Eduvation Blog

Embracing Engagement at SFU

At BC’s Simon Fraser University, “the Engaged University,” the slogan is much more than mere marketing; it’s the focus for the institution’s planning framework.   (Although yes, it also helps differentiate the university’s brand.) SFU president Andrew Petter invited Ken Steele for a campus site visit late last year, and this is the first of many episodes that will be the result.

Since the brand launched in 2012, SFU’s Engagement Strategy has articulated how the institution will make a strategic priority of engagement:

  • Engaging Students through active and experiential learning, community service learning, co-ops and business incubators.
  • Engaging Research by partnering with people and organizations in the community and worldwide for mutual benefit.
  • Engaging Communities beyond mere philanthropy. SFU doesn’t just provide value, but gains value in the process.

(See “SFU: Engaging the World”)

What’s most striking about the SFU vision is how it has been thoroughly socialized across all of its campuses, from Burnaby to Surrey and downtown Vancouver. Ken heard about engagement loud and clear when he spoke with Howard Jang (then the Director of SFU Woodward’s Cultural Unit), Joy Johnson (VP Research & International), Shawn Smith (Co-Director of RADIUS SFU social innovation lab and venture incubator), Sarah Lubik (Director of Entrepreneurship & Innovation), Shauna Sylvester (Director, SFU Centre for Dialogue), and Am Johal (Director of SFU’s VanCity Office of Community Engagement). More from these interviews will appear in future episodes!

SFU students even put the theme to music in this official anthem, created for SFU’s 50th anniversary.

The vision has taken root across the campus because the commitment to engagement has been “part of the DNA” of the institution for decades. It was not a top-down strategy, but it has helped to focus and motivate faculty and staff efforts — and as it has started to shape hiring decisions, the momentum for engagement continues to build.

One of SFU’s signature engagement programs is the Public Square, which organizes speakers and events that can be shared, both online and through mass media partnerships, to engage the broader public in dialogue.

SFU also clearly invests the resources necessary to produce top-quality video content for use in the classroom and for the public.  And SFU’s commitment to engaging the public includes developing some of the best higher ed April Fool’s videos in the world. (See our episode on “Higher Ed Hijinks”).

Next week, we’ll look at some even more “concrete” ways in which SFU contributes to community-building, investing in physical infrastructure to engage and even create communities. To be sure you don’t miss it, subscribe today!

And if you would like to host a 10K Site Visit at your campus, read on for further information!

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