UBC Okanagan Global Message

This email is being sent to all faculty and staff at UBC's Okanagan campus on behalf of the Office of the Provost and Vice-President Academic.

From the Provost's desk
Dr. Ananya Mukherjee-Reed

This year marks the 15th anniversary of UBC’s Okanagan campus opening its doors to students. Our campus continues to grow, and this year we expect to welcome over 11,000 students with our largest incoming class of approximately 3,239 new UBC students. I know many of you, like me, probably find these numbers heartening. It is very encouraging to see such strong student registration numbers at this stage and it speaks to our students’ faith that UBC Okanagan will continue to deliver the highest standard of education, regardless of the circumstances.

In March, President Ono asked my colleague and fellow provost Andrew Szeri and I to initiate discussions on systemic racism with faculty, deans and relevant stakeholders at UBC. Accordingly, I have begun a series of meetings with the title “Forging our path forward.” The main objective of these meetings is to hear from the community and develop appropriate responses.

At the July 27 Board of Governors meeting, The Indigenous Strategic Plan was approved. This is an essential institutional step as we continue on our journey to reconciliation; the plan’s stated mission is “To guide UBC’s engagement with Indigenous peoples and its commitment to reconciliation, as articulated and called for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.” You can read more about the plan here.

With regard to online teaching and learning, I am delighted to report that UBC Okanagan has recently received a BCcampus 2020 Open Education Foundation Grant for Institutions. This grant is led by Community Engagement Librarian Donna Langille, with the support of our Open Education Working Group. It will be matched with funds from the Provost’s office to support the work of building awareness, growing community, and increasing advocacy for open education at UBC Okanagan. The 2020/2021 funding will be used to implement open education programs, activities, and events that support advocacy and awareness of open education practices and resources. The funding will also establish a pilot institutional grant program for instructors to adapt or create open educational resources for their courses.

In support of this initiative, please consider filling out this 10 minute survey on OER from the Open Education Working Group. The working group is engaging in an environmental scan of open educational practices at UBCO to better understand faculty engagement, experiences, and needs. The deadline to complete the survey is Monday, August 31.

The pivot to remote and online learning due to COVID-19 has highlighted the urgency to further develop open educational practices at UBC and this grant will allow us to continue our important work in that direction.

Please continue reading more exciting news below.

Support to students for remote learning

Technology Bursary for Students

Having the right technology is an essential foundation for successful online learning. To support students with their technology needs, the Provost’s Office worked with the Library, Student Services and Enrolment Services to introduce the Technology Bursary for Students. The one-time bursary was available to all students enrolled full time for September to financially help with technology needs such as a computer, a tablet, headphones, a webcam, a printer/scanner, specialized accessibility technology (e.g. ergonomic mouse), or internet access. We received an overwhelming amount of applications and the bursary is currently being adjudicated before funds will be distributed in late August.

Student Town Hall

Our first Student Town Hall in June was very well received with 270 people attending virtually of which 186 were students. Many of our incredible students and faculty shared their experiences and plans for fall online learning and students also had the chance to ask questions of faculty and administration. I was extremely proud to learn about the lengths to which our faculty are going to continue to deliver a high-quality UBC education in the face of many challenges. You can watch the video here.

We know students still have more questions and after the success of our first town hall, we are planning a second Student Town Hall for very early in September – stay tuned for more information!

Online Supports

As learning in September will look different, we are adapting support programs in collaboration with AVP Students to ensure students are equipped to succeed. For new to UBC students, the peer mentor program is moving online and expanding. Programming in the Student Learning Hub is extending its reach with the addition of Online Learning Coaches, peer leaders who will work with students to help them develop online learning strategies and act as an important point of referral for other programs and the wider campus services.

Peer Technology Assistants will offer technical support related to online learning working closely with UBCIT and managed out of the Student Learning Hub. These expanded roles and new programs will provide critical support for students learning online while also creating employment opportunities for student leaders – which we know are needed now more than ever.

