Canada’s Top Comprehensive University 2020: Simon Fraser

A commitment to the environment is generating real-world change in tech and sustainability
SFU campus during the first week of school. September 4, 2019. Burnaby, B.C. (Photograph by Jackie Dives )

With three campuses—in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey—eight faculties, 100 undergraduate and 45 graduate programs, and a student body of about 31,000, Simon Fraser University isn’t short on educational options. Regardless of students’ chosen areas of study, this B.C. institution focuses on turning research into real-world change, particularly in the areas of tech and sustainability.

The school’s commitment to becoming a zero-waste university is just one example of its emphasis on environmental responsibility. SFU’s new School of Environmental Science is dedicated to equipping students with the tools to tackle everything from sustainable manufacturing to food creation. Its sustainable energy engineering (SEE) program—new for the 2019 academic year at the Surrey campus and the first of its kind in Western Canada—prepares students for careers in the booming clean-tech industry. And, as an encouraging counterpoint to many of Canada’s engineering programs, 40 per cent of SEE’s undergraduate cohort is female.

A philosophy of sustainability is in SFU’s other offerings, too. This fall, students in the Business of Design (BOD) program may partner with two local clothing and textile experts—Emily Smith, co-founder of Vancouver Maker Faire and founder of Fibreshed, and Stephanie Ostler, founder and CEO of Devil May Wear—to revamp B.C.’s entrepreneurial textile community, brainstorming a slew of new environmentally responsible products.

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For those with more of a linguistic flair, SFU’s new Certificate in Creative Technologies in Digital Journalism combines courses in contemporary arts, technology, publishing and communications. Bonus: students may take a semester abroad on Australia’s Gold Coast, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches.

Meanwhile, students at SFU’s Burnaby campus have plenty of resources to enjoy as they await a new, much-anticipated $55-million, 100,000-sq.-foot student union building. UniverCity will be located close to classes and will offer a market, shops and restaurants for students and faculty alike.

SFU student wellness is covered. Students are granted helpful access to My Student Support Program (My SSP), a two-year pilot project that connects them to counsellors via a mobile app and helps sidestep the interminable wait times that are often characteristic of therapy appointments.