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Awards and recognition

SFU Newsmaker award winners leave no stone unturned in 2023

February 06, 2024

During a year of heightened global unrest and disparity, well-informed and dependable news is more vital than ever. Reporters and the public can count on Simon Fraser University faculty to share their insights, research and expertise and help people understand global issues and the challenges surrounding us.

SFU’s 2023 Newsmaker award recipients are chosen for their dedication to informing discourse across media and online communities regarding various topics; from commentary on ongoing global conflicts and critical discussions on the profound social justice implications of food systems and waste management, to relevant expertise on trending topics that made headlines across the globe. 

Global humanities professor James Horncastle is awarded the 2023 Media Newsmaker of the Year for his timely media commentary on current conflicts. Resource and environmental management professor Tammara Soma recieves the 2023 Social Media Newsmaker of the Year award for her dedication to online dialogue on critical issues related to food systems. And marketing professor Aviva Philip-Muller is named the 2023 Emerging Thought Leader (ETL) Newsmaker of the Year for her continued media engagement since completing the ETL program last year. 

Robert Gordon, professor emeritus of criminology, receives SFU’s Newsmaker Lifetime Achievement award for extensive commentary on crime and policing stories over the years. 

James Horncastle
Graduate Chair, Assistant Professor, Edward and Emily McWhinney Professor in International Relations – 2023 SFU Media Newsmaker of the Year

James Horncastle is SFU’s 2023 Media Newsmaker of the Year for his continuing contribution to coverage surrounding the complexities of present-day global conflicts. His commentary on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas have earned him mentions in a wide variety of prominent international outlets, such as the New York Times, NDTV Network (India), Univision Spanish Language Network (USA), Manager Daily (Thailand), and the Onda Cero radio network (Spain). 

Horncastle’s expertise in paramilitaries, refugee and migration dynamics and international relations has allowed him to comment on sensitive topics with authority, offering the public unbiased information. 

Horncastle joined The Conversation Canada the day Russia invaded Ukraine Feb. 24, 2022, and published his first article days later, marking the beginning of his media journey.

In 2023, Horncastle published 16 Conversation articles and generated more than 400 mentions in the media. His articles account for nearly 30 per cent of all reads from SFU contributors in The Conversation. One timely piece, on the European migration crisis in February 2023, led to Horncastle being contacted by The New York Times. 

“In contemporary warfare, media narratives have taken on increased importance as states seek to justify their actions and win the information war. While there is more information than ever on current conflicts and issues, much of the information is either misleading or outright lies. It is my hope that my articles can help people unpack these competing narratives,” says Horncastle.

Tammara Soma
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Environment – 2023 SFU Social Media Newsmaker of the Year

A trailblazer in Canadian food systems education, Tammara Soma is SFU’s 2023 Social Media Newsmaker of the Year for her commitment to online dialogue surrounding critical issues on food systems and waste management.

In recent years, Soma has become a well-known voice on social media for engaging with her followers about themes related to food systems and promoting discussions and events that delve deeper. She uses her virtual presence to share new research and perspectives with a growing audience.

A co-founder of SFU’s Food Systems Lab, Soma’s influence is exemplified in last year’s CBC feature documentary, Food is my Teacher, a project she co-developed and co-directed alongside Canadian filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk. In the film, Soma travels across B.C. and Alberta to meet with diverse communities, learn about their cultural relationships with food and illustrate the transformative power of food, which Soma considers a “means for healing” and a “source of medicine and love.”

After the launch of the documentary, Soma continued to use her social media platforms to engage with people about food systems, security and equity.

"Never in my dreams as a planner did I envision that I would be a documentary filmmaker, and that the film would be a way that I mobilize my research and passion for food,” says Soma. “Food is My Teacher would not be possible without the mentorship offered by Brandy Yanchyk, the support of the Faculty of Environment, and from CBC.”

“Now, the world can learn more about the amazing work we do at SFU and celebrate the diverse cultural and faith leaders who are working to demonstrate the healing power of food. In polarizing times, I hope to show the power of harnessing social media for good.”

Aviva Philipp-Muller (2023 ETL program participant)
Assistant Professor, Marketing, Beedie School of Business – 2023 Emerging Thought Leader Newsmaker of the Year 

Aviva Philipp-Muller SFU’s 2023 Emerging Thought Leader (ETL)* Newsmaker of the Year for her timely media engagement since completing SFU’s media training program last year. 

Philipp-Muller’s commentary on the World Health Organization’s aspartame report was particularly impactful last year and earned her mentions across more than 60 Black Press Media outlets alongside two colleagues: 2021 Social Media Newsmaker Award winner Scott Lear, and Lindsay Meredith, a former winner of the President’s Award for Service to the University through Media Relations and Public Affairs (2000). 

Her responses to SFU media relations team’s requests for experts on trending topics – ranging from Taylor Swift concert pandemonium to emerging shopping trends on Black Friday – has established her as one of SFU’s top female experts.  

Given today's complex media landscape, it is essential for journalists and media outlets to resonate with younger and diverse audiences. Philip-Muller has become a relatable and influential voice who uses her research interests and expertise in consumer well-being, complex consumer behaviors, persuasion, and marketing of innovations to sustain a strong media presence.

“There have many amazing stories about marketing and consumer psychology this year. It’s been so exciting to work with journalists and the media relations team at SFU to do my part to bring those stories to life,” says Philip-Muller. 

*An intensive media training program for SFU faculty in under-represented groups, including individuals who identify as women, transgender, and gender non-conforming, Black, Indigenous and people of colour, the ETL program assists scholars to add their voices to public discourse.

Robert Gordon
Professor Emeritus, School of Criminology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences – 2023 SFU Newsmaker Lifetime Achievement 

Well known as British Columbia’s go-to expert for analyses on crime and policing, Gordon has been a dedicated commentator over the years, winning his first Newsmaker Award in 2007 (formally the President’s Award for Service to the University through Public Affairs and Media Relations) and has continued to appear in the news on a regular basis. 

His commitment to providing timely commentary consistently offers expertise to the public. Whether he’s out on his tractor or taking a well-deserved vacation, Rob is always quick to pick up the phone or return an email when a reporter contacts him.

In 2023 alone, Gordon’s expertise was pitched to news outlets on 14 occasions and he responded to numerous direct inquiries from journalists looking to tap into his knowledge. 

Gordon has been mentioned in media stories more than 1,500 times. His across-the-board knowledge has extended his media presence beyond Canada, earning him mentions in international outlets such as Fortune and Vice in recent years.

Gordon is a sought-after voice for all major Canadian news outlets, including The Canadian Press, CBC, Global News, and CTV. 

“I was extremely pleased to read of the University's decision to recognize my career-long involvement with the print and electronic media,” says Gordon.“ It should be evident that I value our media colleagues and, in my view, the relationships we build with journalists are important; they are effective in transmitting our thinking and our findings to a huge audience.In the digital age it appears that the media are best suited to deliver information and encourage dialogue.”