Surrey Board of Trade, Sheraton Guilford Inn, Surrey B.C.
Many thanks for that generous introduction, Anita – I only hope I can live up to it! As this is my first time addressing a Surrey audience, I too would like to acknowledge that we are in the traditional territory of the Kwantlen, Katzie, Kwikwetlem, Qayqayt, Semiahmoo and the Tsawwassen First Nations.
As well, I acknowledge the Inuit and Metis Nations peoples who live and work on these territories. I look forward to beginning a dialogue with you all about UBC’s greater presence in the Fraser region.
From UBC, I want you to meet some of our key academic leaders that have already shown great enthusiasm for this new UBC site in Surrey. Please stand up as I introduce you:
- Dermot Kelleher, Dean, Faculty of Medicine and UBC’s Vice-President, Health
- Meigan Aronson, Dean of the Faculty of Science
- and Rickey Yada, Dean of the Faculty of Land and Food Systems
Thank you all for your enthusiastic engagement!
I am very happy to be addressing you, the members of the Surrey Board of Trade and our honoured guests.
Before I go any further though, I want to emphasize from the outset that UBC is here to listen to your community both now and in the coming years. The great 13th century poet Rumi said: “Clean out your ears and don’t listen for what you already know!” So UBC and I are here to listen. And I would like this meeting to be the start of an invaluable dialogue, so I look forward to hearing your questions in a few minutes time.
One hundred and fifteen years ago in 1906, what was then called Vancouver College was taken over by McGill University in Montreal and renamed as ‘The McGill University College of British Columbia.’ In 1908, the BC government made a momentous decision – to build a new university called the University of British Columbia to serve and enrich the people of British Columbia. In fact, its motto was and still is ‘Tuum est’, which means ‘it is yours’. Initial progress was slow and it was not until 1915 at the height of World War One that this tiny new university moved into the so-called ‘Fairview Shacks’ near VGH. In 1925, UBC moved to its first permanent campus at Point Grey. Although the journey was a long one, it was propelled by a bold vision and a commitment to serve the people of BC.
More than a hundred years later that same vision and drive has made UBC a world-renowned university with campuses in Point Grey, Robson Square, Kelowna and now – Surrey!
Now I can assure you that we will be moving much faster than they could a century ago! In 2005 the Okanagan College became UBC Okanagan. How history repeats itself! Indeed, the University of Toronto has also opened successful campuses in Mississauga to the west and Scarborough to the east, as have many US universities like Northeastern and Purdue. What all these great endeavours have in common with our Surrey site is that they all needed a long-term vision for at least 20 years out, not just for the next few years. As Wayne Gretzky once said: “I skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” Like Surrey, UBC has its skates on!
Surrey is booming now – with over half a million people, it is the second largest city in British Columbia. In fact, Business In Vancouver is projecting that within a decade, Surrey will be BC’s largest city. Approximately fifteen hundred people are moving into Surrey each month. And twenty-five percent of Surrey’s population is under the age of 20. Surrey is truly the home of the future workforce.
Yes, Surrey is growing and thriving, and UBC wants to play a big part in its future.
But first I think it’s worth reminding ourselves what exactly is UBC’s current presence in Surrey?
Right now, we are working alongside our health authority and community partners in Surrey and the Fraser Valley most notably in the field of healthcare—wherever we can add the most value.Most visible, of course, is UBC’s significant health presence, not only at Surrey Memorial Hospital but also at clinical academic sites across the Fraser Region, from Burnaby to Surrey and the Fraser canyon. Every day across these sites, more than 700 UBC clinical faculty are deeply involved in training and mentoring the next generation of doctors and health care professionals.
Every year, we see more than 4,900 medical and health professions students and postgraduate doctor rotations take place in hospitals, primary care settings and clinics right here in the Fraser region. Learners train alongside world-class UBC clinical faculty in areas like family practice, emergency medicine, midwifery and other specializations.
Additionally, about 200 UBC nursing students also undertake their training in Fraser Health, while about 100 pharmaceutical sciences students take part in placements at 57 sites in the Fraser region. Maybe you’ve met a UBC student trainee without even knowing it!
And – did you know that about 1/3 of UBC medical students come from high schools in the Fraser? And even more importantly – did you know that 62% of UBC family medicine postgraduate residents who train in the Fraser region have stayed on to set up practice in the Fraser region?
As of 2017, more than 760 UBC grads are practicing in the Fraser, in areas like family medicine and specialty programs such as physiatry and rehabilitation, obstetrics and gynaecology, and emergency medicine. Aware of the need to practice inclusive, culturally-safe care, in 2004 we created the UBC Indigenous MD Admissions Program. We are training more Indigenous doctors than ever before, with more than 110 Indigenous medical graduates to date – with many of them working right here in the Fraser region.
We also have another large group of UBC people right here in Surrey – the 3,500 students, the 750 faculty and staff, and the 15,000 UBC alumni who are pleased to call Surrey home. Actually, could we have a show of hands from those of you who are UBC alumni? And how many have UBC alumni or students in their family? It’s great to see you all here!
