New archaeology alumnus excavates best from SFU experience

October 21, 2020

By Pam Lim

Archaeology student Alex Derian had big plans for 2020—a summer abroad digging in archaeological cemeteries before graduating this fall.  

But when the COVID-19 pandemic forced international travel to a halt and banned large gatherings, Derian’s semester in Portugal was canceled and her in-person convocation ceremony postponed. Instead of focusing on missed milestones, she’s adapting to, and embracing, the new journey.

“It feels strange, a bit anticlimactic, to be graduating during a global pandemic,” says Derian, who graduates with a bachelor of arts in archaeology.

“But what strikes me the most about my university experience is how much I've changed. Over the past five years, I've become confident in the person I am and the things that are important to me.”

She says SFU gave her the freedom to be fearless, and the courage to be bold and move beyond traditional ways of thinking and doing.

“All of a sudden, at 18, I was in a situation where I didn't have older relatives telling me what values I should hold,” she says. “Rather, it was up to me to decide what I value, how to take the lead and how to ask for help when I need it.”

During her undergrad she discovered a passion for animals and nature conservation and has now enrolled in SFU’s master of arts program in archaeology. She plans to explore human-animal relationships and how zooarchaeology can contribute to environmental conservation and restoration.

This week, she’ll be celebrating convocation virtually with her friends and family and although it’s not the send-off she envisioned, Derian says she’s thankful for the ride and the self-discoveries she’s made along the way. Her generation has grown up alongside global recessions, political and social upheaval, and climate emergencies, but her strong sense of resilience and optimism remain.

“My grandmother always said education is something no one can ever take away from you. So even though I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to finish my classes with my friends, I’m so grateful for the experience.”

Virtual Fall Convocation

SFU's Virtual Fall Convocation runs Oct. 22-23. For more information and event details, visit