Awards and recognition

SFU honours three outstanding alumni

September 23, 2021

This month, three distinguished SFU alumni were recognized with an Outstanding Alumni Award honouring their significant contributions to public service, journalism, and academia and the field of communication.

The SFU Outstanding Alumni Awards celebrate leaders whose accomplishments reflect the university’s commitment to engaging the world. This year’s awards honoured Barbara Fleury, a trailblazer for women within the police force; Simi Sara, an award-winning radio and television broadcaster; and Dr. Robin Mansell, a globally recognized researcher on communications technology.

Want to nominate an alumnus? Nominations for the 2022 Outstanding Alumni Awards are now open until November 8, 2021.


Retired, RCMP Assistant Commissioner

Outstanding Alumni Award for: Public Service

By the time she turned 16 years old, Barbara Fleury, who grew up in Quebec City, had a keen interest in justice issues and the legal system.

Two years later, Fleury boarded a plane for the first time and flew across the country to pursue criminology studies at Simon Fraser University—one of the few institutions that offered such a program at the time. She credits her time at Shell House for the opportunity to live and study with a diverse group of students, many of whom shared different perspectives that broadened her understanding of truth and justice.

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in criminology—she would later return to SFU to complete her master’s degree—Fleury joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in 1981, only seven years after they began recruiting women. For the next 40 years, she climbed the ranks in a male-dominated profession and focused on advocating for women within the force and in society.

Fleury’s efforts resulted in the increased deployment of Canadian female police to peace operations, pre-deployment training on the impact of conflict on women and girls, collaboration with international governments to help improve the investigatory capacity of their local police forces on cases of sexual and gender-based violence, and the administration of a nationwide survey to examine existing barriers to female police participation in peace operations and senior leadership positions within missions.

“I wanted young officers, and in particular women, to see the difference they can make in the world, especially in conflict countries where women were more affected in many ways,” says Fleury, whose work has taken her around the globe from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti and Afghanistan to South Sudan.

Fleury has received the RCMP Long Service Medal and both the Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals, which honour citizens who have made outstanding contributions to their community or Canada as a whole.

Learn more about Barbara:


Journalist, CKNW Radio

Outstanding Alumni Award for: Service to the Community / Professional Achievement

Simi Sara had an unconventional start to her career—she enrolled at SFU in 1989 with plans to pursue journalism, only to make the difficult decision to leave just a year later when her mother passed away suddenly.

Sara later transferred to Langara College to complete a two-year journalism diploma and began working as a print reporter with the newspaper The Surrey, before moving into broadcasting. She spent 10 years co-hosting Citytv’s morning show, Breakfast Television, and also hosted the network’s weekday cooking program, CityCooks, before anchoring CityPulse News at Six. Today, Sara is a two-time B.C. Association of Broadcasters award winner and a full-time talk radio host for her own show on CKNW Radio for Global News. Her passion for news and storytelling is unmistakable through her enthusiasm and ability to bring “everyday common sense to Vancouver’s daily conversation.”

“My goal was always to encourage people to listen to each other, get more information before making a decision, and to show an appreciation for learning something new—even if you think you already know about it,” says Sara.

Sara attributes her curiosity and inquisitiveness to her father, who immigrated to Canada from India in the 1960s and didn’t have a formal education, but was a big believer in critical thinking and consuming information. “I think I inherited that quality from him, the need to keep learning and asking questions. Now it’s what I do for a living,” says Sara.

When her own children started looking at postsecondary education, it made Sara consider finishing what she had started at SFU in 1989. Twenty-five years later, she returned to the university and, in 2017, received her bachelor’s degree in communications.

“I never thought I would have the chance to complete university,” she says. “SFU gave me the opportunity first to attend, and then to come back decades later to finish while I was juggling a career and parenthood.

“This was a lifelong dream for me, and a lifelong dream for my mother—I did it for her as well.”

Learn more about Simi:


Professor of New Media and the Internet, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science

Outstanding Alumni Award for: Academic Achievement

Robin Mansell’s decision to go to university instead of into her father’s business as a secretary came as a surprise to her and her family. Mansell would go on to become the first woman to receive a doctorate degree in Communication Studies at SFU, and a world-renowned researcher and professor at the London School of Economics, where she teaches today.

Over the years, Mansell has gained global recognition with industry, government and international NGOs, as well as in academia, for her work on the social and economic impacts of communication technologies. Her research uncovers how new technologies exacerbate or create power imbalances in society even as they bring benefits.

“It’s unforgiveable how large groups have been damaged and excluded by the pandemic, for example, because they have limited or no access to the internet,” says Mansell. Recently, she has been working with colleagues in India to examine the impacts of the ‘digital divide’ in the poorest communities. “There are pockets in places where people haven’t been able to carry on, especially children, and these exclusionary practices exist everywhere.”

This sense of injustice in how the digital world is unfolding is what motivates Mansell, who is interested in finding ways to govern technology and make it available in fair and equitable ways. Aside from bringing her theoretical approach into practice, Mansell’s publication record is also among the top in the field. She has co-authored and co-edited more than 20 books in leading presses, and her work has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian, Macedonian and Chinese.

Mansell’s distinguished stature among her academic peers is indicated by her election as President of the International Association for Media and Communication Research and receipt of its Distinguished Contribution Award, as well as being presented with the C. Edwin Baker Award from the International Communication Association. She also holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Fribourg and is an elected member of Academia Europaea.

“I want to empower people to think critically and make important choices that will shape the world and our interaction with technology,” says Mansell. “I hope that my contributions inspire people to imagine alternatives they couldn’t before.”

Learn more about Robin: