President’s Newsletter



Welcome to the Back to School issue of Letter from Santa, a regular communication to the UBC community. In this newsletter I will discussing our plans for welcoming students, faculty and staff back to school this Fall.



Welcome Back

Whether you’re a new or returning student, a faculty member or a staff member, this year will be like none we’ve ever experienced before. But even though this year will be different, we have been working to ensure that every student still has an enriching experience at UBC and that all faculty and staff are able to do their jobs in a safe and healthy environment. Click here to read more about our preparations for the Fall session.

Celebrate the new school year at UBC!

Whether you’re a brand-new or returning student, faculty, staff, or member of the alumni community, we’re all first-timers this year. We’re excited to be taking bold steps together.

Join us in celebrating the new school year at UBC’s virtual welcome events on September 8, 2020. The entire UBC community — from students to faculty and staff — is invited to watch the Imagine UBC Pep Rally (Vancouver) at 11:15 a.m. PDT on YouTube or Panopto and the Create Kick-Off (Okanagan) at 9:45 a.m. PDT on YouTube or Panopto.

The UBC Pep Rally and Kick Off events are campus-specific, distinctive moments that bring together UBC’s entering First-Year class, a tradition since 1997 at UBC Vancouver, and at UBC Okanagan since 2005. For the first time, this year’s events will be held virtually and serve as UBC’s formal welcome to the 2020-2021 school year for the entire campus community.


Federal Funding Announcements

UBC was a major recipient of recent federal funding initiatives, for which we are grateful:

  • SSHRC Insight Grants: On August 18, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council announced the recipients of the 2019-20 Insight Development Grants, awarding over $32 million to more than 1,045 researchers from 69 Canadian institutions. Thirty-five projects led by UBC researchers have been awarded $2.1 million. You can read more about the UBC projects here.
  • New and Renewed Canada Research Chairs: The Government of Canada announced new and renewed Canada Research Chairs on August 14. UBC received $3,900,000 in funding for four renewed chairs and two new chairs.
  • CFI-funded Projects: The Government of Canada, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), is providing more than $96 million in funding to support 377 new research infrastructure projects at 55 institutions across the country. The funding is provided through the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund. According to the backgrounder on British Columbia projects, 41 projects at UBC are receiving a total of $10,610,463 in funding.

Re-Appointment as President and Vice-Chancellor

Earlier this month the university’s board of governors ratified my reappointment as president and vice-chancellor of UBC for a second five-year term. I would like to thank the Board for their confidence in me, and I look forward to working with them, along with all of you, to help achieve our mission to inspire people, ideas and actions for a better world. Click here to learn more about my hopes and aspirations for my second term.


U15 Leadership

I am deeply honoured to have been elected Chair of the U15 Group of Universities, Canada’s 15 most research intensive universities, including: University of Toronto, UBC, McGill, Queens University, University of Montreal, University of Waterloo, McMaster University and others. I’m the first UBC president and the first from Western Canada to chair the U15.

UBC Places Well in ARWU Rankings

I’m pleased to note that UBC has once again placed well in the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities rankings.

UBC was 38th in the world and second in Canada in the rankings, which are published by the independent ShanghaiRanking Consultancy. Our high standing, which is consistently reflected in other global rankings, is a reflection of the quality of our research and teaching faculty, students and staff.

News from around UBC

AMS: AMS Events has adapted the Firstweek tradition to focus on smaller, more frequent events mixed in with a variety of unique virtual events. They have partnered with niche campus clubs and organisations across the city to curate brand new experiences such as the first-ever Virtual Escape Room, E-sports Spikeball tournaments. Students can check Instagram to keep up to date with events as well as the brand new AMS YouTube channel.

Faculty of Arts: American Sign Language will be offered as for-credit courses at UBC for the first time this fall, taught by Nigel Howard (Linguistics), known across BC for his interpretation at the provincial COVID-19 briefings. • Wade Davis’s essay The Unraveling of America was featured in Rolling Stone. • Patrick Moore was featured in the Vancouver Sun for his work creating an urban farm in the DTES that feeds 50-70 families per week, with help of student and community volunteers.

Faculty of Education: On September 1st, the Faculty of Education is launching a faculty-wide wellness initiative, Self-Care September, to build resilience within our community. By focusing on mindfulness, eating well, exercise and more, we will emerge from the pandemic healthy, focused and connected with each other and our communities.

