President’s Newsletter



Welcome to the February 2020 issue of Letter from Santa, a regular communication to members of the UBC community.



Climate Emergency Update

In December 2019, UBC declared a Climate Emergency. At the time of the Declaration I announced that I would establish a climate emergency community engagement process to provide the UBC community with opportunities to come together to consider the full scope of our impact and align UBC’s emissions reductions plans with 1.5oC; to embrace the need for a managed decline of fossil fuel use and a rapid and just transition to a sustainable economy that also aligns with UNDRIP; to infuse climate justice throughout our activities, priorities, and decision-making frameworks; and to support community coping and adaptation in the face of climate crisis.

Details on the community engagement process will be announced soon but the three pillars of the process include:

  1. Establishing a Climate Emergency Community Engagement Taskforce, which will oversee the community consultation process.
  2. Various opportunities for the UBC community to provide input and initiate action through conversations across campus, a resource website and a larger campus-wide town hall.
  3. A public report that defines the pillars of climate emergency and outlines recommended actions which emerged from the engagement process.

Since early January, a core working group has been assembled to oversee the execution of these pillars. The working group includes representation from the Climate Hub, Campus and Community Planning, UBC Communications, VP Students, VP Research and Innovation, VP Academic and the President’s Office.  Actions in progress include: recruitment of new Climate Hub staff to help lead the process; establishment of the Climate Emergency Community Engagement Taskforce; assembly of critical communications and engagement support across campus; and content creation for toolkits to support conversations within and across academic departments, campus communities, and staff units.

I’m pleased to note that the task force includes faculty, students, staff, representatives of the Board of Governors and the AMS. It will be co-chaired by Michelle Marcus from UBCc350 and Walter Merida, a senior advisor to the president and professor in the Faculty of Applied Sciences. I’d like to thank all the members for agreeing to serving on this important task force.


UBC Most International University in North America

UBC is the 18th most international university in the world and the most international university in North America according to Times Higher Education. I’m proud of UBC’s global initiatives, support for international students and outward-looking faculty, students and staff.


Beaty Biodiversity Museum and Musqueam First Nation Honoured

Congratulations to the Beaty Biodiversity Museum and the Musqueam First Nation on being awarded 2019 Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Museums: History Alive! for their exhibition Perspectives on Biodiversity: Sturgeon Harpoon Knowledge Map, curated by Yukiko Stranger-Galey and Jason Woolman.

The innovative exhibit explores the complex and sophisticated web of knowledge and relationships that surround any one species or belonging, presenting and preserving a significant part of British Columbia’s history and cultural heritage. You can find out more at and


UBC Press tops Hill Times’ list of 100 best non-fiction books

Almost a quarter – 23 – of the 100 books on the Hill Times’ list of the best non-fiction books of 2019 were published by UBC Press, far outpacing University of Toronto Press (eight books) and McGill-Queens (seven). I’m proud of UBC Press and its accomplishments. UBC Press, which celebrates 40 years of publishing in 2021, remains the scholarly publisher of choice. See (paywall).


Nadine Caron named founding First Nations Health Authority Chair in Cancer and Wellness

Dr. Nadine Caron — Canada’s first female First Nations general surgeon — has been appointed to a newly created UBC position dedicated to improving cancer outcomes and wellness among Indigenous peoples. As the founding First Nations Health Authority Chair (FNHA) in Cancer and Wellness at UBC, Caron will examine the journeys and unique needs of Indigenous cancer patients, survivors and their families.


UBC Okanagan gets new daycare spaces

Thanks in part to support from the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development, the University Children’s Learning Centre at UBC Okanagan will soon add space for 20 more children. Currently the facility has space for 37 children. It’s the first major expansion of the daycare since it opened 27 years ago. You can read more about the daycare expansion at


Biological Sciences Building Opened

Last month, we celebrated the official opening of the Biological Sciences Building North and East Wings (Undergraduate Life Sciences Teaching Laboratories). The facility provides a consolidated home for the undergraduate students and teaching faculty in UBC’s life sciences teaching programs. More than 2,000 undergraduate students are enrolled in life sciences programs at UBC.

