December 2021


Welcome to the December 2021 issue of Letter to the Board, a regular communication to members of the UBC Board of Governors.


Celebrating Graduation

Last month we celebrated our first in-person graduation ceremonies since the fall of 2019. It was such a joy to greet the graduating students as they crossed the stage, and to see their proud families gathered for the occasion.

I would like to thank all those who made graduation possible—including the faculty, staff and student volunteers, the organizers and all the participants.

A special thank you to our colleagues at other universities who came through with graduation gowns and mortarboard caps when our own were held up because of the flooding. They helped make UBC graduation more meaningful to our graduates.


Congratulations to UBC’s Latest Rhodes Scholars

Congratulations to Aditi Sriram and Jesse Lafontaine for being named Rhodes Scholars.

Aditi recently graduated with a Bachelor of Science with honours in Global Resource Systems. Aditi hopes to undertake the Masters of Public Policy and MSc in Public Policy Research at Oxford, which she will use as the foundation for her career in financial regulation and economic policy.

Jesse graduated with a Bachelor of Science with honours in Chemistry in 2020. He plans to pursue a Master of Public Policy and a Master of Science in Translational Health Science at Oxford.

New award for women and gender-diverse faculty and staff at UBC

Nominations are now being accepted for the Envisioning Equality project. The project celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of exceptional women and gender-diverse faculty and staff at UBC through art in public spaces. The selected nominees—five staff members and five faculty members—will be featured on a series of artistic banners, designed by local artists, on the UBC Vancouver campus.

Nominations are being accepted until December 20. If there’s someone you’d like to nominate, you can do so here.

UBC and COP26

Last month, several UBC faculty members, students and staff took part in COP26, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties. The UBC delegates took part in COP26 to deepen their understanding of how global climate negotiations work, with positive impacts for their research and programs. They also shared UBC’s exemplary work on the climate emergency with this global gathering, and shared their experiences with the wider UBC community when they returned.

COP26 included a symposium on how research universities can contribute to facing up to the climate challenge. I had the privilege of taking part in the Science for Net-Zero Symposium, which was organized by CESAER—the European association of leading universities of science and technology, ISCN—the International Sustainable Campus Network, Science Europe, and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow.

At the symposium, we agreed to a call for collective action for global action to tackle climate change. The call is for universities, national research performing organizations and research funding organizations to look at how their actions and ambitions around climate change can collectively be upgraded. The call to action includes pledges to reduce our own carbon footprint and prepare the next generation of students and researchers for a net-zero transition, among other commitments.

Surrey and UBC

On December 14, I will be addressing the Surrey Board of Trade at the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel. I’m looking forward to engaging with the Surrey business community and discussing issues of mutual interest, such as our recent purchase of a 135,000-square-foot property at the intersection of King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway. The site is anticipated to be a combination of residential and commercial space which will generate revenue to enable the construction of dedicated academic facilities.

I’m looking forward to engaging with the Surrey community and discussing how we can work together for the benefit of the Fraser region, the university and the province.

UBC Signs Scarborough Charter

On November 18, I joined more than 40 university and college leaders from across Canada for a virtual signing ceremony for the Scarborough Charter on Anti-Black Racism and Black Inclusion in Canadian Higher Education: Principles, Actions, and Accountabilities.

The charter is the result of a year-long collaborative process that started during the first National Dialogues and Action for Inclusive Higher Education and Communities, in October of last year. I’d like to acknowledge the support of the Black Caucus in endorsing the Charter, and I would like to thank Ananya Mukherjee Reed, Provost and Vice-President Academic at UBC Okanagan, who worked as part of the national network of higher education institutions to formulate the Charter.

We signed the Charter because its four principles of Black flourishing, inclusive excellence, mutuality and accountability are in alignment with UBC’s own inclusion action plan and anti-racism task force. Signing the Charter is just one of the initiatives that UBC has been taking to address systemic racism within our community.


Congratulations to Award Winners!

I’d like to congratulate the following member of the UBC community, who have been recognized for their research and initiatives:

  • Kevin Kung, co-founder, president and chief technical officer of start-up company Takachar, and his partner Vidyut Mohan (co-founder and CEO), were recently presented with an Earthshot Prize in the Clean Air Category, worth £1 million, as well as another US$250,000—the equivalent of C$1.9 million in total—in the Carbon Dioxide Removal Demonstration student category from the XPrize and Musk Foundation, founded by Elon Musk.
  • Dr. Alison McAfee, a Postdoctoral Fellow at #UBC, was named one of this year’s winners of the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Award for her cutting-edge research on honeybees.  
  • Dr. Emily Cranston has been awarded an @NSERC_CRSNG Steacie Fellowship for her game-changing work with nanocellulose, leading to “more sustainable products and procedures that benefit the environment, economy and well-being of Canadians”
  • Dr. Rashid Sumaila has received the 2021 SSHRC Impact Partnership Award on behalf of the OceanCanada Partnership. The award recognizes the partnership’s interdisciplinary work to understand and address threats facing Canada’s coastal regions and develop a shared vision for the future of Canada’s oceans that promotes the well-being of people living on coasts as well as the marine environment.

