Eduvation Blog

Building Communities at SFU

Simon Fraser University is committed to community engagement, so much so that its campus master plan and infrastructure is focused on building communities, in Vancouver, Surrey, and on Burnaby Mountain.  SFU is literally setting its vision in stone! Last week 10K looked at how SFU’s Engagement Strategy has been socialized across the institution, reinforcing efforts at community-based research, cultural engagement, public events and even April Fool’s videos. (ICYMI, check out “Embracing Engagement at SFU”).

In this episode, we look at SFU’s “concrete” commitment to engagement, manifested in its campus infrastructure:

Science Plaza

Although SFU has no Astronomy department, it has constructed the Trottier Observatory on its Burnaby Mountain campus. Several times a month, hundreds of people from the community gather for “Starry Nights” stargazing, and the Science Courtyard incorporates architectural elements to convey a love for science. Ken speaks with Howard Trottier, SFU Physics professor, and founder of the Starry Nights program.

SFU Surrey

SFU opened a major campus in suburban Surrey’s city centre, which is driving the development of a major metropolitan centre from scratch. The main building, designed by Bing Thom, brings together a university, a shopping centre, and an office tower in a mixed-use concept sometimes called “Vancouverism” – and that mixed-use concept is a good metaphor for SFU’s vision of the “Engaged University.” Ken speaks with SFU president Andrew Petter, and VP External Joanne Curry, who for 12 years led the development of the Surrey campus.

Downtown Vancouver

SFU also has the largest presence in downtown Vancouver, including the Segal Graduate School of Business, the RADIUS social innovation incubator, the Harbour Centre, and the Centre for Dialogue. Ken speaks with Shauna Sylvester, the director of the Centre for Dialogue, about the beautiful purpose-built facility and its unique Asia-Pacific Hall.

SFU Woodsworth’s

In the heart of Vancouver’s downtown eastside, SFU constructed a new School for Contemporary Arts in a former landmark, Woodsworth’s Department Store. The development was a vision of Michael Stevenson, former SFU president, to revitalize a troubled region of social and political tension, and built community relationships through music, culture and the arts. Ken speaks with Howard Jang, then the director of the SFU Woodsworth’s Cultural Unit, and Am Johal, the director of SFU’s VanCity Office of Community Engagement.

SFU UniverCity

The most remarkable example of SFU’s community-building is the 65-acre UniverCity development atop Burnaby Mountain, adjacent to its main campus. While the university had a land grant over much of the mountain, they asked the municipality to compress the density of that land grant to a much smaller area. The result is a small town that will ultimately be home to 10,000 people, and some of the world’s most sustainable architecture and community infrastructure. Ken speaks with Gordon Harris, CEO of the SFU Community Trust, which manages the UniverCity development.


10K will revisit SFU’s UniverCity project, the RADIUS incubator, the Science Plaza, the Centre for Dialogue and more in future episodes.  To be sure you don’t miss them, please take a moment now to subscribe!

And stay tuned for some bloopers at the end of this episode!


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