Faculty of Forestry: Professor Kathy Martin has been awarded the Nancy B. Cutler Citation of Excellence: Women in Science and Technology award, in recognition of her invaluable role in furthering conservation science in Canada. Dr Stavros Avramidis, head of Wood Science, was appointed Vice President of the International Academy of Wood Science earlier this year.

Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies: UBC’s celebrated scholarship for doctoral students, the Public Scholars Initiative is launching its sixth cohort. Over the past six years, the PSI has supported 223 students from across UBC who seek to make purposeful contributions to the public good through collaborative, action-oriented, and/or creative forms of scholarship in their dissertation work. For example, Jennifer Adkins, a Public Scholar from the 2018-2019 cohort, is investigating black-white mixed-race relationships to reveal how individuals use anti-racism in their lives to counter societal racialized ideologies, and reconstruct ideas of race.

Faculty of Land and Food Systems: LFS Student Services has launched an online transition program for new-to-LFS students. ROOTSS (Reach Out, Orientation, Transition and Study Skills) is hosted in Canvas, and includes ‘Module Mondays’, a fun and interactive learning piece released weekly leading up to Jump Start and Imagine Day; interactive resources; and opportunities to engage with staff, other students and faculty members using videos, webinars, and discussion boards. • Three researchers have received funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the John R. Evans Leaders Fund: Assistant Professor Derek Dee received $125,000 to study food proteins and enzymes; Assistant Professor Alexandra Protopopova received $125,300 for her project Laboratory for Human-animal Interaction and Companion Animal Welfare; and Associate Professor Risa Sargent received $123,454 for her project Plant-pollinator and Global Change Lab.

Faculty of Medicine: The Physical Therapy Department’s Program for Excellence in Telerehabilitation Education and Research (PETER)  is training PT students to provide virtual care. • Dr. Mel Krajden, professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine, has been awarded the Order of British Columbia. Recently, BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said she is most grateful to Dr. Krajden for his leadership at the onset of the pandemic that has been instrumental in shaping and informing public policy. • Dr. Srinivas Murthy  was just named a  Canada research chair in pandemic preparedness.

Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences: On July 1, the Faculty welcomed Dr. Ricky Turgeon welcomed Dr. Ricky Turgeon to the role of assistant professor, Greg Moore Professorship in Clinical and Community Cardiovascular Pharmacy. This professorship was established by the Faculty in partnership with St. Paul’s Foundation and the Division of Cardiology at Providence Health Care with the objective of providing combined clinical and academic leadership to advance research, education and practice in clinical and community cardiovascular pharmacy. • Assistant Professor Annalijn Conklin was the principal investigator in a recently published study that linked obesity to social ties in older women, more so than in men.

Peter A. Allard School of Law:  Alumni Nicco Bautista and Maria Kim-Bautista are sharing a simple yet powerful message with law students of colour: “You belong” through a unique new entrance award given to students who are their first in their family to go to law school. • A new research hub housed at the Centre for Business Law at the Allard School of Law is working in cooperation with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and Oxford University to provide organizations with timely and critical guidance on effective climate governance.

UBC Sauder partnered with IEDP (Developing Leaders quarterly magazine) to deliver an exclusive interview with Dr. Bonnie Henry on leading in times of crisis. Dr. Henry, the B.C. provincial health officer, is not only a graduate of the UBC Sauder Physician Leadership program, but also a clinical associate professor at UBC.  • UBC Sauder faculty member Kate White and the Decision Insights for Business and Society team received a three-year grant for behavioural insights research work that will  improve understandings of decision-making and help people make better individual and collective choices.

UBC Okanagan: Prof. Gino DiLabio has been appointed Dean of the new Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science effective Sept. 1. •  Prof. Bryce Traister will serve as Dean pro tem in the new irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, from Sept. 1 to the end of 2020. Prof. Traister will hold this position in addition to his current role as Dean, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies. •  Prof. Rehan Sadiq’s appointment as Executive Associate Dean of the Okanagan School of Engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science has been extended for five years • Dale Mullings has been appointed Associate Vice-President, Students, joining UBC Sept. 1 from the University of Toronto Mississauga.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and comments on this newsletter. I wish you all the best for the Fall semester.


Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor

Previous Issues

September 2020

Back to School 2020

Summer 2020 Newsletter

June 2020 Newsletter

April 2020

February 2020

December 2019

September 2019

Summer 2019

June 2019