Fall 2018 Message from the Provost

December 06, 2018

It’s hard to believe that the fall semester is almost over and the holiday season will soon be upon us. This is a favourite time of year for many because there’s always a certain buzz on campus – perhaps it’s a palpable sense of excitement that the deluge of papers, projects and exams is almost at an end!

Before the university prepares for final exams and then winds down for the holiday season, I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on a number of important initiatives I mentioned in my last blog post. But first I’ll start with some great news – the Government of Canada recently approved UBC’s application for 23 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs, bringing our total number of active chairholders to 162. More information about the Government’s funding announcement can be found here.


Over the past several months, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting one-on-one with each of the 11 Faculties plus Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to learn more about their successes and current challenges. This has been a valuable learning opportunity for me and has allowed me to meet the impressive staff, faculty and students responsible for the many accomplishments of UBC.

In the coming year, I intend to continue my listening tour with UBC’s Schools. I'll also prioritize more meetings with department heads and directors in order to learn more about the work they do and how the university can further support them. One example of the value of these interactions has been the recent announcement of expedited availability of new childcare spaces. Indeed, the UBC Executive recently approved up to 100 much-needed childcare spaces for the Vancouver campus. Three- 3,500 square foot, custom-designed modular buildings will be completed by the end of summer 2019, providing a significant expansion of infant, toddler, 3-5-year old and school-age care. More information about the addition of spaces can be found here.


At a recent meeting of the Learning & Research Committee of the UBC Board of Governors, I reported on the portfolio’s 2018/19 priorities and responsibilities. There were a number of items I raised with the board which I would like to share with you:

  1. Indigenous Strategic Plan – A top priority for the Provost’s Office is to support the implementation of the university’s strategic plan – Shaping UBC’s Next Century – which includes the endorsement and implementation of UBC’s Indigenous strategic plan. The University is in a strong leadership position with respect to Indigenous affairs, with the recruitment this year of Professor Sheryl Lightfoot as Senior Advisor to the President on Indigenous Affairs, Professor Margaret Moss as Director of the First Nations House of Learning, and Professor Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond as the first Director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre.
  2. Faculty welfare matters – The availability of childcare at UBC and access to housing are two important factors when recruiting high-calibre faculty to our university. I’m pleased to report that UBC recently completed the third phase of public consultations on the Stadium Neighbourhood plan, and we are working to maximize the amount of the development devoted to faculty/staff housing. We have constituted the Housing Action Plan Working Group and are consulting with UBC Properties Trust and Campus+Community Planning to consider how these goals can be advanced.
  3. Academic infrastructure – Over the past seven years, UBC has received $169 million in provincial funding to advance five academic capital projects totaling almost $420 million. Unfortunately, this shortfall does not allow us to move with sufficient speed on a number of important priorities, so I’m working toward making room in future UBC Vancouver budgets for financing academic capital project priorities – including classrooms, instructional laboratories and research space, to name a few. The university’s current top priority is the Biomedical Engineering building for the Vancouver campus, for which we’re awaiting confirmation of funding from the provincial government.
  4. Developing capacity in the Faculties – I’ve been working more closely with the faculties to develop new and innovative academic programs that can be offered online or as hybrid courses. Moving forward, I’m committed to working with Senate and the Board of Governors to streamline UBC’s program approval processes. 


Congress 2019 stands to be UBC’s preeminent event of the coming year, attracting an anticipated 10,000 academics, graduate students and members of the public over the course of the seven-day conference. This year’s theme, “Circles of Conversation,” will emphasize the deep, two-way relationships between the university and the communities it serves: local, provincial, national and global. Particular attention will be focused on productive scholarly relations with Indigenous communities. 

Congress 2019 will place an emphasis on innovative engagements with today’s key issues and on art as an important form of engaged scholarship in the humanities and social sciences. Of special note is the UBC Pedagogy Hub – unique to Congress 2019 – which will provide a dedicated space for in-depth discussions about the complexity of teaching, mainly in post-secondary environments. A full list of UBC’s academic and multidisciplinary programming for Congress 2019 can be found here.


Significant investments are currently being made in the Walter C. Koerner Library after the university identified a campus need for dedicated learning and collaboration spaces for graduate students, faculty and postdoctoral fellows.

Renovations currently taking place on the fourth and fifth floors will see the creation of additional study space on these levels as well as a modern and expanded Research Commons for students. The result will be a high-quality, technologically-enhanced, visible and interdisciplinary space to deliver services focused on graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The renovations will also encompass the space needs for the office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (VPRI) on part of the fifth floor of Koerner Library.  

In addition, the library has been named as a successful recipient for the Research Data Management funding call from CANARIE, a non-profit corporation that supports research, education and innovation in Canada. The funding will enable UBC Library to lead a project to build the Federated Geospatial Data Discovery for Canada, with collaborative support from a number of groups at UBC and across Canada. More information about this exciting announcement can be found here.

As you can see, it has been a busy semester with many new developments. As we approach 2019, I look forward to keeping you updated on these and many other projects we’re working on here in the Provost’s Office.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, I welcome your thoughts and can be contacted at provost.vpa@ubc.ca.


  • From the Provost

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