Welcome back: A message from the Provost

September 11, 2018

The start of new school year often brings many reflections – on what has passed, what has been accomplished, and new learnings and opportunities on the horizon. As Provost, I’m delighted to once again welcome the thousands of new students who will be joining the UBC community this year – an institution that is dedicated to helping them reach their full potential. I’d also like to take this opportunity to welcome the dozens of new faculty and staff members who will support our students on this journey. 

2018 has been a busy year for the Office of the Provost and VP Academic, most notably with the launch of the University’s new strategic plan – Shaping UBC’s Next Century– which was released this past April. The plan was the result of a thorough consultation process from thousands of stakeholders who shared their views about the strategic future of the university, and over the past few months we’ve moved on to the next phase – implementation. We will soon be announcing more details on how this will work – a critical endeavor as we work to guide the vision and direction of the University over the next ten years. 

While the Strategic Plan has been one of the key priorities of the Provost’s Office, it hasn’t been the only one – below are some of the other key initiatives our team in the Office of the Provost and VP Academic has been engaged in over the past few months.

New appointments

2018 brings dozens of new appointments of faculty members from across the university, including:

  • Dr. Meigan Aronson, the new Dean of the Faculty of Science, who begins her five-year term this September; 
  • Dr. Simon Bates, Associate-Provost, Teaching and Learning, who began his five-year term on July 1;
  • Dr. Christina Hendricks, Academic Director of the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, who started on July 1;
  • Dr. Minelle Mahtani, Senior Advisor to the Provost on Racialized Faculty, who started on September 1;
  • Dr. Margaret Moss, Director of the First Nations House of Learning, who will join us November 1 for a five-year term; and
  • Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the inaugural Director of the Indian Residential Schools History and Dialogue Centre, who joined us in April.

I’m also happy to report that in partnership with the Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation (VPRI), two of the six President’s Excellence Chairs have been appointed and will start their roles on January 1, 2019: Dr. Claire Kremen from the University of California Berkeley is the new President’s Excellence Chair in Biodiversity, while Dr. Emily Cranston of McMaster University has been appointed President’s Excellence Chair in Forest Bio-Products

The new Chairs are part of an innovative research program that will advance cutting-edge research to solve some of society’s most urgent challenges. Also, thanks to a generous donation, a seventh chair has also been established – the Edwin S.H. Leong UBC Chair in Healthy Aging. We will keep you updated on the recruitment progress for the remaining President’s Excellence Chairs.

Another joint success with VPRI has been the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, UBC’s performance in the federal Canada 150 Research Chairs program has been exemplary, with four of the research chairs already appointed: Dr. Judith Mank, an evolutionary biologist; Dr. Joseph Penninger, a functional geneticist; Dr. Azim Shariff, a social psychologist; and Dr. Margo Seltzer, a computer scientist. Additionally, UBC has been invited to nominate world-leading researchers for two new Canada Excellence Research Chairs, out of a national total of 11, in Precision Cancer Drug Design and Forest Bioproducts. The searches are still ongoing and we will keep you abreast of any news. 

New programs

Another key priority for me has been supporting the strategic aspirations of our Faculties. In addition to a new degree in Forensic Sciences offered jointly by UBC and BCIT, the provincial government has made a considerable investment in B.C.’s tech programs – the largest in 10 years – by funding 720 seats for domestic students in biomedical engineering, manufacturing engineering and computer sciences at UBC’s two campuses. Specifically, there will be 365 undergraduate spaces for computer science and manufacturing engineering programs, while 355 seats have been created for UBC’s new School of Biomedical Engineering – a joint effort between the Faculty of Medicine and the Faculty of Applied Science. The School will formally accept its first two cohorts of students this September, and multiple faculty member searches are currently underway.

UBC’s nurse practitioner program will double in size thanks in part to $1.2 million in funding, adding 15 domestic student seats, while new funding for the Faculty of Education’s Early Childhood Education program has been committed for the 2018/19 school year. 

In addition, the new School of Public Policy and Global Affairs is embarking on a global search for a new Director, with applications due October 31, 2018. The School currently hosts 14 graduate student research networks of an interdisciplinary and global nature, and has been joined by over 3,000 attendees at more than 60 policy- and globally-oriented events.  

As you can see, it has been a busy 2018, and there is certainly more to come. Stay tuned for future blog posts updating you on faculty pay equity, our work to support the Board of Governors, UBC’s International Strategy, Koerner Library, Congress 2019 and much more. 

If you have any questions or comments on these initiatives, please write to me at provost.vpa@ubc.ca.


  • From the Provost

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