Profiles

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. 

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.

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.

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!”