Invitation to engage from Professor Santa Ono (staff)

To: Staff in Vancouver and the Okanagan

If you are a manager of staff whose work is not computer-based, please print this email and display it in a common work area for them to review.

I wanted to write to you directly – even prior to my joining UBC on August 15 – to share with you my leadership style and a request that you engage with me in improving and strengthening our university.

First, I want you to know that I view myself as a servant leader. That is, I believe that my job is to work on behalf of the entire UBC community. I also want UBC to have a student experience second to none, which often will require integrating research and community engagement with teaching and learning.

My deep commitment to the student experience (and to being a student-centred president) does not mean that I will give short shrift to research. On the contrary, I am strongly focused on research, both in terms of support for faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, and in terms of appropriate standards of academic excellence.

I will also develop partnerships globally (e.g., in the U.S. and Latin America, Asia, Europe, Africa), not as a function of my particular interests but rather to enhance and extend UBC’s interests and areas of excellence. In other words, I will do so only if a particular partnership makes strategic sense for UBC. And those strategies will not be “top down” but will emanate from our Faculties. Through such partnerships, I will help develop our international strategy as well as our Aboriginal strategy, health strategy, innovation strategy, and sustainability strategy.

By encouraging, supporting, and facilitating excellence in research, teaching and learning, and university administration, I will, by definition, be a strong promoter of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We simply cannot be a truly outstanding university without being a diverse, equitable, and inclusive university. Diversity and excellence go hand in hand.

I also know that over the past several years, UBC – like many universities across North America – has been struggling to deal with issues of personal safety and institutional security, notably in questions around the handling of sexual assault as well as the vulnerability of key information systems. I intend to make these matters a high priority for my administration, and to keep you informed about the steps we are taking to protect all aspects of life and work on our campuses.

My own experience has taught me how reliant a university is upon the members of its staff for success in every aspect of its operation, whether that be in learning and teaching, research, plant operations, or administration. Without you, the university would grind to a halt in a second. So it’s imperative that I get to know you, see what you do, and hear your stories.

In the course of my first year I intend to hold staff breakfasts, attend events like the Welcome Back Staff BBQ in September, and visit a variety of units in Vancouver and the Okanagan where I hope to meet as many of the staff as possible.

I will also ask for your engagement in, and contributions to, improving and strengthening our university. You are the real experts on UBC. You have ideas about how the university can be improved (for example, in terms of policies and practices, or reductions in unnecessary and unhelpful bureaucracy), and how it can be an even more excellent university in pursuit of its academic mission.

I know that UBC is privileged to have a large number of staff members who have worked here for 25 years or more. That alone tells me that we have staff who are loyal, dedicated, and knowledgeable about our past and present. And it also suggests that I can count on a supremely capable workforce to carry us into a future that is full of challenge and promise.

I’m very much looking forward to meeting you and working with all the members of this great university to move us to the next level of excellence. I’d welcome your ideas about how we should move forward; my email address until August 15 is You can also connect with me on Twitter and Instagram; my handle is @ubcprez.
Santa J. Ono
President Designate, UBC