Fall 2021 Message from the Provost

September 27, 2021

Welcome to the new fall semester, and I hope that the first term is going as well as possible in these challenging times. I would like to share some updates and news with you around what we’re currently working on in the Provost's Office at the Vancouver campus.

First, I wish to express my condolences on the tragic death of two students this weekend. Please read the message from Prof. Santa Ono, expressing our community’s grief. My thoughts are with the family and friends of these two students.

Students who need support should contact Student Health Services, or reach out to resources provided by the AMS. Faculty and staff can speak with someone at UBC’s Employee & Family Assistance Program.

Return to campus and the new academic year

Over these last 18 months, everyone at UBC has done an immense amount of work to keep UBC moving forward across all aspects of the organization - from teaching and learning, to research, to student support and operations. I continue to be impressed by how those across the university have contributed so significantly to our pandemic response while continuing to drive many important initiatives forward for the benefit of our students, faculty and staff. I know also that these accomplishments have happened at the same time as we have all undergone challenges in our personal and professional lives.

Now that many university activities have resumed on-campus, our main focus is keeping our campus safe while supporting academic initiatives.

It’s paramount that everyone continues to take the steps that we know prevent the spread of COVID-19: complete the daily self-assessment before you come to campus; wear a non-medical mask; wash your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer; cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough; and stay home when you are ill to avoid spreading the illness to others.

In that respect, I am working with other members of the executive to support the university’s roll-out of the mandatory rapid testing program, with exemptions provided for those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The declaration process for all members of the UBC community is live at rapidtesting.covid19.ubc.ca. We are in the process of finalizing how individuals can securely and confidentially provide their proof of vaccination, as well as the logistics behind the rapid testing clinics themselves. More information will be forthcoming on this shortly.

For up-to-date information, I encourage you to bookmark the central UBC COVID-19 website at https://covid19.ubc.ca, and read the VPA Return-to-Campus Digest, archived on our website.

Recruiting outstanding faculty to UBC

We continue to work to advance the hiring of faculty members who are diverse and global thought-leaders in all disciplines.

We are preparing to engage with the university community on the development of an Indigenous Faculty Hiring Program, and a Black Faculty Hiring Program. Funding to support the recruitment of these scholars has been set aside for the next seven years, and our next step is to consult with the community and seek feedback on how best to design these programs.

The Accelerate Program of UBC’s Presidential Academic Excellence Initiative is under way with the goal of hiring 84 research faculty on the Vancouver campus over the next three-to-four years. Additionally, we have developed a number of enhancements that will benefit new and current faculty members and staff. Funding has been set aside to support graduate students, library collections, shared research platforms and relocation support services.

We have also launched the campaign phase of the President’s Academic Excellence Initiative, where we match donor funding to create endowed chairs. We are proceeding with the first year of the program and will be going back to the Board of Governors in the spring of 2022 to seek approval on the remainder of this program, which will create a considerable number of chairs and professorships at UBCV as well as support additional enhancements.

Budget & Tuition

Over the last year and a half, members of my portfolio, along with those in the VP Finance & Operations team, undertook a significant process to consider, analyze, and plan for how COVID-19 might potentially impact university operations, as well as how the university could mitigate some of these impacts. At this point, we can cautiously say that UBC has weathered the initial impact of COVID-19 through fiscal year 2020/21 more positively than originally anticipated.

While we have an operating deficit that needs to be resolved, we are in stronger financial position than we had contemplated at the outset of the pandemic. Although things are stabilizing through our multi-year plan, our resources are still somewhat constrained. I am looking forward to working with the Deans and my fellow Executive members on the upcoming 2022/23 budget cycle, as the stability of our financial foundation is critical for the university to sustain operations and drive change, as well as to see how we can mobilize available resources to invest further in the academic mission of the university.

UBC’s 2021/22 budget is available for review on the Finance website, with an overview of this year’s priorities and planning.


We are giving considerable thought to what the future may hold, in a project called Beyond COVID. Nearly 100 faculty, staff and students have been working to imagine a post-COVID future for teaching and learning at UBC, based on the experiences of the last 18 months. The groups were tasked with thinking about what we will keep (and drop) from the COVID teaching experience and what might now be possible that we may not have imagined before the pandemic. We expect further consultation and feedback over the fall and I look forward to sharing more about this in the spring.

