September 2020



Welcome to the September 2020 issue of Letter to the Board, a regular communication to members of the UBC Board of Governors. In this newsletter I will give a brief summary of the most significant COVID-19 developments, as well as other news from UBC.

COVID-19 and UBC

  • For Winter Session, Term 2, programming will be delivered online, with face-to-face instruction planned in programs ranging from health professions (for example Medical Education, Nursing, Dentistry, Occupational Therapy) to Creative and Performing Arts programs such as Theatre and Film and the School of Music. Faculties will provide updates on specific programs as planning continues.We will ensure we adhere to all public health requirements, as we assess ways to expand our in-person classes. We will continue to monitor public health guidance, consult with local public health authorities, and provide further updates as the situation evolves. We also continue to work closely with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training and with other post-secondary institutions within BC to ensure our plans are aligned with health and safety guidelines and WorkSafeBC.
  • As of September 16, all students, faculty, staff and visitors are required to wear non-medical masks in common indoor spaces on our campuses. There will be a two-week grace period, to allow Faculties and Administrative Units time to review, consider, and amend any existing safety plans, with approved exceptions, and to procure any necessary supplies. However, we must stress that it is vital to adopt this measure from today, and wear a non-medical mask in common indoor spaces, such as hallways, stairways, building entryways, washrooms, common areas in residences and other high-traffic areas (except as set out in an approved COVID-19 Safety Plan).

Fall Graduation

As we welcome a new class to UBC, I would like to take the opportunity to invite you to celebrate the achievements of the students from the Class of 2020, who are preparing to graduate this fall.

Due to the restrictions that remain in place for COVID-19, we are not permitted to hold mass in-person gatherings. As we did in the spring, we look forward to celebrating our graduating students at a virtual ceremony. Our fall graduation ceremony will be held on Wednesday, November 25, 2020. Please see for more information.


Indigenous Strategic Plan

Last week, it was my privilege to participate in the celebration ceremonies for the Indigenous Strategic Plan. The plan represents a significant milestone in UBC’s commitment to truth and reconciliation and represents a university-wide response to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ Calls for Justice. It also represents the UBC Vancouver campus’ response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action.

Anti-Racism Web Page

I made a commitment to listen to the UBC Black Caucus, Indigenous and Asian groups and other marginalized communities. Over the past few months, I have been meeting with many individuals and groups, and listening. I will continue to listen as we move forward. I am pleased to announce that I have launched a web page on the site that brings together all my anti-racism activities, and also has links to other resources at UBC.


New academic policy to accommodate students’ religious and cultural observances

UBC has introduced a new academic policy to support students who are absent from classes and scheduled examinations in order to participate in observances of religious significance, or observances of cultural importance to students who are First Nations, Métis or Inuit. This policy recognizes the diversity of our students and the religious and cultural traditions that guide them. It also recognizes the First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples’ right to self-determination in spiritual matters, including the right to practice, develop and teach their own spiritual and religious traditions, customs and ceremonies, as set out in the Calls to Action resulting from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

For more information, visit:

Ronald (Bud) Sparrow

I stand with the Musqueam people in mourning the passing of Ron “Bud” Sparrow earlier this week. His leadership on fishing rights in the globally recognized “Sparrow case” was path-breaking in Canadian jurisprudence. A true champion of Indigenous rights, he will be deeply missed.

UBC Places High in THE World University Rankings

I am proud that UBC has placed 34th in the world in the annual THE World University Rankings. Our position in this prestigious rankings, as well as high places in other rankings, are a reflection of the quality of our faculty, students and staff.

Virtual Homecoming

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Homecoming (September 25-27) will be virtual. Join us in a virtual celebration featuring an all-star line-up of UBC notables, familiar faces and surprise guests, including headliner and 4-time Juno award nominee, Scott Helman, hip-hop/rap and soul singer, Missy D, multi-platinum, Juno award winning vocal group, The Tenors, Raptors 905 head coach Jama Mahlalela, music journalist and musician Nardwuar, UBC star athletes and more.


Blue and Goldcast

I’m delighted to let you know that the Blue and Goldcast, my regular podcast series where I sit down with students, faculty and staff to discuss a wide range of topics, has resumed after taking a short break. We’ve recorded several new episodes, which will be released over the next few months (we’ll be recording more shortly). You can subscribe on iTunes or on Soundcloud or you can listen directly on my website at It’s also broadcast on CiTR Radio (check their website for broadcast times).

