New Executive Director, SFU International, will further strengthen SFU’s international reputation

Darren Schemmer joined Simon Fraser University on January 29, 2018 as Executive Director, SFU International. He is committed to further enhancing SFU’s international reputation and enriching the university’s external partnerships.

Darren Schemmer has recently returned to Vancouver after a 25-year career in foreign affairs and international development. Darren joined the Canadian Foreign Service in 1989 as a Development Officer with the Andes Program of the Canadian International Development Agency. He served abroad in Tegucigalpa, Honduras; Washington, D.C., U.S.A; Cairo, Egypt; and most recently Accra, Ghana where he was High Commissioner of Canada to Ghana and Ambassador to Togo. Darren’s most recent position in Ottawa was Assistant Deputy Minister for Partnerships. Through his extensive professional experience, he has gained valuable insight into the importance of good international relations and strong partnerships for an organization’s success. 

As Simon Fraser University’s new Executive Director, SFU International, Darren brings his enthusiasm and commitment to further SFU’s reputation as a leader in international post-secondary education and engagement. SFU International will develop and strengthen international partnerships through which SFU will continue to deliver on its strategic vision to engage students, research and communities both locally and globally. 

SFU Research had the opportunity to catch up with Darren to learn more about his past professional experience and his new role at SFU.

What are you most excited about in joining SFU as Executive Director, SFU International?  
The timing. SFU is at a new stage—the university recently passed the 50-year milestone with over 35,000 faculty, students and staff on three campuses—just as Metro Vancouver is becoming a globally important city and Canada’s international reputation is better than ever. It’s exciting to be in the role at this time.

Your vast work experience sounds fascinating. How does your previous work experience align with your new role?
Most of my previous work was about how Canada could best contribute to a better world and benefit from those improvements. The work of SFU International is very similar. We provide university-wide strategic leadership and engage with our external partners, so that SFU students, faculty and staff can contribute more effectively in the wider world, and draw in global contributions for the university and the communities where we are involved.

What professional achievement are you most proud of?
There has been more progress in human development in the last 50 years than in all of history. Eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 is no longer an unrealistic goal. It’s the efforts of literally billions of people that have made that possible. I’m proud that I was able to make a very small contribution to this progress through my work.

If you could go back in time in terms of your career, what is an experience you would like to relive?
Honestly, I’d enjoy reliving any of it. I really enjoy getting to meet and work with people from so many different places, cultures and walks of life almost every day. I guess my first international experience, on a youth exchange with Haiti, sits closest to my heart. I was not paid, so maybe it’s not part of my “career”, but I wouldn’t have chosen—or been able to do—anything that followed without that first experience.

Who is one of the most interesting people you have ever met?
Kofi Annan. I was lucky enough to meet him a few times in Ghana after his term as Secretary-General of the United Nations had ended. He is a humble and wise man willing to share what he had learned from experience—sometimes very tough experiences.

What is something that inspires you?
I’d actually like to share a quote that I’m inspired by, from T.S. Eliot’s, Little Gidding: “We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

Is there anything else you would like to share about yourself?
I’ve learned the most from doing things I wasn’t sure I could do—from travelling away from my family for almost a year as a teenager, and completing my undergraduate degree in my second language, to raising children with my wife, and representing my country abroad. I encourage others to take similar risks and adventures. You can learn, do, and be more than you think.

About SFU International 

Motivated by Simon Fraser University’s vision to become Canada’s leading engaged university, SFU International is responsible for the strategic development and coordination of SFU’s international engagement initiatives in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.