A key benefit of the new building is the ability to make new and unexpected connections across the life sciences disciplines, with the goal of enhancing and expanding teaching expertise and knowledge. Together in one space, faculty members are empowered to share approaches and ideas about pedagogical innovations, and develop new teaching innovations such as expanding and developing student research opportunities in enriched educational experiences. The newly renovated and expanded facility includes classrooms, teaching laboratories, lab support areas, plant and specimen collection areas, offices, and a 240-seat lecture theatre.

The project was made possible by joint federal-provincial funding through the Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund.


Cloud Innovation Centre

Last month also saw the opening of the UBC Community Health and Wellbeing Cloud Innovation Centre. The CIC is the first of its kind in Canada, and provides UBC students, staff, and faculty access to cloud technology to advance projects, along with employing Amazon’s innovation processes. The UBC Community Health and Wellbeing CIC gives student teams, supported by staff and faculty, the opportunity to use leading cloud technology from AWS to unlock results for challenge projects faster and generate new insights for our community.


Allison MacFarlane new director of School of Public Policy and Global Affairs

Congratulations to Dr. Allison MacFarlance, the new director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs. She begins her five-year term on July 1 and comes to UBC from the George Washington University, where she is currently Professor of Science Policy and International Affairs, Director of the Institute for International Science and Technology Policy, and Director of the International Science and Technology Policy Master’s program at the university’s Elliott School of International Affairs. See


 UBC Connects enters third season

The UBC Connects lecture series begins its third season on March 2 with “The Middle Eastern Monologues” – a talk by Bassem Youssef. Formerly a heart surgeon, he shot to fame in 2011 as the “Jon Stewart of the Arab World.” In this talk at the Vancouver Playhouse, Youssef shares his experience as a doctor-turned-satirist during the most uncertain time in the Middle East. He’ll be followed by American political philosopher Michael Sandel on April 6. Go to for more information.


UBC Okanagan appointments

Congratulations to Ian Cull on his appointment as the first senior advisor to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal on Indigenous Affairs. In his new role, Ian will play a pivotal role in building consistent, open channels of communication with faculty, staff and students, Indigenous communities, senior leadership, and those involved in Indigenous programming and initiatives.

Ian is stepping down from his role as Associate Vice-President Students to take up the new position. Michelle Lowton, the director of student development, will serve as interim AVP Students while the search for a new Associate Vice-President is underway.


Congratulations Order of Canada recipients

I would like to congratulate all the recent UBC-associated appointees to the Order of Canada, including emeriti professors Donald Mavinic and James Zidek, former track and field coach Diane Clement, former faculty member Eddy Carmack, and alumni John Clague, Wendy Lisogar-Cocchia, Nadir Mohamed, Michael Potter and Harry Swain. UBC is proud of you!


Thunderbirds Basketball Coaches Make History

Congratulations to Deb Huband and Kevin Hanson, respectively the coaches of the UBC Thunderbirds women’s and men’s basketball teams. Last month they each set a record for the most wins in Canada West History.

Hanson now has 314 regular season win (and counting!), while Huband has 338 victories. I’m proud of both of them, and of their players.


AMS Elections Coming Soon

The AMS 2020 elections are coming soon. Candidate nominations are now open. Nomination papers for Executive positions must be submitted in person at the Administrative Assistant’s office in Nest Room 3502 before February 14th at 12 p.m. Find out more at


News from the Faculties

Applied Science: Congratulations to Professor Rabab Ward, who was elected as a Foreign Member of the National Academy of Engineering 2020 Class of US and International Members. Also congratulations to Jim McEwen, on his induction into the US National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Arts: The Faculty of Arts has launched a revamped website. Visit for the latest news and events, student resources, award recipients and more. • The School of Journalism has expanded to become the School of Journalism, Writing and Media. • The Faculty welcomes Dr. Bernard C. Perley as the new director of the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies, and Dr. Allison M. Macfarlane as the new director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs.

