Profiles

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.

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.”

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. 

Karen D'Souza

BA 2013

Program 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 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. 

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.

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.