President’s Newsletter


Welcome to the June 2021 issue of Letter from Santa, a regular communication to members of the UBC community.



Statement on the Missing Children of Canada’s Indian Residential Schools

We are heartbroken to learn of the confirmation of further burial sites of children at former residential schools. These discoveries are horrifying.

We can only imagine the grief and pain that the families and communities of the missing children are feeling. UBC stands with First Nations seeking the truth about the missing children. We support having the children returned to their families and communities with proper protocols. May we honour their lives and the survivors and never forget their stories.

Our thoughts are with the families, the communities, residential school survivors and all who mourn.

Please read the full statement from myself and Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack here.

Welcome New Board Members

I’d like to welcome Anthonia Ogundele and Natalie Chan to the UBC Board of Governors. Dr. Chan is President and Research Director of Be the Change Group, a Vancouver-based public and population health consulting and creative firm that she co-founded at 26 years of age. She’s also a family physician, primarily practicing at Three Bridges Community Health Centre.

Ms Ogundele is the Founder and Executive Director of Ethos Lab Educational Society. Ethos Lab is a non-profit STEM and culture-focused Innovation Academy for youth ages 13-18 that provides access to emerging technologies, culture, and a community of innovators. Ms. Ogundele was recently honoured with the City of Vancouver’s Black History Month Community Leader Award.

National Forum on Anti-Asian Racism

Earlier this month, UBC hosted a National Forum on Anti-Asian Racism. Thousands of people from across Canada and around the world participated in the virtual forum. Many frank and difficult discussions took place. Over the course of the two-day forum, we heard the devastating impacts of anti-Asian racism on individuals and communities across Canada.

Coming out of the Forum, UBC will establish a Centre for Asian Canadian Research and Engagement that will carry forward the commitment of UBC to work with partners across Canada to act and advance anti-racism. There will also be a follow-up event focusing on Anti-Asian racism in higher education this Fall.

A number of other upcoming actions were announced at the Forum. On Day One, BC Premier John Horgan stated that by 2022, his government will introduce legislation to begin race-based data collection. He also announced that his provincial government is working on an anti-racism act to be introduced at a later date. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that his government will increase funds to the Canadian Race Relations Foundation to help support community organizations and schools in fighting anti-Asian racism and hate-related crimes.

Though the forum has ended, our work is just beginning. We will take the results and recommendations arising from the forum to guide our future steps. There will also be a follow-up event focusing on Anti-Asian racism in higher education this Fall.

Planning for Fall Term

We are continuing to develop our plans for a phased approach to the Fall 2021 term, as I outlined in a recent UBC Broadcast:

  • Faculties are planning for as much on-campus activity as possible, subject to ongoing public health guidance, and some courses (or elements of courses) may remain online.
  • UBC Student Housing plans to open student residences for the 2021/22 Winter Session, and will provide specific updates as we approach housing allocation periods.
  • Orientation programs will be available for new-to-UBC students for Winter Session, Term 1, as well as other extracurricular activities. The details will be determined as we work with public health to ensure the safety of these activities.

Remote Work Arrangements: An opportunity to reimagine how we work

UBC is developing an institutional plan for remote work. To support our approach, we have agreed upon a university-wide framework that includes objectives, principles, and guidelines. These will help to provide consistency across the university, which has been advocated for by our community. Recognizing that individual Faculties and administrative units will have differing needs, the approach and timing for implementation of the Remote Work program may also vary at the local level.

At the centre of our institutional plan for remote work is the need to preserve the student experience and academic mission, support research excellence and impact, and maintain the high quality of our programs. You can find out more information about the plan at Remote work at UBC | UBC Human Resources.

Fifteen New and Renewed UBC Canada Research Chairs Announced

Fifteen UBC researchers were appointed as new and renewed Canada Research Chairs in the latest round of appointments announced on June 15, 2021.

The new and renewed chairholders represent an investment of $12.3 million through the Canada Research Chairs program. An additional $0.7 million was awarded to six new chairholders at UBC through the CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund. UBC currently has 199 Canada Research Chairs. The new and renewed chairs were announced as part of the Government of Canada’s investment of more than $635 million for research, which also included funding through NSERC Discovery Grants and SSHRC Insight Grants, Insight Development Grants, Partnership Grants and Partnership Development Grants. New projects led by UBC researchers and new and renewed UBC Canada Research Chairs were awarded approximately $48 million of this announced investment.

Spring Graduation and Honorary Degrees

The Spring Graduation ceremonies were held (virtually) on June 2. I know many of you joined us for the ceremonies and to celebrate along with the 12,000 graduates and their families. We also awarded 18 honorary degrees,

The honorees for 2021 were once again a diverse group, reflective of the vast spectrum of scholarly exploration for which UBC is renowned. At the same time, however, they all share one common characteristic – the determination to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

To a person, their stories, their achievements, and their contributions are both fascinating and inspirational.

U7+ Asks G7 Leaders to Prioritize Future Generations

The U7+ Alliance has issued a statement asking G7 leaders to take into account the interests of future generations as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change.

UBC is a member of the alliance, a group of universities spanning six continents and representing all of the G7 nations as well as 10 other nations. In the statement, the U7+ Alliance urged world leaders to harness opportunities for equitable resource sharing across generations and recognize universities’ role as primary global actors.

“As an alliance of universities, we sit at the crossroads of generations — in a space where knowledge is generated and new, bolder visions for the future are imagined — and have committed to serving as platforms for open intergenerational dialogue,” the statement reads.


