Guest Post: Working in the President’s Office

Today, I’m handing over my blog to Emily Fuchs, who started as a work-learn student in our office last September and who will be graduating in June. It’s been a joy working with Emily, and I wish her all the best. – Santa J. Ono

You’ll find the Office of the President on the seventh floor of Koerner Library. Whether you trek up the staircase or hop on the elevator, when you reach the top, you’ll be greeted by floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Irving K. Barber Library to the east and the Straight of Georgia peeking through the trees to the west. On clear days, the sun beams make everything sparkle. On gloomier days, the rain streams down the windows and looking out over campus almost feels like admiring a watercolour painting.

For the last eight months, I’ve had the wonderful experience of working as a Communications Assistant in the Office of the President. I began my degree in Media Studies in September 2015, and I remember when Santa Ono was installed as our 15th president and vice-chancellor in November 2016. Like many students, I was intrigued by and excited to see his lively social media presence and dedication to connecting with us. When I saw that there was an opportunity to contribute to these communication efforts, I knew it would be a position like no other. From getting the word out about the new UBC book, UBC: The Next Century, to commemorating the women of École Polytechnique, working in the President’s Office has been a challenging and rewarding experience.

Walking into the south wing of the office, you’ll see a beautiful arrangement of flowers from the UBC Botanical Garden and a collection of West Coast inspired Indigenous art. If you’re waiting to meet with someone, you can flip through the collection of inspiring books and magazines we have on display in the meantime. One of my favourite parts about working in the President’s Office is the opportunity to meet and chat with all kinds of interesting people who are coming to visit Santa Ono. Another fun part has been taking photos of Santa and his guests in front of the red wall and UBC crest. You never knew who might stop by for a meeting!

Then, there’s the small but mighty team of wonderful people who work together in the President’s Office to support Santa and all of the initiatives the office undertakes. Over the course of my time in this role I’ve had the pleasure of working with Julie, Jocelyn, Lauren, Liz, Wendy, and of course my supervisor, our Communications Manager Terry. Everyone is so welcoming and helpful, whether you’re just visiting or working on a project with the office. It is inspiring to see how everyone contributes their own talents and expertise to support Santa and the important work that is required of a university president. From addressing students’ concerns, to improving campus, to celebrating milestones like a new academic year or graduation, to shaping UBC’s next century, the work that our office performs is diverse and challenging.

Working in the Office of the President has been a welcome challenge of my adaptability and writing skills in particular. There are always new projects popping up and ongoing initiatives to keep busy. A big part of my work has been supporting Santa’s correspondence, since he gets more emails, letters, and speech requests than anyone could ever hope to handle on their own. So far, I’ve had the chance to write about topics ranging from universities as innovation hubs, to academic research here at UBC, to faith in the academy, to the accomplishments of our community. I’ve also gotten to respond to excited prospective students, dedicated community members, and hopeful collectors. Each day in the office brings new opportunities to connect with UBC and beyond.

My time as a Communications Assistant in the Office of the President is coming to a close, but it will always be an experience that I look back on with pride and gratitude. I will miss the bright and sunny office, but I will miss the bright and friendly faces more. This position has given me the opportunity to learn more about the institution that I attend as a student, and to contribute in my own way to making UBC a better and more connected place. One of Santa’s goals is to “demystify the role of the president and make post-secondary education more accessible and fun,” and I can’t see any better way to do that than by giving students the opportunity to work in the President’s Office.

Emily Fuchs