President’s Newsletter


Welcome to the September 2019 issue of Letter from Santa, a regular communication from myself to members of the UBC community.




I was thrilled to participate in the Imagine and Create orientation events at UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses on September 3. Seeing and talking to the thousands of new students was so inspiring and energizing. I was also delighted to announce at the two events that the Blue & Gold Campaign has raised $100 million for student aid and that we have now doubled the campaign goal to $200 million. I would like to thank the board for supporting this important campaign.


Homecoming/Sports Hall of Fame

Imagine and Create were followed shortly by Homecoming weekend, when thousands of UBC students, faculty, staff and alumni come to campus to relive old memories and forge new ones. The weekend began with the UBC Sport Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. The Hall of Fame acknowledges UBC’s more than 100 years of athletic history – the university’s outstanding athletes, teams, builders and their accomplishments. I was proud to be involved in this year’s ceremony which saw the induction Bev Barnes, Peter Bull, Bob Laycoe and Johnny Russell into the Hall of Fame.

Unfortunately, the Thunderbirds lost 47-13 in the Homecoming football game against the Calgary Dinos, but it was a great weekend regardless!

Integrated Renewal Program Update

We continue to make progress on the Integrated Renewal Program (IRP). In April 2020, we will be replacing our core HR and Finance systems (HRMS and FMS) with Workday. This is one of a number of programs underway to transform our systems and processes to improve how we collaborate and innovate. On Sept 9, my team and I participated in a session to discuss what we as leaders can do to help make the implementation of the IRP a success and enable this change across our community. The IRP team has set up a number of subsequent engagements with faculties and administrative units to build awareness within the community and begin to prepare for the new system, including two HR and Finance demos in October.

Fulbright Board

I am deeply honoured that the Government of Canada has appointed me to the Fulbright Canada Board of Directors. The Fulbright Foundation is a binational, treaty-based, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization with a mandate to identify the best and brightest minds in both countries and engage them in residential academic exchange. The Board consists of 20 volunteer members who each sit for a three year term. Ten members are citizens of the United States and appointed by the US Ambassador to Canada, and ten are Canadian citizens appointed by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

I am thrilled to be part of a program which has seen 59 Fulbright alumni win the Nobel Prize and another 82 win the Pulitzer Prize.

UBC: The Next Century

This month saw the publication of a new book about the University of British Columbia, UBC: The Next Century (Figure 1 Publishing). The book was written by acclaimed British Columbia author Tyee Bridge, and provides a look at UBC today, while celebrating the accomplishments of its people – its graduates, students, faculty, staff and supporters. UBC: The Next Century is available at the UBC Bookstore and other major bookstores including online sellers such as Chapters-IndigoAmazon, and Munro’s Books.

APRU Senior International Leaders Meeting

UBC was honoured to host the Association of Pacific Rim Universities (APRU) Senior International Leaders Meeting last month. The senior executives of 38 universities from 17 countries gathered to discuss the theme of Advancing a Just, Sustainable, and Prosperous World: University Impact and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (a theme I also addressed recently in Times Higher Education.) In particular, we discussed student mobility in relation to the SDGS, and how the APRU can contribute to the common good in the Asia-Pacific Region.

Times Higher Education Rankings

Speaking of Times Higher Education, I am proud to note that The University of British Columbia continues to be recognized on the world stage, improving its ranking by three spots to 34th globally in the latest Times Higher Education World University Rankings, released today. UBC’s result is even more impressive in 2019 because THE World University Rankings includes more institutions than ever before –1,396 across 92 countries and regions, up from 1,258 universities across 86 territories last year. Against this backdrop, UBC places in the top 2.5 per cent of universities ranked globally.

We also moved up eight spots in the ARWU Academic Ranking of World Universities, from 43 to 35. I am proud of UBC’s global reputation, and I’m proud of our amazing faculty, students and staff who have made us among the best in the world.

Opening of Exchange Residence

On September 19, we opened the new Exchange Residence at the UBC Vancouver campus. The new residence houses 651 students, as we continue to fulfil our commitment to provide affordable housing for students, faculty and staff. The Exchange Residence also features two additional first year commuter student collegia; a home away from home for students who get here by bus, by bike or by car. I’m proud of the Exchange Residence and I’m proud of the UBC staff who worked so hard to see this project come to fruition.

Truth and Reconciliation

On September 24, UBC students, faculty, staff and Board of Governors members will gather at the Richard S. Hallisey Atrium at UBC Okanagan to witness UBC Okanagan’s declaration of Truth and Reconciliation commitments, formally committing the university to deliver on five recommended actions toward reconciliation. UBC is deeply committed to collaborating with Indigenous peoples and communities to address the legacy of colonialism, and to co-develop knowledge and relationships. You can read more about the ceremony here.

And on October 2, 2019 in Vancouver, I will present to Musqueam a plaque commemorating the Statement of Apology that I made on behalf of UBC to residential school survivors in April 2018. In the Statement, I apologized on behalf of UBC to survivors of the residential schools, to their families and communities, and to all Indigenous people for the role that this university played in perpetuating that system. I apologized for the actions and inaction of our predecessors, and I renewed our commitment to working with you for a more just and equitable future.

The plaque, which contains the entire text of the Statement of Apology, will serve as a reminder of the commitments we have made; commitments to improve access for Indigenous people to higher education, to develop new courses and programming that will enable our faculty and students to better understand issues of importance to Aboriginal communities, and to build collaborative relationships that work to the benefit of communities rather than their detriment.

UBC Connects

On September 10, we launched the 2019-20 series of UBC Connects, a public lecture series featuring the world’s most esteemed thought leaders, with a fascinating talk by Dr. Helen Fisher (above left, with moderator Kathryn Gretsinger) on the future of romantic relationships in the digital age. The next talk will feature broadcaster (and UBC graduate) Ziya Tong, who will discuss “Blind Spots: Rethinking Your Reality” on November 4 at the Vancouver Playhouse. Tickets are available at She will be followed by Nobel laureate Dr. Donna Strickland on November 25 (venue to be announced).

News from the Faculties

Finally, a round-up of assorted news and initiatives from UBC’s Faculties:

Applied Science: The Faculty launched its new manufacturing engineering program this month. The program, which has 50 percent gender parity, is the Faculty’s first dual-campus program — the Okanagan campus will focus on production management, the Vancouver campus on production technology. The program will not  only solidify UBC’s role as a centre for digital, automated and advanced manufacturing, but also create more opportunities for collaboration between the two campuses.

Arts: The UBC Public Humanities Hub launches this fall, led by Academic Director Mary Chapman. Supported by UBC Excellence Funds, the Hub has a mandate to highlight and develop public-facing research in the Humanities. Arts has also launched a new strategic plan, called “Shaping Arts’ Next Century at UBC” which is closely linked to and modeled on the UBC plan. Two Creative Writing faculty members and alumni have been longlisted for the Giller prize— Canada’s largest literary award.

Education: The Veteran Friendly Campus is a President’s Initiative announced on September 9th that will see UBC become a “veteran friendly” campus by 2020. Under this Initiative UBC will provide programs and services specially designed for veterans including specialized mental health and counselling support, priority student housing, social and recreational opportunities, professional development courses and a Royal Canadian Legion Branch, which will be the first to establish in more than 25 years.

I have tasked the Faculty of Education with making UBC “veteran friendly” over the next year. The Faculty of Education has welcomed 21 veterans into two classes this semester to better prepare them for success on their future studies. These veterans have offered to take part in evaluation research to help develop a formal Canadian framework for Veteran Friendly Campuses. As a first step the Faculty of Education veterans have taken a leadership role in starting the new UBC Royal Canadian Legion Branch intended to encourage peer support for the veterans community. Membership in the Legion is open to anyone. For more information and to join, follow the link here.

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies: Are you a current or prospective student looking for a research placement, supervisor, mentor, committee member? Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has a researcher lookup tool and a supervisor directory where you can search experts by name, program, role and keyword. In addition, we also have a list of open projects that faculty members seek applicants for

Medicine: In recent weeks, the Faculty of Medicine celebrated the 50th anniversary of the School of Audiology and Speech Sciences, as well as the newly-opened Physical Therapy and Research Clinic.

Peter A. Allard School of Law: Former staff member Nancy Wiggs has made plans to support incoming law students through a tremendously generous estate gift of $1 million.  This endowed gift will support students for years to come. You can read more about her story and generosity here.

Pharmaceutical Sciences: Last week, the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences launches the Data Analytics, Statistics and Informatics (DASI) suite, a unique new service offering designed to serve the research community. DASI was founded with a goal to enhance the quality of research outputs through improving the analytical and methodological components of each project. Learn more here.

Sauder School of Business: Paul Cubbon has accepted the role of Assistant Dean, Innovation. Cubbon already serves as the Leader and Academic Director of Creative Destruction Lab West, a seed-stage program for massively scalable, science and technology-based companies, and as the Leader of the Innovation & Entrepreneurship Group at UBC Sauder.

Science: The Faculty of Science has launched the Student Diversity Initiative, a multi-year initiative created to address issues in student diversity, equity and inclusion at UBC Science. The new program will work to incorporate strategies into science and mathematics teaching practices and curricula that help all students feel included, and be engaged.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Letter from Santa. Best wishes for the Fall!

Santa J. Ono
President and Vice-Chancellor

Previous Issues

September 2019

Summer 2019

June 2019