UBC First in Canada for U.S. Patents

UBC ranks first in Canada and 46th in the world for universities granted U.S. utility patents, according to the National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association. The full report is available here.


Congratulations to Inaugural McCall MacBain scholars

I would like to congratulate UBC students Larissa Chiu and Daisy Couture, two of the 20 inaugural McCall MacBain Scholars chosen from across the country. Canada’s first comprehensive leadership-based scholarship for master’s and professional studies, the McCall MacBain Scholarship enables students to pursue a fully funded master’s or professional degree at McGill University while connecting with mentors and participating in an intensive leadership development program.

The first class of McCall MacBain Scholars will begin their studies at McGill in Fall 2021.

News from around UBC

The Alma Mater Society is pleased to welcome the new AMS Executive for 2021-22: Cole Evans, AMS President, Eshana Banghu, VP University and Academic Affairs, Saad Shoaib, VP External Affairs, Mary Gan, VP Finance and Lauren Benson, VP Administration. We’re looking forward to an exciting year with our new student leaders. • Are you taking summer courses in Term 2 and live outside Metro Vancouver? You can apply for an exemption for the summer U-Pass fee. The deadline to apply for a Term 2 exemption is July 25, 2021. Find out more at the AMS U-Pass page.

The Faculty of Arts is honoured to have numerous Indigenous scholars in our community who create diverse and engaging learning opportunities for our students. With June marking National Indigenous History Month, we honour and celebrate the achievements of our brilliant Indigenous scholars. • Learn how Arts faculty and staff are championing accessibility best practices across their teaching and learning materials. Discover tips to help adapt to various learning styles. • History professor Dr. Henry Yu explains how blindness to white supremacy perpetuates anti-Asian racism in Canada.

The Faculty of Education welcomes new Dean pro tem, Dr. Jan Hare, who will assume the role on July 1, 2021. Dr. Hare is an Anishinaabe scholar and educator from the M’Chigeeng First Nation. She is currently the Associate Dean, Indigenous Education and the Director of the Indigenous Teacher Education Program (NITEP). She is also Professor in the Department of Language and Literary Education, and holds a Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Indigenous Pedagogy. Her work in the Faculty of Education advances local, provincial, and national directives in Indigenous education resulting in new programs and pathways for Indigenous learners, as well as transforming teaching, learning, and research to be more responsive to Indigenous knowledges. Dr. Hare is engaged in shaping UBC priorities, including the Indigenous Strategic Plan Implementation Committee, Lead for the Indigenous Engagement Working Group on the Climate Emergency Task Force, and the Joint Committee for Assessing Indigenous Scholarship.

The Faculty of Land and Food Systems: UBC students took first place at the global competition called Map the System hosted by University of Oxford. Undergraduate students Cathy Zhu and Emily Chau (from LFS), and Anika Cheng (Kinesiology), tackled the issue of food insecurity that disproportionately affects urban Indigenous populations more than others in BC. Using a comprehensive, systems perspective, they worked with an Indigenous-led non-profit, Unique Get Together Society, to develop a deeper understanding of the issue and propose solutions. This is UBC’s first win in the Map the System global competition. • Dr. Mahsa Jessri is a new Canada Research Chair in Nutritional Epidemiology for Population Health. Dr. Jessri’s research program provides the evidence-base and decision tools to inform nutritional guidelines and polices aimed at reducing the burden of chronic diseases. Dr. Simone Castellarin’s Canada Research Chair in Viticulture has been renewed. Dr. Castellarin is Associate Director of UBC’s Wine Research Centre, and he partners with international scientists in the field of viticulture, grapevine physiology and applied genomics.

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences: New research from Dr. Corey Nislow suggests contaminants in generic medications used to treat conditions like diabetes, heart disease, stomachaches and heartburn may cause damage to DNA, affect basic cell functions and even increase a person’s risk of cancer. • The Pharmacists in Primary Care Networks Program website has launched to keep health care providers, patients, their caregivers, and the public updated and informed. The Pharmacists in PCN Program is creating new roles for up to 50 Primary Care Clinical Pharmacists (PCCP) in team-based practices across BC.

UBC Okanagan: Brad Wuetherick has been appointed as Associate Provost, Academic Programs, Teaching and Learning for a five-year term beginning May 1, 2021. In this newly established role, Brad will provide strategic leadership, vision and coordination for the teaching and learning mission at UBC Okanagan. Brad joins UBC Okanagan from Dalhousie University, where he served as Executive Director, Learning and Teaching and co-chair of Dalhousie’s Indigenous Council. •  Congratulations to 2021 UBC Okanagan Researchers of the year: Dr. Julian Cheng, natural sciences and engineering; Dr. Jonathan Little, health research; Dr. Eric Li in Social Sciences and Humanities and PhD candidate Michelle St. Pierre. And congratulations as well to the UBC Okanagan 2021 Teaching Excellence and Innovation Award recipients: Jannik Eikenaar, School of Engineering; Jordan Stouck, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies.

UBC Sauder: Dan Simunic, Professor Emeritus in the Accounting & Information Systems Division at UBC Sauder, was included in the inaugural group of inductees in the Canadian Accounting Hall of Fame (CAHF) in the “Leaders of the Profession” category. • The UBC Sauder School of Business Social Entrepreneurship Program (SSE-Kenya) has teamed up with the One Girl Can charity to offer entrepreneurship training workshops in Nairobi for girls and young women living in extreme poverty. The new partnership with One Girl Can will ensure even more students and budding business owners get the support and skills they need.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments on this newsletter. I hope you all have a great summer.

Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor


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