UBC Faculty Members to be inducted into the Royal Society of Canada

Seven UBC faculty have been elected Fellows of the Royal Society of Canada. Fellows are elected by their peers for their outstanding scholarly, scientific and artistic achievement. Recognition by the RSC is the highest honour an individual can achieve in the Arts, Social Sciences and Sciences.

  1. Jinhua Chen (Asian Studies)
  2. Ara Norenzayan (Psychology)
  3. Mark Halpern (Physics & Astronomy)
  4. Scott Hinch (Forest & Conservation Sciences)
  5. Leonie Sandercock (School of Community and Regional Planning)
  6. Alla Scheffer (Computer Science)
  7. Amanda Vincent (Institute for the Oceans & Fisheries)


Two faculty members, Abbas Milani (School of Engineering) UBC-O and Catherine Winstanley (Psychology), have been named as new Members of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. The College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists is Canada’s first national system of multidisciplinary recognition for the emerging generation of Canadian intellectual leadership.

The 2020 Fellows and Members will be welcomed into the RSC at a celebration in November. I congratulate all of them.


Dr. Julio Montaner Honoured by Canada Post

Canada Post has issued a commemorative stamp celebrating UBC’s Dr. Julio Montaner, one of a series of six stamps honouring groundbreaking physicians and researchers. Dr. Montaner was honoured for research that has helped transform HIV/AIDS into a manageable condition with a near-normal life expectancy and has markedly reduced HIV transmission.

News from around UBC

AMS:AMS Clubs Days is one of the best ways to students to find their community and stay connected, even if they’re not on campus. AMS Clubs Days takes place online September 23 – 25 from 8AM – 7PM (PDT) on CampusBase. • The start of a new school year can be a confusing time, especially when it comes to student fees. With so many of our UBC community spread out around the globe this year, that confusion is only magnified. To help provide some clarity the AMS has put together the AMS Student Levy Guide that lists the fees students pay, how they’re used, and whether there are exemptions and subsidies available.

Faculty of Education: The Bimema Family Award in Teacher Education has been created by Dr. Bathseba Opini in collaboration with Dean Blye Frank to honor, appreciate and reciprocate her family’s tradition of educators who have deep commitment and passion for education in their community. The award will contribute toward closing gaps in equity and access to education for Black students registered in the teacher education program at UBC. See for more information.

Faculty of Land and Food Systems: Assistant Professor and director of the Dietetics program Tamara Cohen received an Insight Development Grant from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She is researching the development of a diet self-monitoring tool for assessing dietary behaviours according to the new Canada Food Guide.

Faculty of Medicine: Glenn Regehr has been awarded the prestigious international Karolinska Institutet Prize for Research in Medical Education. • Research led by Jennifer Ji and David Hunstman may offer new treatment options for people diagnosed with rare form of ovarian cancer.

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences: On September 4, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences welcomed its first cohort of the new Bachelor of Pharmaceutical Sciences (BPSc) program. The BPSc program was formally approved by the Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training in November 2019 and its inception this term marks a significant milestone for the Faculty. • Mary De Vera, a professor at UBC’s faculty of pharmaceutical sciences, shared her experience receiving a colorectal cancer diagnosis at a young age and how it shifted her research.

UBC Okanagan: Two highly accomplished professors from the School of Nursing in UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Health and Social Development are among the inaugural class of Fellows of the Canadian Academy of Nursing. Nursing Prof. Marie Tarrant, Director of the School of Nursing, and Nursing Prof. Joan Bottorff, Director of the Institute for Healthy Living and Chronic Disease Prevention, will be officially inducted as inaugural Fellows at a virtual ceremony and celebration on Nov. 20.

UBC Sauder: The Peter Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics recently participated in the second annual conference on “Governance in the new decade: the rise in boardroom environmental and social governance.” This online event featured experts associated with UBC Sauder on business trends and systemic risks such as pandemics, climate change, racism and other pressing topics currently impacting boards and their organizations. The Dhillon Centre’s Executive Director, Christie Stephenson, was also a guest speaker at a recent conference focused on increasing diversity amongst board directors and improving board relevance.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments on this newsletter. I look forward to seeing you (virtually) at the full meeting of the Board on September 22.

Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor