President’s Newsletter

June 2019


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


Graduation 2019

June 7 marked the completion of the Spring 2019 graduation ceremonies. Thousands of students received diplomas in the 28 ceremonies held at UBC Vancouver and 6 ceremonies at UBC Okanagan. In addition, we awarded honorary degrees to Sadhu Binning, Dr. William Carpentier, Peggy Chinn, Dr. Phil Gold, Hanna H. Gray, Ian Hanomansing, Pervez Hoodbhoy, Lewis Kay, Ali Kazimi, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, Carol Lee, Edwin S.H. Leong, William H. New, Beckie Scott and Leona Sparrow.

I would like to congratulate all the new graduates, and I would also like to thank the staff and volunteers who worked so hard to make Graduation 2019 such an outstanding success.





Research Funding Success Stories

UBC researchers have been awarded a combined $42.6m in funding from NSERC through Discovery Grants, Research Tools and Instruments Grants, scholarships and fellowships. This funding was part of a total national investment of more than $588m. This funding will go to more than 4,850 researchers and students across the country as they pursue their world-leading discovery work. It also includes support for nearly 500 early-career researchers who will bring a diversity of new voices and new insights to their fields.

Congratulations to all the recipients!

Congratulations as well to the 18 early career UBC researchers who received funding for exploratory research that crosses disciplinary boundaries from the federal New Frontiers in Research Fund. Each New Frontiers recipient will receive up to $250,000 over the next two years. You can find the list of UBC recipients at The fund supports early career researchers with five years or less of experience since their first academic appointment.

I’d also like to extend my congratulations to Dr. Gina Ogilvie, UBC professor and BC Women’s Hospital researcher, for receiving a total of $20m from both the federal government and the BC Women’s Health Foundation. Dr. Ogilvie has been working tirelessly for years to research the link between HPV and cervical cancer, and subsequently to promote vaccines and early detection of cervical cancer.

UBC continues to excel in international rankings

I am pleased to note that UBC ranked 9th in North America and 26th in the world in the prestigious CWTS Leiden Ranking of universities by scientific impact. The Leiden Ranking offers important insights into the scientific performance of nearly 1000 major universities worldwide. The full ranking is available at University of British Columbia also tied with Oxford University in the National Academy of Inventors ranking of the Top 100 Worldwide Universities Granted U.S. Utility Patents in 2018; the only Canadian university in this elite group. You can find the rankings at

Athletics Success

UBC is the first Canadian university to ever sweep men’s and women’s national championships in 4 sports in one year. Congratulations to the Thunderbirds men’s and women’s swimming, rowing, track and field and golf teams on this outstanding achievement! See for more information.

Congress 2019

Earlier this month, UBC Vancouver hosted Congress 2019, the 88th Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences. More than 10,000 scholars from across the country – along with thousands of members of the public – came to campus to participate in the annual gathering, put on by the Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences. I am proud of the UBC organization team, led by Congress Academic Convenor (and UBC English Language and Literature Professor) Laura Moss. And a big thank you to the hundreds of UBC students, faculty, staff and community members who volunteered to help the event run smoothly. You did UBC proud!

Women in Science, Health and Innovation

UBC Vancouver also hosted Women in Science, Health and Innovation recently, bringing together women from various universities, industries and governments to showcase global leadership in Canadian cities that enjoy strong academic-diplomatic relationships. The conference was the result of a collaboration between UBC and the consulates of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom and the United States. The four major themes that resulted from the conference were equity, networks and incentives, international research and public diplomacy.

One result of the conference was an article published in The Conversation, co-written by Judy Iles and myself, on “Global collaborations are changing conditions for women in STEM”. You can read the article at


International Visits

I was honored this month to host President Sahle-Work Zewde of Ethiopia (above) and her delegation, who was in Vancouver to speak at the Women Deliver conference. UBC was also honored with visits from the vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland and the vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter.





Faculty of Education Hosts Margaret Trudeau Talk

On June 5, the Faculty of Education hosted “Changing My Mind: Margaret Trudeau Speaks on Mental Health”. I was privileged to be asked to speak at the event and to listen to Ms. Trudeau tell her compelling and courageous story of her struggles with mental health issues. My thanks to Dean Blye Frank, Associate Dean Suzanne Scott, and the Faculty of Education for all they are doing in the area of mental wellbeing.





Executive Searches

As you may know, Barbara Meens Thistle, our current Vice-President, Human Resources, is leaving UBC at the end of July. She has achieved a great deal during her time at the university including: leading the implementation of Policy 131: Sexual Assault and Other Sexual Misconduct; leading on the core area People and Places in the UBC strategic plan, through a new Focus on People Framework; advocating for UBC’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion program; sponsoring the Integrated Renewal Program and advancing UBC’s Wellbeing Strategic Framework.

I have launched a global search for a suitable candidate for the position of Vice-President, Human Resources, and, in accordance with UBC Policy 34, I have established an advisory committee to support this search process comprised of Board members, members of Senate, as well as faculty, student and staff representatives from both campuses.We have also begun the search for the position of Deputy Vice Chancellor and Principal of UBC Okanagan, as Deborah Buszard will be stepping down at the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Deborah has provided outstanding leadership to UBC Okanagan for the past seven years and she will be greatly missed.

Farewell to Jeff Todd

We will also miss Jeff Todd, AVP Alumni and Executive Director, alumni UBC, who is leaving the university to take up a new position as President and CEO of the University of New Mexico Foundation in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with Jeff over the past three years. He leaves a tremendous legacy at the university with his accomplishments leading alumni UBC, and I wish him the very best with this new chapter of his life.

Blue and Goldcast

I am pleased to welcome my new co-host for the Blue and Goldcast, Margot Young. Margot is a professor in the Allard School of Law. She’s been at UBC for over 16 years and describes herself as a feminist social justice legal scholar. In our most recent episode, Margot and I talk to Nursing Professor Emily Jenkins about mental health and young people. Listen (and subscribe!) at

Best Wishes for the Summer

In closing, I’d like to wish everyone a wonderful summer.

Professor Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor











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June 2019