and dialogic processes to foster innovation and generate shared solutions to complex social problems.

For Krystal, what stands out most about her time with SIS is the caliber of outstanding faculty she had the opportunity to learn from, and the value of a truly interdisciplinary degree. Her experiences in IS taught Krystal the value of approaching global issues through multiple lenses – as an economist, an anthropologist, a political scientist, etc. She learned that trying to apply as many of these perspectives as possible would uncover a picture that comes the closest to reality, and she has tried to hold to this insight in the variety of contexts where she has worked.

In addition to a BA in International Studies from SFU, Krystal also holds an MA in Peace and Conflict Research from Uppsala, Sweden.

Karen D'Souza

BA 2013

Senior Program Development Officer
Employment and Social Development Canada

Biography

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 for various programs within the Government of Canada, including Employment Insurance, Passports, Pensions, and Canada Summer Jobs. She currently works as a Senior Program Development Officer for the Government of Canada's Reaching Home: Canada's Homelessness Strategy Program, a community-based program aimed at preventing and reducing homelessness across Canada. 

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.  

Alexander Dirksen

BA 2012

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

Biography

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. 

Prodpran Wangcherdchuwong

BA 2017

Analyst, Dialogue and Engagement
Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, SFU

Biography

Prodpran completed her undergraduate degree in 2017, with a major in International Studies and a minor in Dialogue. During her time at SFU, she was a recipient of the W. Ronald Heath scholarship and was active in the International Studies Student Association. She currently works at SFU’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue as an Analyst, Dialogue and Engagement. With her team, she works to convene diverse groups of people and to facilitate critical conversations aimed at supporting collective action and collaborative decision-making on important social issues.

For Prodpran, IS was a great avenue to explore a variety of local and global issues, and to examine the interconnectedness and complexity of systems, structures, and people. Among the highlights of her undergraduate experience are two research-intensive courses she took at SIS. Although they were challenging, she says the skills she developed in these classes have been valuable in her professional life, helping her to frame important questions clearly and to find good answers for them.

One of the most important aspects of her undergraduate experience was the community she found among her peers at SIS. She made strong connections with classmates and says they were not just a group of friends who had her back; they were also part of her larger community of learning.

When asked about the advice she would offer current students, Prodpran notes that the changing nature of work can make it challenging for graduates in any field to establish themselves in a career immediately after graduating. Finding a satisfying job may take time and involve rejections along the way, which can be discouraging. She offers the following advice: “Always remember that rejections are not a reflection of your capabilities or your worth, especially not in these challenging times. Hold on, hold each other up, and own your experiences and education – you’ve got this!” 

Joseph Aris

BA 2017
LL.M. (University of Edinburgh)

Foreign Service Officer
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada

Biography

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. 

Graciela Hernandez-Cruz

BA 2015

Senior International Development Officer
Global Affairs Canada

Biography

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. In her current position as a senior international development officer, Graciela focuses on global health issues, including communications and policy-related efforts pertaining to Covid-19.

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.”

Melissa VanderHouwen

BA (Hons) 2011

Associate Lawyer
Moore Edgar Lyster LLP

Biography

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.