Greetings to each and every one of you, and a heartfelt welcome to our UBC celebration of the Lunar New Year 2022! I am sorry that once again we cannot meet in person but, based on last year’s event, I am sure we have a great time ahead of us!
The Lunar New Year has been celebrated for over 4,000 years and so today we are taking part in one of humanity’s oldest traditions. As you know, 2022 is the Year of the Tiger or, more specifically in Chinese astrology, the Water Tiger: the tiger signifying courage and the water signifying flexibility.
So: courage and flexibility – not a bad mix for UBC for any year!
This is the time of the year when we traditionally get together with our families and friends for food and conversation, celebration and remembrance. Many of us have relatives in other parts of the world who, because of COVID, are celebrating Lunar New Year in a very different way this year – may next year be a happier and healthier year for all!
And, much like in your families, the Lunar New Year has become a red-letter day in UBC’s calendar, a time when we connect particularly to our friends from the Asian community who do so much for UBC not once a year but every day of the year.
As you know, 2021 was the year of the Ox and at times it certainly felt like hard going! I always seem to be saying that this past year was a year like no other, but it really was – again! But rather than revisit all things pandemic, I would like to highlight some of the things that we can be most proud of as a UBC family that relate specifically to our Asian community, and more broadly.
In June of last year, UBC hosted Canada’s first-ever National Forum on Anti-Asian Racism, bringing together 2,000 people across generations, across sectors, and across the country. Together we shared our stories and tackled uncomfortable conversations. And through this process, we found common themes to move us forward against anti-Asian racism in Canada which, sadly, has increased during the pandemic period.
I fervently hope that this new landmark national forum at UBC will help to pave a better way forward for the Asian community and all of Canadian society.
As one of the tangible outputs of the Forum, I am proud to be able to say that UBC will be launching the Centre for Asian Canadian Research and Engagement – or ACRE for short. This new Centre will bring together researchers, faculty, staff, and our ever-passionate students who are, of course, the future.
UBC has a strong track record in research and teaching, and an extensive network of long-standing partnerships with Asian Canadian Communities. Building on these strengths, our aim is to come together to confront and address the endemic issues of anti-Asian racism. We want to transform existing systems of oppression, support emerging leaders, and shape the communities in which we live and work.
No review of the year would be complete without highlighting the recent unveiling of a beautiful statue of ‘Mr. UBC’ himself Bob Lee, which is now located in the Wong-Trainor Welcome Centre in the atrium of the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre! Given the pandemic, the unveiling itself was a small affair but we will all have the opportunity to admire the statue when you visit us on campus in the future.
Other highlights of the past year include the first in-person – but socially-distanced! – graduation ceremonies in two years! Twenty-six hundred graduates pursued their life-journeys as newly-minted UBC alumni – joining more than 350,000 UBC alumni in 150 countries across the globe.
Staying with alumni, after an 18-month hiatus, the Alumni UBC Achievement Awards were delivered both in-person and virtually where eight outstanding individuals and their contributions to a better world were recognized.
And, all of our alumni can be proud of UBC’s global rankings this year: the Times Higher Education World University Ranking puts UBC at #37 in the world, #7 in North America and #2 in Canada! Go UBC!
When it comes to giving, our Blue & Gold Campaign for Students continues to grow exponentially. And, in a year where students have never needed more help, the UBC President’s Pandemic Recovery Initiative has already passed $10 million providing emergency financial relief for students while at the same time accelerating advanced research into the pandemic.
To close out the year, UBC acquired a 135,000-square-foot property in the heart of downtown Surrey! The completion of this site is some years away but I have already been overwhelmed with messages from the residents of Surrey and ideas from our UBC Deans – so stay tuned!
And now, the Year of the Tiger has got off to a flying start with UBC’s acquisition of William Shakespeare’s First Folio from 1623 – very nearly 400 years ago! This is a landmark event for a university that is only 100 years old! To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Henry V, as we go into this new year ‘we should stiffen the sinews and imitate the action of the tiger!’
In addition, and just between us, I am excited to share that UBC will be launching a bold fundraising and alumni engagement initiative this fall that promises to be full of opportunities for you to connect with our institution.
Together, we will meet the future with urgency and optimism. This is our time. We have earned a global reputation for collaborative innovation and we are ready to prove our strength and our potential. I can’t wait to share more details with you – but I am told I can’t just yet. But stay tuned – it’s going to be a great new year!
Happy New Year to you all!