Office of the President

Andrew Petter, President and Vice-Chancellor

Petter's Perspective: Notes from the President


Engaging Students: What’s Next?

May 17, 2017

I wish all SFU students a smooth start to their classes and an exciting summer semester. If you are a new SFU student, welcome – you have made a great choice!  If you are a continuing student, welcome back – it’s good to have you with us!  

In addition to being ranked Canada’s top comprehensive university by Maclean’s magazine – and 10th overall by Times Higher Education – SFU adopted a vision in 2012 to be Canada’s “engaged university.” This vision challenges us to engage students in every way possible, including by fostering supportive campus environments and by equipping them “with the knowledge, skills and experiences that prepare them for life in an ever-changing and challenging world.”

In recent years we’ve made significant progress in our efforts to enhance student engagement. For example, SFU’s extensive co-op program now provides valuable work experiences to over 3600 students each semester – up over 25 % from 2012.

Participation has also grown in volunteer and leadership programs. Close to 1300 students now report volunteer or leadership activities each year on their Co-Curricular Record  – more than double the number five years ago.

SFU continues to expand and diversify experiential learning programs. For example, our ground-breaking Semester in Dialogue now offers a Semester at City Studio, which invites students to collaborate with the City of Vancouver on projects that contribute to a more sustainable and livable city.  In addition, some faculties have begun offering Change Lab programs which allow students to tackle issues of community concern. (A team from this year’s Health Change Lab recently won the Oxford Global Challenge, an international competition for students to explore and present ideas around social and environmental change).    

We now offer a wide range of programs that provide students with knowledge and experience in entrepreneurship and social innovation. Our new entrepreneurship certificate program is available to undergraduate students across the university, and we also offer a graduate certificate program in science and technology commercialization. Emerging student entrepreneurs and social innovators can also receive mentorship from our Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection incubator and from our RADIUS social innovation lab.

The physical spaces on our campuses are also evolving to better serve our student body. The new Charles Chang Innovation Centre in downtown Vancouver includes a graduate student residence, and planning is underway to double the number of student residences on the Burnaby campus.  In addition, thanks to the support of the Simon Fraser Student Society, a new Student Union Building and Stadium on Burnaby Mountain will soon provide much-needed gathering and work spaces for students. And the Sustainable Energy Engineering Building currently under construction in Surrey will greatly enhance the student experience at that campus.

These are a few of the ways in which we are striving to better engage students and to enable students to make the most of their time at SFU.

But we want to hear from you. We’ve launched “Engaging the Vision: What’s Next?” to seek input from the university community. I therefore urge you to go online and provide feedback. Let us know what we’re doing well – and what we could be doing better (

I wish you a very productive and “engaging” semester!

Student Volunteers Gala - February 2017