January 2019


Welcome to the first issue for 2019 of Letter to the Board, a regular communication from myself to members of the UBC Board of Governors, issued in advance of regular meetings of the Board.


Alumni and Donor Engagement
In December, I travelled to Asia to engage with donors and alumni in Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing. And last week, I spoke at the UBC Lunar New Year Dinner at the Robert Lee Alumni Centre. This major event brings together key alumni, donors and friends from various Asian communities to hear from the university, connect with one another and stimulate further peer-to-peer engagement.

Top Employer
I am delighted to note that UBC has been named one of Canada’s Top Employers of Young People for 2019. UBC has received this recognition for seven consecutive years and is the only post-secondary institution to make the list in 2019. I am proud of Vice-President Barbara Meens-Thistle and her outstanding Human Resources team.

Top Choice for International School Students
According to a study by ISC Research, UBC is the top choice for students enrolled in international schools, ahead of the University of Toronto, University College London, and others. Students cited a university’s location as the biggest factor in their choice, followed by the quality of education and the cost, according to the report.

Food Bank Support
To help alleviate food insecurity for students at UBC Vancouver, the university will support the AMS Foodbank with a contribution of $50,000 ($10,000 per year over the next five years). In addition, we will match cash donations made to the Foodbank up to a maximum of $15,000 per year over this time period.

Vice-Presidential Appointments
Please join me in welcoming Robin Ciceri as Vice-President, External Relations on March 1, and Ainsley Carry as Vice-President, Students on April 1. I look forward to working with Robin and Ainsley and the rest of the executive team as we implement the strategic plan and lead UBC into its next century.

Commons Opening
On January 25, I attended the official opening of The Commons at the UBC Okanagan campus. Others in attendance included Stephen Fuhr (MP for Kelowna-Lake Country), Nicholas Simons (MLA for Powell River-Sunshine Coast), Chancellor Lindsay Gordon, Board of Governors Chair Michael Korenberg, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Deborah Buszard, and university students, staff and faculty. I would like to acknowledge the financial support of our partners in the federal and provincial governments, as well as the current and former students who contributed nearly $10 million to the project.

Strategic Plan
As you know, in late December we announced that 20 new pilot projects and change initiatives will be funded as part of the university’s commitment to implementing the strategic plan, UBC’s Next Century. Each proposal was reviewed by the responsible vice-president and associated advisory councils from each core area of the strategic plan (People and Places, Research Excellence, Transformative Learning, Local and Global Engagement) as well as the Coordinating Committee and the Executive Team, and finally reviewed by myself. The proposals were specifically selected for their strong potential to significantly advance the plan’s four core areas. Funding for the projects and initiatives will be allocated for the 2018/19 fiscal year.

Broadening access to and enhancing undergraduate research experiences is a central priority in the plan. As such, the university has committed $1 million in strategic funds over two years to fund the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience. Learn more

Honouring Bob Lee
On January 29 we paid tribute to Bob Lee and celebrated the 30th anniversary of the UBC Properties Trust. Bob’s extraordinary dedication to his alma mater is very special and the influence he has had on higher learning in Canada is remarkable. He served as a member of the Board of Governors, Chancellor, Chair of the UBC Foundation, a member of the Sauder School’s Faculty Advisory Board, and Honorary Chair of UBC’s start an evolution campaign. On this particular occasion, we honoured his pioneering role in establishing the UBC Properties Trust, which he led for 23 years.

Extending SkyTrain to UBC
The campaign to extend the Millennium SkyTrain line to UBC continues to gain momentum. In the past few days alone, the Translink Mayors’ Council unanimously accepted a staff report recommending the line’s extension, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart advocated for the extension in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, and Vancouver City Council voted by a wide margin to endorse the plan and start public consultations. Look for more developments in the near future. Learn more

Looking Ahead
Next week, I will be in Ottawa for UBC’s annual Day on the Hill, as we raise awareness among our federal government partners about outstanding UBC research, researchers, and students. While in Ottawa, I will participate in “Spotlight on Research”, a reception with UBC Ottawa-based alumni and UBC researchers.

The UBC Connects speaker series begins its second season on February 11, as acclaimed author and journalist Michael Pollan joins Rickey Yada, Dean of UBC’s Faculty of Land and Food Systems, and Dr. Evan Wood, Executive Director of the BC Centre on Substance Use and UBC Professor of Medicine, for a conversation about “food, plants and psychedelics: revolutionary approaches to human health and well-being”. The event is sold out, but can be viewed via livestream at https://events.ubc.ca/ubc-connects/. The next talk will take place in Kelowna on March 6, when civil rights activist Tarana Burke will speak about the #MeToo movement and the role of empathy in healing and change. Some of you may have seen the story in the Georgia Straight this week about the series.

On March 11, I will deliver a keynote address to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on UBC’s strategic plan. This will be the third year in a row that I have had the honour of speaking to the GVBoT.