Winter 2019 Message from the Provost

February 05, 2019

Hello everyone, and a warm welcome back to campus! I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you some of the latest developments in the Provost’s Office, and give you an update on some of the many initiatives we’re currently working on.

New appointments

With a new year comes new appointments, and I’m pleased to announce that Drs. Emily Cranston and Claire Kremen have been confirmed as UBC’s first two President’s Excellence Chairs. The Chairs were created to attract great faculty to the university who will not only enable cutting-edge research, but will also create an excellent student learning experience to attract top students. 

Dr. Cranston is the President’s Excellence Chair in Forest Bio-products and an Associate Professor in UBC's Departments of Wood Science and Chemical and Biological Engineering. Her research focuses on sustainable nanocomposites and hybrid materials from cellulose and other biopolymers, and she aims to explore how high-performance materials can be designed to replace those that are based on non-renewable resources.

Dr. Kremen is joining the university as the President’s Excellence Chair in Biodiversity Studies as well as a Professor with a joint appointment in UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability and the Department of Zoology. Her lab will investigate how to create sustainable landscapes that benefit both people and nature, and she will also develop a new initiative in Conservation Science at UBC’s Biodiversity Research Centre that aims to promote new research and engagement in pressing conservation problems. 

UBC has also successfully appointed four chairholders as part of the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, which was established by the Government of Canada to attract top-tier scholars from abroad. Dr. Joseph Penninger, a functional geneticist, arrived at UBC in December and joins evolutionary biologist Dr. Judith Mank, social psychologist Dr. Azim Shariff and computer scientist Dr. Margo Seltzer, all of whom joined the university earlier in 2018.

Finally, I’m happy to announce that Dr. Stephanie McKeown is the newly-appointed Chief Institutional Research Officer (CIRO) for both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. In this role, Dr. McKeown will lead the university-wide effort to gather, analyze and disseminate decision-making information to the institution’s academic and operational leadership. Dr. McKeown brings 25 years’ experience in Institutional Research, including nine years with the Okanagan’s Planning and Institutional Research Office, to the role.

Strategic plan update

Late last year, we announced the 20 new pilot projects and change initiatives that will be funded as part of the university’s commitment to implementing our new strategic plan. As a member of the committee which reviewed and helped select these proposals, I’m eager to see how these initiatives will bring the plan to life in the coming months. I hope you take the opportunity to read more about the newly-funded proposals, which can be found on the strategic plan website.

One strategic plan initiative that recently launched is the Program for Undergraduate Research Experience (PURE). A total of $1 million from strategic funds is being committed to proposals for innovative projects that will expand access to and/or enhance undergraduate research experiences across all Faculties at both campuses. What makes this pilot program special is that faculty and staff are eligible to apply in partnership with students, leading to an exceptional mentorship and learning opportunity. I encourage interested staff and faculty to take part in this valuable program and support our students as they explore their potential through the pursuit of undergraduate research.

Pay Equity

Just before the holiday break, we submitted a report to the BC Human Rights Tribunal regarding the Gender Pay Gap in Professorial Salaries at UBC. The report, which was prepared by the Pay Equity Working Group, set out to determine whether or not the two per cent pay equity adjustment that was made in 2013 for female faculty had ameliorated an identified pay gap. I’m very pleased to report that the main finding of the analysis was that no statistically significant gender pay gap can be found among this group. We are continuing to review for gaps in other areas.

Talent for Tech

Although the technology industry is now one of B.C.’s strongest contributors to economic growth, it’s anticipated that by 2021 the province will have only 16,500 workers available to fill an estimated 47,000 technology-related jobs. In a previous blog post I spoke briefly about the generous funding provided by the Province of British Columbia to support three key programs – Biomedical Engineering, Manufacturing Engineering and Computer Sciences. Since last year’s funding announcement, UBC has made a number of great strides in advancing these programs, including:

  • Appointing Dr. Peter Zandstra as Director of the School of Biomedical Engineering, and seeding the School with 20-plus joint faculty;
  • Welcoming the first cohort of the newly-approved undergraduate Bachelor of Applied Science in Biomedical Engineering this past fall;
  • Moving an additional 25 seats into the Manufacturing Engineering program, enabling UBC to enroll a total of 160 students – 80 at each campus – by 2022/23;
  • Conducting searches to fill 14 faculty positions in the Manufacturing Engineering program, which is anticipated to accept the first cohort of students in the dual campus Bachelor of Applied Science in Advanced Manufacturing Engineering this fall;
  • Filling an additional 20 domestic computer science seats in 2018/19. Over the course of the next four years, UBC anticipates continuing to boost computer science enrolments by a total of 154 seats in Vancouver and 76 seats in the Okanagan.

As you can see, this funding will not only create more educational opportunities for students, but it will also help the university meet the rising demand in B.C.’s technology sector.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns, I welcome your thoughts and can be contacted at


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