Education: This week 150 educators, administrators and counsellors from around the province took part in two mental health literacy training institutes to build capacity in their work to support youth mental health. Almost every BC school district now has at least one mental health leadership team, and in many cases multiple teams, who have taken part in an institute over the past four years and are helping their colleagues and students develop a common language and set of practices around mental health. This includes building knowledge, reducing stigma and increasing help-seeking efficacy and is based on the groundbreaking research and practice of psychiatrist and Canadian senator, Dr. Stan Kutcher. These institutes are enhanced by free online courses and curriculum resources co-developed and hosted by the Faculty of Education ( and accessed by thousands of people around the world. Under the leadership of Dean Blye Frank and Dr. Wendy Carr, the Faculty has become a hub for mental health literacy education at both the pre-service and in-service teacher levels and is committed to further research and knowledge mobilization to lay the foundation for effective mental health promotion and care.

Forestry: The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) recently announced the launch of a $1 million, four-year theme partnership project, Wildfire and Carbon: Increasing the resilience of BC’s forests to climate change.  UBC Forestry professor,Lori Daniels is a principal investigator on the North American research team that includes scientists from Canadian Forest Service as well as the USDA Forest Service. The team will examine how to de-escalate the impact of the increased number of forest fires due to climate change as well as how to strengthen development of British Columbia’s growing forest-based bioeconomy with the intention of boosting carbon uptake and reducing emissions.

Graduate and Post-Doctoral Studies: Dr. Susan Porter, Dean & Vice-Provost of Graduate and Postdoctoral, shared her reflections on why and how doctoral education needs to change to better serve academia and society in a recent Q&A with the UK Council for Graduate Education. • The Public Scholars Initiative (PSI), together with Centre for Community Engaged Learning (CCEL) and UBC’s Knowledge Exchange Unit (Kx), has launched the Research to Action Grant, an award intended for Public Scholars who are ready to initiate and create connections with new partners and/or take their partnership one step further with an action-oriented step. PSI was created in 2015 to support UBC doctoral students as they strive for purposeful social contribution, produce new and creative forms of scholarship and dissertations, and explore diverse career pathways.

Land and Food Systems: The Faculty is launching a new Graduate Certificate in Aquaculture in September 2020, as a way to support the industry’s need to hire skilled people with a strong science-based background and a theoretical understanding of all aspects of aquaculture. This one-semester program will provide courses covering aquaculture production, fish health, business, sustainability and seafood processing, and include site visits. • Professor Emeritus James Thompson received the BC Dairy Industry Achievement Award in recognition of his outstanding support for research, education, and animal welfare. The BC Dairy Historical Society recognized James, the founding Director of the UBC Dairy Education and Research Centre in Agassiz, B.C. in 1995 until his retirement in 2019.

Medicine: Dr. Faisal Khosa and Dr. Heather Buckley — have been honoured by the Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC) for their outstanding contributions to academic medicine in Canada. • UBC Faculty of Medicine researchers have been awarded more than $27 million in fall 2019 project grants from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). Funded projects range from studies on perinatal anxiety disorder through to lung cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Pharmaceutical Sciences: The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences recently celebrated the grand opening of the In-Patient Pharmacy Practice Skills Centre. The new centre will prepare Pharmaceutical Sciences students for institutional practice as it simulates a true hospital ward. PPSC-Inpatient will greatly assist in the teaching of physical assessment for students and pharmacists seeking advanced clinical skills training. I congratulate Dean Michael Coughtrie and his team on this impressive new facility.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this Letter from Santa. Best wishes.

Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor

Previous Issues

February 2020
February 7, 2020

December 2019
December 2, 2019

September 2019
September 23, 2019

Summer 2019
July 30, 2019

June 2019
June 10, 2019