Alumni making a difference in our community

June 11, 2018

By Diane Luckow

SFU now boasts more than 155,000 alumni in more than 140 countries around the world. In this issue we focus on three local alumni who are using the power of an SFU degree to improve their lives and also build a better world for others.

Degree and community engagement key to landing dream job as police officer

Constable Mike Bal, BA 2009

In 2017 SFU alumnus Mike Bal, 29, was selected as one of the world’s top 40 under 40 law enforcement professionals. The annual award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police recognizes candidates who exemplify leadership and commitment to their profession.

Just eight years earlier, Bal had missed his 2009 SFU convocation to attend the Vancouver Police Academy, the culmination of a lifelong dream to become a police officer like his father, a Royal Hong Kong police officer.

Bal credits his acceptance into the academy to his SFU BA in criminology and political science, his SFU International exchange year at Hong Kong Baptist University, and his community engagement with Crime Stoppers, community police and the B.C. Youth Parliament.

“I’m really grateful to SFU for providing the international student exchange, which was important to my growth and development, and to being accepted into the police academy at such a young age,” he says.

Bal’s Top 40 award recognized his career achievements over nine years, including his work with youth, and as a nationally certified, award-winning police negotiator who has defused several tense situations and also prevented suicides.

He is currently a school liaison officer at David Thompson Secondary School and eight elementary schools where he gets involved in a variety of youth initiatives to keep more than 2,000 students engaged and out of gang activity.

“I really enjoy working with youth, but I have an eye on moving into the investigative side of policing,” he says. “It’s a fascinating part of police work and something I think I would enjoy.”

Coincidentally, Bal’s field mentor is SFU alumnus Valerie Spicer, a police officer and PhD who teaches at SFU.

“She has really been a fantastic mentor for me in my growth and development in the police force,” he says. “Both of us being SFU grads helped us bond.”

Bal notes that a university degree is not essential to becoming a police officer, but it is preferred. And, he says, “We’re hiring.”

Health sciences insight yields elder-care app

Christina Chiu, BSc 2010

When SFU health sciences alumnus Christina Chiu encountered a misplaced care plan at a seniors’ care facility, she began thinking about how care is delivered to seniors who live on their own. This led her to create CareCrew, an award-winning, elder-care management app that connects families and caregivers to help them monitor, track and relay essential information while caring for their aging loved one. The app will be available this summer to help caregivers ensure seniors receive consistent, transparent and quality home care.

Social activist tackles poverty and homelessness

Christina Wong, BA 2016

SFU arts and social sciences alumnus Christina Wong is a social activist dedicated to eliminating poverty and homelessness in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside (DTE). She and business partner Stephanie Chan have established Employ to Empower (ETE), a social enterprise centered around employment as a realistic and long-term solution to reduce homelessness. In partnership with participating companies, ETE aims to re-integrate low-income individuals from the DTE back into society through dignified employment that reflects their dream jobs. In March this year, ETE launched Communauté, an online fashion resale platform where 50 per cent of every purchase supports the wages of the individuals whom ETE places in jobs.