UBC already has multiple partnerships in Surrey in sectors such as urban design, sustainability, health data science, traffic safety, K-12 education, immigrant settlement technology and innovation, and more. A great example right here in Surrey is Nexe Innovations – a partnership with UBC that makes fully recyclable, plant-based coffee pods.
So, I think it is fair to say that our two communities – UBC and Surrey – are already inextricably entwined!
Just yesterday, I had a conversation with Stephen Wu, manager of economic development for the City of Surrey, who is here today. Stephen, it’s uncanny how closely aligned our goals are with Surrey’s, and I am really excited about the potential for future partnerships.
Of course, UBC’s partnerships with the private sector extend beyond the Fraser region. Indeed, UBC technologies are at the heart of products, services and treatments that have generated an estimated $11.5 billion in sales and have formed the basis of more than 200 spin-off companies…and counting. Since 2013, UBC has also offered support for new private sector venture creation by students, faculty and staff through an incubator called entrepreneurship@UBC or e@UBC. Maybe you have an idea or are looking for investment opportunities with start-ups? If you want to learn more about partnering with UBC you can connect with the VP Research and Innovation Office via the UBC website.
UBC is part of a corridor of innovation anchored by universities and industry across the Pacific Northwest. There is a compelling need for universities to be centres of research and innovation, partnering with the private sector to share knowledge that benefits us all and to show the positive impact research and innovation have on our societies.
Moving on then to the specifics of the UBC site in Surrey, which I’m sure you’re all anxious to hear about: UBC has acquired a 135,000-square-foot property—currently home to the Grace Hanin Community Church—at the intersection of King George Boulevard and Fraser Highway. You may be familiar with the site which is located close to the SkyTrain, Surrey Memorial Hospital and other community amenities.
We haven’t determined the exact composition of the site yet –that will be a large part of the listening process.
But we do have some initial, very high-level ideas of how the site might be used – just to give you some examples:
- Expansion of the medical and dentistry programs immediately come to mind—the proximity to Surrey Memorial Hospital is clearly a major opportunity for collaboration in other areas of health practice too;
- Initiatives from our faculties of Forestry and Land and Food Systems seem like a natural fit – for example:
- Food, Nutrition and Health—Nutritional Science, Dietetics and Food Science—actually UBC is the only institution in BC that offers a Registered Dietetics Program;
- Urban Forestry—where the city of Surrey is very active and where our professors and students are already engaged;
- Continuing education—we could envision a model where we can meet the needs of professionals and other lifelong learners who might be interested in taking courses in coding, health admin, economics or whatever—they can just walk over from their workplaces in Surrey, eliminating hours of commuting time.
- We could offer microcredentialing – providing the ‘upskilling’ opportunities to support youth and other individuals to develop the skills that are needed here in Surrey.
- Given that there are already so many faculty and staff here in Surrey and the Fraser region I believe that certain lower-year classes could be delivered here too—cutting commutes, lowering emissions, and raising their overall quality of life.
I could go on and on! These are very high-level ideas at this stage and by no means exhaustive – so I look forward to hearing your thoughts also. Whatever the final composition of the site, Surrey and UBC will have a new academic hub for the long term!
To be clear, the completion of this site is some years away but I have already received many messages from residents of Surrey who welcome a stronger UBC presence in the city. And I will be working closely with our Deans at UBC to guide our academic planning for the site. At the same time, we are committed to undertaking all the processes and public consultations needed to ensure that the project succeeds in the long-term.
First of all, as I mentioned earlier, we want to dialogue with the First Nations whose traditional territory this is. We also want to listen to the community about the kind of facility that will serve Surrey and the South Fraser Economic Region in the best way possible.
More information regarding the community consultation process will be shared in the coming months but—make no mistake—the next few years will be a time for UBC to listen, to consult and to work together with the City of Surrey, Fraser Health, the First Nations Health Authority and all our regional and post-secondary partners to uncover the many exciting possibilities that this new project holds.
We are fortunate that this new UBC site in Surrey has been welcomed by all levels of government, including Anne Kang, BC Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Training; Bruce Ralston, MLA for Surrey-Whalley; Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers; Doug McCallum, Mayor of Surrey, and Randeep Sarai, MP for Surrey Centre. [By the way, three out of these five elected officials are UBC alumni!]
It is of course fantastic to have this kind of multi-layered level of support from governments, but most of all we need support from the Surrey community—including the business community right here in this room. And we need it as soon as possible – we can only build this site from the ground up, with your input and advice.
This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss. This is a long-term project that needs a long-term vision – which we hope you will help us build.
It may be that in 20 years’ time UBC’s presence in Surrey will greatly outgrow the initial site delivering multiple programs to 10,000 or more students – a comparable or even greater number than Okanagan campus today.
What I am sure of is that when we look back 20 or 30 years from now, we will all be very proud of what we have built together for the generations that will follow us here in Surrey.
Thank you for listening. Now, I look forward to listening to you.