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SFU Applied Legal Studies receives major donation

By Richmond Sentinel

Published 12:24 PST, Wed March 8, 2023

A major donation from the Society of Notaries Public of British Columbia (SNPBC) to the Applied Legal Studies program at Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) School of Criminology will lead to significant advancements in the field of applied legal studies, and places SFU as a pivotal partner in the expansion of notary education in British Columbia. The $3.5 million gift will fund an endowed professorship within the Master of Arts in Applied Legal Studies (MA-ALS) graduate program. The endowment gift is a milestone in SNPBC’s longstanding partnership with SFU Criminology, which dates back when both parties came together to establish the MA-ALS program in 2008. 

The MA-ALS program provides notaries with core academic competencies in non-contentious areas of the Canadian legal system. Today, students wishing to gain admission to SNPBC and practice as notaries in BC must graduate from SFU’s MA-ALS program — the only program that SNPBC recognizes for this purpose. As of March 2021, more than half of BC’s practicing notaries are graduates of the MA-ALS program. 

John Mayr, the chief executive officer and executive director of SNPBC said that the society is excited about the ongoing opportunity to provide rigorous training and education to BC notaries, strengthen legal excellence, and enable the people of this province to enjoy greater choice in trusted legal service providers. “British Columbians rely on notaries in public for the legal advice and legal services they provide. Having a strong, collaborative relationship with SFU and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences ensures that our partnership of excellence in legal education and service to the public will continue,” says Mayr. “Graduating educated highly skilled legal professionals in a timely manner will increase access to legal services in the province.” 

The investment will contribute to the greater permeance, stability, and continuity of the MA-ALS program. SFU criminology professor and program director Margaret Hall, who holds the B.C. Chair in Applied Legal Studies, says that the endowment will help create a permanent professiorial position dedicated to legal research and teaching excellence.

“The generous gift from the SNPBC will enable further development of the MA-ALS program, in terms of building interdisciplinary connections within SFU, developing new course programming, and attracting external resources to the program,” says Hall. “Our commitment is to provide first class and cutting-edge legal education to notaries in British Columbia.” 

To further strengthen engagement with SNPBC, Hall will also work with the MA-ALS program steering committee to deliver a timely and enriched curriculum while accounting for any forthcoming changes to the scope of practice for notaries. 

The MA-ALS program, which is housed in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), also aligns with the faculty’s strong commitment to recruit the world’s brightest minds and advance academic programming that meets the needs of today and tomorrow. 

“FASS is strongly committed to better integrating academic research and career development throughout our departments. The partnership we share with SNPBC in the MA-ALS program is a prime example of this,” says FASS Dean Lauren Weldon. “As a career development program, the program prepares students for a successful professional career, and we are proud to be a partner in shaping the future of the notary education in BC.” 

A recipient of the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Canadian Association of University Continuing Education, the MA-ALS program prides itself as a challenging and rewarding program taught by instructors with industry experience. The program currently accepts up to 35 full-time students and enjoys a hybrid delivery model where students attend in-person for two weeks at the start of each fall term and complete the remainder online. 

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