The Urban Studies Alumni Award for Community Engagement was established in 2014 through a generous gift from the Urban Studies Alumni Council. The award is intended to recognize and support graduate students in the Urban Studies Program who have an established record of, and future promise in, urban leadership, while maintaining an excellent academic record.

The award is given out every year, with decisions made by by the Dean of Graduate Studies on behalf of the Senate Graduate Awards Adjudication Committee, upon the nomination of the Director of the Urban Studies Program. The winner is announced each September and receives $1,000.

Unlike other awards at SFU, part-time students are eligible to apply. Our program is designed to facilitate the participation of students who are already in the workforce and/or who have family responsibilities to manage. As alumni, we know that students often choose to study part-time when they are looking to balance home and work life with their ambition to advance their knowledge and career. Structuring the award this way allows us to recognize the important contributions both full and part-time students make to the Urban Studies Program

Your generous contribution will allow us continue to recognize the great work our students do. As the Urban Studies Program grows, we hope you'll consider becoming a regular contributor so we may recognize more of our outstanding students.

With your help, we can support more engaged and promising urban studies graduate students like the ones profiled below. Please donate now.



Lani Brunn is described by professor Meg Holden, who supervises her M.URB project, as an "up-and-coming urban leader on the issues of housing, social planning and engagement of vulnerable populations." She adds that in addition to achieving academic excellence, Lani's "experience is diverse, and her long record of contributions to the community shows that she consistently fosters healthy change and long-term relationships."

Currently a community planner with CitySpaces consulting firm, where her more



At first thought, you might not see an obvious connection between a career spent creating, producing and managing theatre and pursuing a master’s degree in urban studies, but for the winner of the Alumni Community Engagement Award in 2017, the link is clear.

“The idea of entering of the Urban Studies Program was really just to take the opportunity to step outside the studio, where I’ve spent 20 years making work that looks at the urban environment and human co-existence, and do that in a different way.” Read more....


Karen Sawatzky: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, student profile

Karen set out to investigate whether Airbnb, a website where homeowners can list a shared or private room, or even an entire house for short term rental, could be taking housing away from Vancouverites. Property owners can often garner much higher rates for their properties through short-term rentals than through conventional long term leases, potentially resulting in tourists taking up housing that could be used for residents of the city....Karen’s research has attracted attention from several news outlets, with features in the Vancouver SunGlobal NewsGeorgia StraightGlobe and MailMetro Newsand on the personal blog of Vancouver City Councillor Geoff Meggs to name a few. Read more...


Stephanie Allen:  Stephanie Allen on correcting past errors

Stephanie Allen, who had previously spent a number of years working in real estate development, began her master’s in urban studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012. During a class on urban inequality and justice, she began to see the correlation between real estate development and its effect on different communities, and wanted to get a better understanding of how the building of the Georgia and Dunsmuir Viaducts removed the black community that once lived there....“This has had a significant and lasting impact on the growth of Vancouver’s black community,” says Allen. “It’s a civic shame of ours, and we need to speak about it.” And speak about it she has. Using her findings, Allen spoke at the (October 21st, 2015) public hearing regarding the removal of the viaducts, providing her recommendation on how the City should be moving forward with redevelopment. Read more....


Jonathan Cote: New Westminster's Mayor Cote uses degree to solve real-world problems

Jonathan Cote wasn’t even dreaming of becoming a mayor when he enrolled in SFU’s master of arts program in urban studies in 2011. He was looking for solutions to New Westminster’s rental housing and transit issues.

Yet today, at age 35, he is Metro Vancouver’s youngest mayor, and his rental housing innovations are capturing the attention of mayors across the region. Read more...