Top SFU News stories of the decade

December 18, 2019

By Lauren Borean

As we turn the calendar page on another decade, SFU News looks back at the top stories of the past 10 years. From new buildings and faculties, to research milestones, SFU has expanded physically, academically and as a community.

These are the stories that helped strengthen SFU’s mission to be Canada’s engaged university.

Trevor Greene, the Iron Soldier

Former Canadian soldier Trevor Greene, who survived a debilitating brain injury in 2006 while on duty in Afghanistan, recovered his ability to walk again with help from an exoskeleton customized at Simon Fraser University. Greene worked with Ryan D’Arcy, a neuroscientist and professor, and mechatronics professor Carolyn Sparrey. It was the first time a person with a brain injury had used exoskeleton technology. Today, Greene can walk upright with assistance. In the future, he plans to walk on his own.

SFU Athletics joins the NCAA

In 2011, SFU became the first non-U.S. member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association, the world’s largest sports organization. After a two-year transition period, SFU varsity teams competed in the NCAA’s Division ll Great Northwest Athletic Conference in the 2011-12 season. Lorne Davies, SFU’s legendary first athletics director, said, “It is the most important step in SFU athletic history. The athletics department is keeping in step with the university’s commitment to provide excellence in education and athletics and to challenge our students and student athletes to be the best.”

SFU opens new sustainable building as first phase of Surrey campus expansion

Simon Fraser University celebrated its Surrey campus expansion in 2019 with the opening of its new $126-million building in Surrey’s City Centre. The five-storey, 20,458-square-meter facility houses SFU’s new Sustainable Energy Engineering (SEE) program, introduced in September 2019. The new building and program support the first phase of a three-phase expansion plan for Surrey that will strengthen SFU’s mission to be Canada’s engaged university.

SFU forensic entomologist uses blowfly evidence to exonerate American woman imprisoned for 17 years

SFU forensic entomologist Gail Anderson, helped prove the innocence of Kirstin Blaise Lobato, an American who was wrongfully convicted for murder in 2002. Anderson was asked to use forensic entomology to help exonerate Lobato. Anderson’s knowledge of how and when blowflies colonize a corpse with their eggs netted Lobato a third retrial. On Dec. 19, 2017 Anderson testified about her findings. Ten days later judges dismissed the case. Lobato was released in 2018 after spending almost 17 years in jail for a crime she did not commit.

SFU maintains top spot among Canadian comprehensive universities

2019 marked the 11th time in the past 12 years that Maclean’s Magazine ranked Simon Fraser University first among Canada’s top comprehensive universities. The comprehensive category includes post-secondary institutions that have a significant amount of research and a wide range of programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, as well as professional degree programs. This continuous ranking shows the university’s growth throughout the decade as it builds toward becoming Canada’s engaged university.

Record $22-million donation establishes Beedie School of Business

In 2011, businessman Ryan Beedie and his father Keith Beedie donated $22 million to Ryan’s alma mater, SFU Business, now known as the Beedie School of Business. The donation created an endowment supporting students, professorships and research chairs, with a view to encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship at the school. Their gift continues to positively impact and support students.

Charles Chang Innovation Centre opens for business in downtown Vancouver

In 2016, Simon Fraser University opened the Charles Chang Innovation Centre, a new graduate student residence and innovation facility in downtown Vancouver. Charles Chang, an SFU Beedie School of Business alumni donated $10 million to establish the new institute. The Innovation Centre continues to support innovation and accelerates entrepreneurship throughout the University.

SFU launches Public Square

Designed to spark, restore and nurture community connections, SFU Public Square puts the university’s physical, intellectual and virtual capacities to work to support public engagement and deliberation on issues of public concern. SFU President Andrew Petter and Chancellor Carole Taylor launched Public Square on June 19, 2012. It realizes SFU’s vision, as Canada’s engaged university, to “bring people together to seek the best possible solutions to the pressing issues we face.

Canada’s most powerful academic supercomputer launches at SFU

In 2017, Simon Fraser University partnered with Compute Canada and WestGrid to launch a new, advanced, research computing (ARC) system, Cedar. As one of Canada’s supercomputing data centre sites, it gives Canadian researchers access to the latest ARC resources and expertise, and offers operational cost savings, economies of scale, and greater computational storage. The full investment in this national computing platform is valued at $75 million, with funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), and provincial and industry partners.  

SFU’s Faculty of Education opens new Research Hub

In June 2019 the Faculty of Education opened the Research Hub, a centre that focuses on creative, collaborative and interdisciplinary scholarship and associated programming. With activity zones for planning, developing, implementing, analyzing and disseminating research, faculty members and graduate students use this space for focused individual work, as well as for small and large group collaborations.

SFU begins its journey toward reconciliation

In 2017, Simon Fraser University’s Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (SFU-ARC) unveiled its final report, summoning the University to commence action in key areas. The final report, titled Walk this Path With Us, highlights the groundwork as the university community began its collaborative journey towards reconciliation.