Celebrating our student athletes

The UBC Thunderbirds men’s rugby team won the Canadian University Men’s Rugby Championship with a 39-7 victory over the UVic Vikes last month. The 2021 crown is the T-Birds’ third title in the four-year existence of the tournament after capturing gold at the inaugural championship in 2017 while following it up with another victory in 2018.

Congratulations also to the Thunderbirds men’s swim team for winning their eighth straight conference championship last month, and to the women’s team, which came in second place. And to new Canadian champions, the UBCO Heat softball club. The club captured the Canadian Collegiate Softball Association (CCSA) Championship this October after only their third year of existence.

Later this week, UBC will honour 278 student athletes who achieved Academic All Canadian status (80 percent average and listed on a varsity team roster) between Sept 2020 and August 2021. This is the highest number ever and represents almost 40 percent of our student athlete population at UBC Vancouver. They include students, both undergraduate and graduate, from 11 faculties and schools, in all 26 sports. My congratulations to all the outstanding student athletes.

News from around UBC

Peter A. Allard School of Law: On November 8, Ngai Pindell began a five-year term as Dean of Allard Law. Dean Pindell is an accomplished academic who has researched and taught in the areas of property law, affordable housing, community development and local government law. • Allard Law professor Dr. Carol Liao was named one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women. In addition to her teaching and research on corporate law and sustainability, Dr. Liao is a public leader in anti-racism education.

The Faculty of Applied Science, in partnership with Teck, has installed self-sanitizing antimicrobial copper patches onto door handles, which kill 99 per cent of bacteria left behind. The funding partnership also gives materials engineering researchers Dr. Amanda Clifford and Dr. Edouard Asselin assistance in developing an advanced copper coating, that could help reduce the spread of aggressive infections contracted through contaminated surfaces in hospitals and other health care settings.

The Faculty of Education‘s new Learn-and-Earn program, a donor-funded initiative offered in partnership with the Surrey School District and the Vancouver School District, enables an annual cohort of 30 Indigenous youth to graduate with education assistant qualifications and transition into the Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NITEP). As NITEP students, they will receive holistic supports nurturing their cultural identity, as well as tutoring services to support their academic needs. • The UBC Orchard Garden team and Dr. Susan Gerofsky, academic advisor and principal investigator of the UBC Orchard Garden, were recently named finalists for a Growing Together Long-term Award. Dr. Gerofsky works collaboratively with a team of graduate and undergraduate students from the UBC Faculties of Education, Land and Food Systems, Forestry and the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, inviting learners across disciplines to connect theory to practice through exploring the relationships among teaching, learning, and growing.

The Faculty of Land and Food Systems has launched a new Alumni in Business webpage to promote and support LFS entrepreneurs and small business owners. • Research on Wagyu-style beef alternatives will soon be starting at UBC. LFS students will receive advanced training in making plant-based proteins that replicate the taste and texture of Wagyu beef. LFS will collaborate with the Saskatchewan Food Industry Development Centre (SFIDC) and other industry partners to develop food technologies to ensure a high quality product that minimizes processing and nutrient loss, while adhering to sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. UBC students will also use the university’s sensory lab to evaluate texture, taste, and other sensory measures.

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences: On November 4, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences launched a new graduate training initiative—the Future Leaders In EpidemioloGy and Health OuTcomes, or FLIGHT, program. The program is unique as the first of its kind among health sciences programs at UBC and is generously supported by Pfizer Canada and Merck Canada. • Earlier this month, the Faculty hosted the 2021 Summer Student Research Program (SSRP) poster competition, showcasing participating students’ research findings. The SSRP is an annual program that allows UBC undergraduate students to spend their summer working on a real-life research project under the guidance of expert faculty researchers. • As of September 2021, the UBC Pharmacists Clinic has exceeded 20,000 patient care visits. This milestone demonstrates the dedication of expert pharmacists and administrative professionals at the Clinic who care for British Columbians with complex health and drug therapy needs. This milestone is even more significant given that all patient care at the clinic has been provided virtually since March 2020.

UBC OkanaganThis fall UBC Okanagan, in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance, installed orange banners across the campus to recognize Orange Shirt Day and the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The Okanagan campus is located on the traditional territory of the Syilx Okanagan Nation. The banners were designed in collaboration with the Okanagan Nation Alliance with imagery from Syilx artist Billie Kruger, from the Okanagan Indian Band. • In November, the One River Ethics Matter conference focused on the Indigenous-led work of kł cp̓əlk̓ stim̓—restoring ntytyix (salmon) to the Okanagan and Upper Columbia rivers, was co-hosted by the Okanagan Nation Alliance and the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus. • The Pritchard Dining Hall was recently named for the founders of The Colin & Lois Pritchard Foundation in recognition of their generosity to UBC Okanagan. Their latest gift of $1.25 million creates two new endowment funds to support generations of nursing students and fellowships linked to clinical research.


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 December 7.

Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor