Weekly Update: October 30, 2020

Dear members of the UBC community.

Earlier this week, I provided an update on steps we are taking to address issues of equity, diversity and inclusion and to identify and address gaps in supporting racialized students, faculty and staff.

Those steps include creating a new position, Senior Advisor to the President on Race and Inclusive Excellence, and appointing Ainsley Carry, Vice-President Students and Ananya Mukherjee Reed, Provost and Vice-President Academic, UBC Okanagan as Co-Executive Leads for Anti-Racism.

We are also working actively on a wide range of institutional initiatives guided by the Inclusion Action Plan.

Much more needs to be done, and I will continue to update you as we address these issues. You can read more about the actions we have taken so far at president.ubc.ca.

As you know, British Columbians concluded a provincial election on October 24 – and while official results are still a few weeks away, I want to thank all UBC community members who participated.

I look forward to working closely with Premier Horgan and the provincial government to represent the priorities of our university community and to strengthen post-secondary education across BC.

This means working to make education more accessible and ensuring students have the supports you need right now.

It means strengthening BC’s research ecosystem so that we continue to lead locally and globally in addressing challenges like the pandemic and climate change.

It means moving forward on meaningful reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, while addressing systemic racism at UBC and across society.

And it means improving connections to our campuses through important projects like the SkyTrain extension to UBC.

As a post-secondary community, we have an important role to play in building a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive province.

And I look forward to continuing to advance this work with all of you.

One area in particular that we are putting a greater focus on is mental health.

Every November we come together as a UBC community to learn about, talk about, and explore ways to support and maintain mental health and I invite you to join me in some of the many special Thrive Month activities.

As the UBC community and the world navigates the many challenges and changes that this year has brought, it’s more important than ever to foster and maintain mental health—for ourselves, and for others.

Alors que la communauté de l’universite et le monde entier sont confrontés aux nombreux défis et changements de cette année, il est plus important que jamais de favoriser et de maintenir la santé mentale, pour nous-mêmes et pour les autres.

Developing the mental health literacy skills you need to thrive can help you manage life’s ups and downs.  We all benefit from exploring ways to build resiliency that work for us as individuals. Mental health is a continuum, and we are all at different places. Your feelings are valid and deserve to be listened to—whether that’s listening to yourself and recognizing that something’s not quite right, or reaching out and asking someone you trust for help.

I know firsthand the dire impact of dealing with mental health issues, and how important it is to be able to understand when you need help and to feel empowered to ask for it.

Even today, there is often a stigma associated with talking about our mental health. But by having conversations like the ones we have during Thrive, we can change that.

We need to work together to create a supportive and stigma-free campus, to provide opportunities to develop mental health literacy, to recognize diverse experiences of mental health, and to ensure we have the resources we need to develop resilience.

So this Thrive month, I encourage you to take time to explore the things that help promote your mental health.

The Thrive 5+ are small steps that you can integrate into your day—like moving more, eating well, connecting with others, getting enough rest, or volunteering your time—to support yourself.

For some of you, activities like music, art, connecting with nature, worship, or meditation might be what help you deal with life’s everyday challenges.

Thrive is for everyone—whatever your path to mental health might look like, I hope that each of you will feel empowered and encouraged to learn about it, talk about it, and explore ways to support it. Participate in a Thrive event. Take time to explore Thrive 5+ and reach out if you need help.

Take care of yourself and one another. Together we can thrive, even in these challenging times.

Prenez soin de vous et des autres. L’UBC, c’est son peuple—et ensemble, nous pouvons nous épanouir, même en ces temps difficiles.

Last week, I started a new tradition of celebrating the people of UBC—the students, faculty and staff who make this university one of the best in the world. Today, I’m pleased to feature Ray Taheri, a Senior Instructor at the UBC Okanagan School of Engineering.

Ray has been instrumental in several engineering initiatives to help health care workers, including facemask production and “ear savers” for mask wearers at places like Kelowna General Hospital.

Before the pandemic, Ray and his students were working on an initiative to make charity donation bins safer, following several deaths of people trapped in donation bins in various communities across Canada.

He has also come up with an innovative way of presenting his virtual classes to his students through tracking cameras that follow him around the lecture hall. It’s the next best thing to being there in person with his students.

Thank you, Ray, and all the other UBC faculty members who are doing so much to make online learning meaningful and enriching for our students.

For my songsofcomfort selection today, I am honoured to collaborate with Carlos Savall Guardiola, a DMA student of Professor Jose Franch-Ballester of the UBC School of Music in a performance of Ave Maria – Méditation sur le Premier Prélude de Piano de S. Bach by the French Romantic composer Charles Gounod.

Best wishes and stay safe.

Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor