Greater Vancouver Board of Trade
Four Seasons Hotel, Vancouver
Thank you, Robert, for your kind introduction. Good afternoon, and thank you everyone. It’s an honour to be with you today.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam, the Squamish and the Tsleil Waututh.
I would also like to acknowledge and thank our sponsors, the Sauder School of Business, the Robert H. Lee Graduate School of Business and Boyden.
This is the third time I’ve had the privilege of speaking to the Board of Trade since my installation as president of UBC in 2016.
As I mentioned when I first addressed you in March 2017, coming back to Vancouver was in many ways a homecoming. I was actually born at St. Paul’s Hospital, when my parents lived here in the early 1960s while my father taught mathematics at UBC.
Since coming back, my family and I have been overwhelmed by the warmth and friendliness of the people of Vancouver.
We have come to know and to love the city and its environs. If any of you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you’ll see how much we enjoy sampling the various restaurants, walking along the Seawall and generally experiencing this amazing city and region.
When I last spoke at the Board of Trade, I discussed the university’s new strategic plan – Shaping UBC’s Next Century.
With the endorsement of the strategic plan by the Senates and Board of Governors, we have now begun the work of implementation of the plan.
We have identified priorities for transformative action, and are working in collaboration across our campuses to achieve our vision, “To inspire people, ideas and actions for a better world”.
There have been many other highlights since I last spoke to you, and I will touch on a few before returning to discussing the strategic plan:
Among the new programs at UBC this year are a degree in forensic sciences offered jointly with BCIT and a new biomedical engineering program.
Last April, we witnessed the official opening of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. At the Opening, I delivered an apology on behalf of UBC for the university’s role in the residential school system.
We installed bilingual street signs on nine Point Grey campus streets with names in English and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ – the traditional language of the Musqueam people. We also launched an interactive map showing the locations of various world-class Indigenous public artworks on campus.. And we permanently raised the flags of the Okanagan Nation and the Musqueam Band on our Okanagan and Vancouver campuses respectively.
Many campus enhancements are underway, including new teaching labs, pedestrian-friendly connections, increasing the number of student beds, and planning for neighbourhood housing opportunities.
UBC Okanagan saw the opening of the new Commons, with a Great Hall for students, reading room, a 400-seat classroom, a visualization and emerging media lab, and special collections and archives.
This year, we have more than 65,000 full- and part-time students being taught by 5,500 faculty members in 190 degree programs.
They come to us from every part of B.C., every province in Canada, and almost 160 countries around the globe.
Our message to each and every one of these students – the potential is yours. You will be given opportunities to learn, to create and share knowledge, to be inspired and to shape your future.
As a globally recognized university, UBC is committed to excellence in teaching, learning and research. I’m proud to say that UBC continues to excel in international rankings – among the top 40 in the world in the Times Higher Education rankings and 25th in the NTU rankings.
The influential QS World University Rankings puts UBC among the top 10 universities in the world in four different subjects, amongst over 1,200 international universities. Overall, 41 UBC programs are in the top 50 in the world, with four among the top 10.
UBC’s Library and Information Management subject was ranked the best in the world, making it the only Canadian university to rank number one overall in any subject.
UBC also ranked first in Canada in a total of ten subjects including sports-related subjects (third overall in the world), geography (fifth in the world), mineral and mining engineering (ninth in the world), earth and marine sciences (12th in the world), agriculture and forestry (15th in the world), education (13th in the world) and psychology (16th in the world).
We have the largest number of highly cited scientists of any Faculty of Medicine in Canada and are number one in Canada for the number of patents.
I’m very proud of these impressive results and the contributions of the entire university community.
But we cannot rest on our laurels. That is why I initiated a new strategic planning process when I took office in 2016.
Our previous strategic plan, Place and Promise, had brought us to an enviable and strong position as a university – one which all British Columbians could be proud of.
However, it was time to renew its vision, and prepare for the challenges of UBC’s next century.
As I noted earlier, the plan has now been approved and we are beginning to implement it.
The plan represents a roadmap. It sets out our collective vision, purpose, goals and strategies for the years ahead.
It guides our decisions and actions — inspiring the very best in our students, faculty, staff, alumni and partners.
Our purpose is — Pursuing excellence in research, learning and engagement to foster global citizenship and advance a sustainable and just society across British Columbia, Canada and the world.
The plan includes four core areas – People and Places, Research Excellence, Transformative Learning and Local and Global Engagement.
UBC has considerable strength – and exciting new activity – in all four core areas.
The plan is built around three themes that mean a great deal to me personally — inclusion, collaboration and innovation.
I won’t list all the plan’s goals, but they include …
- partnering with indigenous communities;
- leading globally in research, discovery, and sustainability;
- building a diverse culture;
- and inspiring students through excellence in transformative teaching and the student experience.
The strategic plan identifies key areas that we feel have significant transformational importance …
- Great people – attracting, engaging and retaining a diverse global community of outstanding students, faculty and staff.
- Thriving Communities – supporting the ongoing development of sustainable, healthy and connected campuses and communities.
- Inclusive Excellence – cultivating a diverse community that creates and sustains equitable and inclusive campuses.
- Collaborative clusters – enabling interdisciplinary clusters of research excellence that focus on critical problems facing society today.
- Student research – broadening access to, and enhancing, student research experiences.
- Education renewal – facilitating sustained program renewal and improvements in teaching effectiveness.
- Indigenous engagement – supporting the objectives and actions of the renewed 2018 Indigenous Strategic Plan. This area also represents our shared commitment as a university community, articulating the commitments that form UBC’s response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
I’m excited about UBC’s strategic plan, and I found the planning process itself to be inspiring. Now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to work!
As I mentioned, the strategic plan has four core areas: People and Places, Research Excellence, Transformative Learning and Local and Global Engagement. I’d like to discuss two of these today – research excellence and local and global engagement, starting with research.
UBC consistently ranks as one of the world’s top research universities. We rank so highly because of our PEOPLE.
We attract the highest calibre research faculty and students and $650 million in research funding each year.
Our research discoveries are advancing new knowledge, and have led to countless new products, treatments and services. For example, the removal of AB antigens from RBC to enable a path to make universal donor blood for transfusions, a major breakthrough in management of sepsis and image stitching technology.
We have significant research strengths in the fields of quantum materials, stem cell/regenerative medicine and artificial intelligence.
For example, in the past year, the Centre for Artificial Intelligence Decision-making and Action (CAIDA) has brought together over 70 professors investigating both the fundamentals of AI and machine learning as well as how those technologies are changing fields from natural resources to health. UBC scientists are also helping Canada meet its commitments to Mission Innovation with a collaboration with Mexico to build an AI robotic platform for clean energy discovery.
In the humanities and social sciences, we are a major centre for language sciences, Asian research and other fields.
Much of our research excellence is due to our collaborations – with other universities, with government and with industry.
For example, Rogers and UBC recently announced a three year, multi-million dollar partnership to build a real-world 5G Hub on the UBC campus that will be a testbed and blueprint for 5G innovation in Canada.
This partnership will deliver made-in-Canada 5G technology. It will develop 5G applications to help consumers, businesses and governments save time, money and lives.
UBC has significant expertise in leveraging its own infrastructure to create a unique ‘living lab’ environment that fosters creative problem-solving in a real-world setting.
This partnership with Rogers opens exciting research and learning opportunities for our faculty and students in wireless technology and its applications, and will result in new knowledge vital in building the digital economy.
But our research breakthroughs are not completely down to Earth. We’re also reaching out to the stars with the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment – otherwise known as CHIME.
CHIME is a powerful new radio telescope that will map the largest volume of space ever surveyed.
It’s a collaboration involving 50 Canadian scientists from the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, McGill University and the National Research Council of Canada.
$16-million was invested by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the governments of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Additional funding came from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.
CHIME is located at the NRC’s Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory near Penticton.
The telescope’s overall footprint is the size of five NHL hockey rinks.
The “half-pipe” telescope design and advanced computing power will help scientists better understand the three frontiers of modern astronomy — the history of the universe, the nature of distant stars, and the detection of gravitational waves. By measuring the composition of dark energy, scientists will better understand the shape, structure, and fate of the universe.
It is one of the most innovative radio telescopes in the world, and will open the universe to a new dimension of scientific study. It’s already making some fascinating discoveries.
We are also playing a key role in the Thirty Metre Telescope in Hawaii, which will have 10 times the resolution of the Hubble telescope.
CHIME and the Thirty-Metre Telescope are good examples of how UBC collaborates with other universities, governments and industry.
Another good example is our involvement in the Digital Technology Supercluster.
Two years ago, the Government of Canada launched the Innovation Superclusters Initiative with targeted investments worth up to $950 million, to increase economic growth and create jobs in a wide range of innovative industries.
One year ago, Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster was chosen as one of five winning applicants. This is a BC-led consortium of private industry, high-tech start-ups and post-secondary institutions.
I am proud that UBC is a founding member of the supercluster, along with TELUS, Microsoft, Teck, Change Healthcare, Providence Health Care and other members of the Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia.
The Digital Technology Supercluster was selected for government support because of its ability to accelerate Canada’s global advantage in digital technology.
Using big data, the goal is to create new economic opportunities that address the productivity, health and sustainability challenges facing Canada and the world today.
I was excited to hear that Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster announced its first cohort of projects just last week. The projects total $40 million of investment over three years focused on advancing Canada’s development and application of digital technologies to solve some of the most pressing challenges in the natural resources, healthcare, and industrial sectors. And this is only the beginning.
The other core area I mentioned in the strategic plan is local and global engagement. For the remainder of my talk today, I would like to focus on local part of that core area.
Although our largest campus is located on Point Grey, it is more than symbolic that our first classes were held on the Fairview Slopes, in the heart of Vancouver.
We have a significant presence in Vancouver – at Robson Square, at the Learning Exchange on Main Street, at VGH and St. Paul’s Hospital and at the Great Northern Way campus. We also have ties with institutions in other municipalities in the Lower Mainland.
UBC is British Columbia’s third largest employment centre and a valuable academic, research, housing and innovation hub.
The impact of UBC on the B.C. economy is approximately $12.7 billion, or almost 6% of the B.C. economy.
UBC has faculty, researchers, students and staff located and engaged across Metro Vancouver through teaching programs, co-op, clinical and internship placements, research collaborations and community and industry partnerships.
More than 750 medical students train at clinics and hospitals across the Lower Mainland.
200 volunteer student clinicians are staffing more than 20 legal clinics run out of community centres and neighbourhood houses across Metro Vancouver.
207 companies – most of them in the Vancouver area – have spun off from UBC research creating new jobs.
In 2017/18, there were 1,375 research projects with industry partners and 1,109 research contracts and agreements with government and non-profits, again mostly in the Lower Mainland.
And of course, our tens of thousands of alumni are contributing to the region as well, as entrepreneurs, as artists, writers and creators, as teachers, nurses, doctors and other professionals.
We are proud to be a major contributor to the talent that is fuelling so much innovation and growth in the city and province.
Throughout the strategic planning process, I had the opportunity to hear from a wide range of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members across the province.
One theme that consistently emerged in these conversations was the need to engage more and in deeper ways with regional communities.
Expanding and deepening engagement will take place in a variety of ways. Building deeper linkages will include more co-op programs and internships that embed UBC students in businesses and communities throughout the province.
Expanded engagement also includes a stronger presence in clinics, schools, community centres and organizations across Metro Vancouver and indeed the province.
The UBC President’s Community Roundtables involve leaders from around the Lower Mainland. These are opportunities for UBC to listen. Previous roundtables have tackled sustainability and the opioid crisis.
Our next Roundtable on April 8th will focus on housing affordability – an issue of great concern to all of us in the Lower Mainland.
The strategic plan aims to strengthen and increase those community ties.
One example: one of the first projects to be funded under the new strategic plan is a public engagement project that will help transition UBC Robson Square into a centre of public engagement, while also initiating a more ambitious goal of engaging communities beyond downtown Vancouver.
This two-year pilot project will build events at UBC Robson Square and regional venues by establishing a Robson Square Engagement Grant to encourage Faculties to use UBC Robson Square for public engagement and knowledge exchange events.
This project also aims to build on the UBC Connects lecture series (which I’ll get to in a minute) by establishing a complimentary series of public lectures and dialogues off-campus at Robson Square and Lower Mainland venues.
As I mentioned, we plan to build on the new UBC Connects lecture series was launched last year. It features renowned thought leaders sharing their perspectives on pressing global issues.
And the series itself doesn’t stay in one place – we’ve had talks at the Chan Centre on the Point Grey campus, but also at the Vancouver Playhouse and the Orpheum in downtown Vancouver and, most recently, at the Kelowna Community Theatre.
I hope some of you are able to make it to the Chan Centre this Wednesday evening for the next talk, featuring Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. She is an award-winning Nigerian author, and named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World.
Other speakers have included Isabel Allende, Jeremy Rifkin, Michael Pollan, John Kasich and Me Too movement leader Tarana Burke.
Our next speaker on September 10th will be anthropologist and neuroscientist Dr. Helen Fisher, speaking on the future of romantic relationships in the digital age.
We’re also connecting with the community via social media. Last fall, I launched a new podcast series called Blue and Goldcast to connect with more people on and off campus.
We’re also connecting with the community via social media. Last fall, I launched a new podcast series called Blue and Goldcast to connect with more people on and off campus.
The podcast is a way for UBC to tell our stories – about our history, scholarship, and issues we face together.
Topics are varied and have included the experiences of women in STEM, and the role that universities should play in making sports safer.
You can listen to previous episodes and subscribe to the podcast at blueandgoldcast.com
But if we want to increase our engagement with our communities, we need to improve our physical connections with the rest of the region.
One such opportunity is to extend SkyTrain to UBC.
A robust transportation network that includes a SkyTrain connection to UBC’s Point Grey campus will support regional prosperity, affordability and sustainability.
UBC has 1 out of every 100 jobs in Metro Vancouver.
The UBC-Broadway Corridor generates $1 out of every $10 annually for Metro Vancouver’s economic output.
UBC’s Point Grey campus is one of the most popular public transit destinations in the Lower Mainland. The 99 B-Line route on the Broadway Corridor is the busiest bus route in Canada and the United States, moving up to 60,000 customers per day on articulated buses running every three minutes at peak times. This is also our region’s most overcrowded bus route. Pass ups are already common. We need better connectivity between UBC and the rest of the Lower Mainland.
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade has expressed support for the SkyTrain extension to UBC, and we are grateful for your support.
On January 30th, Vancouver City Council voted 9-2 to endorse a SkyTrain extension from Arbutus to UBC and validated TransLink’s recommendation that SkyTrain be advanced as the technology of choice.
The TransLink Mayors’ Council voted on February 15th to endorse SkyTrain as the preferred technology to advance to the next stage of project development, including development of concept designs.
This decision sends a very strong signal to the provincial and federal governments that SkyTrain to UBC is a well-supported regional project.
The timing is critical, as the upcoming October 2019 federal election presents a window of opportunity to advocate for new infrastructure funding.
Metro Vancouver transit projects are typically cost-shared between three levels of government — regional, provincial and federal.
UBC is exploring ways to make a material contribution to the regional share of the project, providing it does not affect funding for the university’s academic mission.
Endorsement of SkyTrain as the chosen technology to UBC allows the project to advance toward business case development, which defines the project more specifically and provides a clearer picture of predicted costs and benefits.
We are still at the beginning of a long process, but I am excited about the forward momentum that we are experiencing.
Before I close, I want to give you an update on the Blue and Gold Campaign for Students.
I am grateful to everyone here who has supported this campaign. Your generosity helps to fund a range of student awards including fellowships, scholarships, and bursaries.
The campaign theme — Change their world so they can change ours! – expresses our vision to help future generations of UBC students achieve their dreams.
Now in its second year, the Blue and Gold Campaign has already raised around $60 million. We will continue to work to achieve our $100 million goal over three years.
I believe the next generation holds great promise in meeting the social, geo-political and economic challenges that lie before us, and stepping into leadership roles at home and around the world.
We want to make sure that UBC students of today and tomorrow will be prepared to step up and change our world.
Tuum Est — It is Yours. UBC provides the place, the people and the potential to shape our future.
But it’s up to each of us to make the most of what the university offers.
In carrying out my duties as the president of UBC, I can say — with humility — that I am proud to support faculty, students, alumni and staff in our collective aim to make a positive contribution to society.
I’m proud that UBC is part of Greater Vancouver and that we are working together for the good of the region. I am proud of the partnerships and collaborations we have forged with others in the community – including many of you and your organizations.
In closing I’d like to say, once more, how honoured I am to be here and how excited I am about what we have accomplished in the past and what we will accomplish together in the future.
My own experiences have taught me that the boldest of dreams can only be achieved by working together, in every human endeavour that creates lasting change.
We are on an amazing journey together, shaping our next century!