Invitation to engage from Professor Santa Ono (faculty)

To: Faculty in Vancouver and the Okanagan

I wanted to write to you directly – even prior to my joining UBC on August 15 – to share with you my leadership style, my hopes for UBC, 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 am working to serve you, not vice versa. My job is to support and facilitate your ability to succeed and thrive in your work. UBC succeeds because of your research and teaching successes.

Second, I am a professor, and I will lead from within the faculty with a collegial and respectful orientation, at all times having the utmost concern for faculty members’ wellbeing. I will also embrace our professors emeriti, who have much to offer the university. I will be an accessible, visible, and responsive President.

Third, I 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.

Schedule permitting, I hope you will let me guest lecture in your courses. This past year I lectured in six different faculties at the University of Cincinnati. I taught immunology, human genetics, type 1 hypersensitivity, ocular inflammation, the history of post-secondary education, and leadership theory.

Fourth, I will support all forms of research at the university. This includes basic discovery research and high-quality, cutting-edge interdisciplinary research. The academy used to be driven by disciplines; now it is driven by problems. Making fundamental contributions to solving societal engineering-, health-, humanities-, science-,  and social science-based problems requires us to bring all perspectives on deck and to work together in a collaborative manner.

Fifth, I will do all in my power to help the staff of UBC realize that they are an essential part of the academic mission. We are all in this together. Without our staff, most activities at UBC would halt in a millisecond. I want UBC’s administration to fully embrace a “can do” attitude in supporting faculty members’ work, and for the staff to feel personal satisfaction in their contributions to the important research and teaching being done here.

Sixth, I will 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 your 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 you. Through such partnerships, I will help develop our international strategy as well as our Aboriginal strategy, health strategy, innovation strategy, and sustainability strategy.

Seventh, I will work with the Board of Governors, Senates, central administration, deans, heads and directors, and faculty members at large to continuously improve UBC’s governance, guided by principles of transparency, openness, and accountability. It is critical that the faculty have reason to trust, respect, and view as competent the people in leadership roles at the university.

I am committed to making UBC a better institution in all ways imaginable. After prioritizing things in need of improvement with input from your critical involvement, we will address each and every one of the important deficiencies with the ultimate goal of making UBC the best-run university in the world.

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.

To facilitate and support faculty members’ research and teaching, I will do all in my power to bring additional resources to the university through appropriate revenue streams and fundraising. For those of you interested in participating in this work, your contributions will be gratefully received and highly valued. Future investment in faculty will not only be in the hiring of new faculty, but in added support for faculty members who have been committed to UBC for many years, indeed decades.

I will work hard to support faculty facing extremely high housing prices, and contribute my utmost to the positive development of our campus communities. As but one example, the more accessible, comfortable places we have for faculty to meet and talk with each other on our campuses the better.

I 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.

Importantly, I will 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. We will become a stronger and better university if our most outstanding faculty take ownership of our academic standards and academic governance.

Together, we can improve UBC one step at a time. In so doing we will create a more unified UBC, one that is even more supportive of its most precious resource: its people.

I want UBC to become a more dynamic place to learn, reflect, discover, and ideally transform the world, which after all is what we’re meant to do here. I feel strongly that UBC must facilitate and support such activity, and must do so in the most positive terms.

In all of this, I understand that I first need to earn your trust, which I will attempt to do going forward from this point on. It is indeed for that reason that I reach out to you directly over a month prior to my arrival.

I would value hearing from you at any time – 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