This is a story in our People of SFU series, where we’re celebrating SFU’s unsung heroes—those who go above and beyond the call of duty to create community, advance SFU’s mission and make the university a great place to work and learn. You can read more stories here.
By Natalie Lim
If you look up Seth Erais on the SFU Public Square website, you'll see that his job title is listed as “program manager.” When Erais and I met via Zoom last month so that I could learn more about his work, I asked him what that means—what he actually does. A better question might have been “what don't you do?”
Erais’ days consist of supporting SFU Public Square’s day-to-day operations and logistics. This includes everything from event planning and faculty engagement to running SFU Public Square’s Peer Education Program and helping bring the annual Community Summit to life.
But for Erais, who has a background in religious studies and intercultural dialogue, all of this work can really be boiled down to one thing: storytelling.
“Stories can become spaces for learning, exchange, understanding and respect, for all these pieces that help us understand how our world is put together and how things can change,” he says. “I always think about my work through the lens of asking, what can we do as people to support other people in sharing their stories?”
Through that lens, Erais has helped execute dozens (if not hundreds) of events, in collaboration with partners from across SFU and beyond. From April to November 2020, the Distant, Not Disengaged event series—produced by SFU Public Square in partnership with CityHive and the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue—sparked important discussions on anti-Asian racism, the overdose emergency, and the importance of race-based data during COVID-19.
“With every event we do, there are so many conversations behind the scenes where we ask our partners, ‘What do you need from us? How can we work with you to have conversations that aren’t being held elsewhere?’” he tells me.
“We always say, we’re not the experts on these topics. But we’re lucky to have a platform that brings people together, and when we hand that platform over to our amazing partners so they can share their stories, that’s when the magic happens.”