Indigenous engagement

My team works closely in support of the initiatives being led by the First Nations House of Learning and the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. The First Nations House of Learning has accomplished an amazing amount of work over the last 18 months, including preparing for the expansion and remodeling of the Longhouse, hiring a first-year student experience coordinator, and providing support through the Indigenous Students’ Collegium and other programs.

I would like to acknowledge the emotionally taxing and extremely difficult work being undertaken by staff at the Residential School History and Dialogue Centre. The ongoing discovery of burial sites of children at former residential schools provides a stark and overdue reminder of the colonial legacy of residential schools and other policies imposed by the Canadian government on Indigenous Peoples.

This year, September 30 is Orange Shirt Day, to recognize and raise awareness about the history and legacies of the residential school system in Canada, and National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, a response to the Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action 80 that states that the federal government will work with Indigenous people to establish a statutory day to “honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process”. I encourage you to visit https://irshdc.ubc.ca/orangeshirtday to learn more and to take part in the events.

The Indigenous Strategic Plan, has launched a funding call for projects that advance the implementation of the ISP across UBC. The new Indigenous Strategic Initiatives Fund is now open, with information available at https://isp.ubc.ca/.  

International engagement

In April 2021, the Office of the Vice-Provost International launched the new Global Engagement Strategy. Their new website highlights a series of stories and updates to illustrate the global engagement of the UBC community.

Community engagement

Our colleagues in Extended Learning have launched some new programs and educational opportunities for everyone across the province and beyond. Highlights of the new programing include the UBC Certificate in Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, including 13 elective courses and micro-courses, as well as the new UBC Certificate in Data Science and offerings in Blockchain, Systematic Program Design in Python, and (coming soon) Cybersecurity.

Strategic Technology Support

In support of increased on-campus activity this fall, IT has ramped up support for those both on- and off-campus. The IT Network team has upgraded and expanded WiFi connectivity in buildings and residences to support the increased demand in bandwidth. Additionally, to support those teaching this fall, the Audio Visual team have increased resources to support instructors and students return to classrooms this fall, including doubling the number of student employees. Instructors are receiving additional resources to support ad-hoc recordings and live streaming solutions thanks to the collaborative efforts of teams in the Learning Technology Hub, alongside the Learning Spaces team and CTLT.

As well, in support of remote work, IT has increased their focus on cybersecurity for everyone. Visit the Privacy Matters website to refresh yourself on how to keep your information safe.

Climate Action

On the topic of Sustainability and the Climate Emergency, the UBC Sustainability Initiative is developing a consultation process for implementing the recommendations of the Climate Emergency Task Force, this fall. I encourage everyone to visit the Climate Emergency website to read the latest developments on this vital university and global priority.

Appointments and Searches

In recent months, we have seen a number of appointments across UBC, which I am pleased to share with you here:


  • Dr. Jan Hare became the Dean pro tem for the Faculty of Education, effective July 1, 2021.
  • Dr. Robert Kozak started his term as the new Dean of the Faculty of Forestry on September 1, 2021.
  • Professor Ngai Pindell has been appointed as the new Dean of the Peter A. Allard School of Law. He will begin his term this fall.
  • Dr. Kamal Al-Solaylee has been appointed as the new Director of the School of Journalism, Writing, and Media, for a five-year term effective September 1, 2021.
  • Dr. Jenny Phelps has been appointed to the newly created role of Assistant Vice-Provost, Graduate & Postdoctoral Strategic Academic Initiatives, effective Sept. 7, 2021


We are currently conducting three decanal searches: for the Faculty of Arts, the Sauder School of Business, and the Faculty of Education. All three are well under way and progressing as expected.

If you have questions about any of the initiatives coming out of the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic, you can reach me at provost.vpa@ubc.ca. Thank you again for all of your hard work and support, and wishing you all the best through the fall,

Andrew Szeri
Provost and Vice-President, Academic, UBC Vancouver

  • From the Provost