Initiatives to support faculty

Online Learning Implementation Working Group

The Online Learning Implementation (OLI) Working Group was convened by the Associate Provost, Learning Services in early June 2020, with a working mandate to facilitate communication, best practice exchange and resource sharing within the Okanagan campus in advance of Winter Term 1. The OLI Working Group comprises lead academic planners (Associate Deans, Program Directors, key staff members) within each of the Faculties and Schools at UBC Okanagan and members of the Learning Services portfolio.

Initial meetings concentrated on information exchange about key initiatives and challenges within Faculties and Schools, then moved rapidly to providing feedback and input on programmatic ways to address the frontline challenges of students and faculty members. The Working Group provided feedback and input on the UBC Okanagan version of the Guiding Principles for Fall 2020 Course Adaptations document and helped to shape the mandate and character of the Academic Integrity Working Group and soon-to-be-implemented Online Learning Coaches Program. An additional area of information exchange has been with Information Technology/Learning Technology initiatives (Remote Computer Lab Access, Microsoft 365/Teams implementation, Classroom Recording Access and a range of web resources). In total, four meetings were held during June and July, with plans to continue in August and throughout the Fall as needed.

UBC Okanagan Guiding Principles for Fall 2020 Course Adaptations

This web resource has been developed to provide guidance and suggestions for designing and teaching courses online. At the broadest level, the guiding principles strive to offer an equitable experience to all students enrolled in UBC courses, minimizing and mitigating barriers to their access and success caused by the need to adapt teaching in response to the global outbreak.

The resource is adapted from and builds upon a recent UBC Vancouver Campus publication and highlights the UBC Okanagan context where relevant. Learn more here.

Learning Design Intern Program: A Companion Site

The Learning Design Intern (LDI) program provides graduate students with intensive training in the fundamentals of learning design in the context of blended learning followed by a work experience in which they support faculty members adapting their courses for blended delivery.

In response to requests from faculty members, and in the spirit of sharing, a site has been created with the overall approach and key content used in the training program developed for the initial rollout of the LDI Program. Access the site here.

Creating Videos for Blended Learning

As most UBC courses have moved online this year, instructors are hosting more videoconference sessions and recording more video for their Canvas courses to bridge the distance with their students and recreate some of the face-to-face classroom experience.

A collaboration between the Centre for Teaching and Learning (CTL), makerspaceUBCO and UBC Studios Okanagan is enabling the creation of a self-enrol, self-paced set of modules intended to help UBC Okanagan instructors create and deliver more engaging and inclusive video. This is a supplement to the websites of the CTL, UBC Studios Okanagan, and UBC IT Okanagan.

Enrolment for the course is now open here and the modules will be available beginning at noon on Friday, August 14. The modules will evolve as video support resources develop for the Okanagan campus, and as instructor feedback further informs what video-related support is needed.

Leadership Updates

Our new DVC and Principal Professor Lesley Cormack began her term on July 1. I am eagerly looking forward to working with her as we move forward with our 2040 vision. She is hosting her first Town Hall on September 3. This virtual event will be an opportunity to hear directly from Professor Cormack, followed by a Q&A session with several members of the administration, including myself. Like previous Fall Town Halls, this event will also be a celebration of the Staff Awards of Excellence. I strongly encourage everyone to attend.

At the end of July we welcomed Nancy McKenzie as our new Board Chair. She has been a member of the board since 2017. Earlier this month, Professor Santa J. Ono was reappointed for a second term as President and Vice-Chancellor of UBC. I welcome the opportunity to continue to work together with both of them to advance UBC’s Strategic priorities.

We also welcome new leadership to the UBC Student Union Okanagan. Ali Poostizadeh, a fifth-year student, is now serving as president of the UBCSUO. Ali and indeed the entire executive of the UBCSUO has shown remarkable leadership in these unusual times and I look forward to continuing to work with them. 

I am delighted to share the Board of Governors of UBC has approved the appointment of Professor Gino DiLabio as the inaugural Dean of the new Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science.

You already know Professor Peter J. Simpson who began his term as the Dean of the College of Graduate Studies on July 1.

Also on July 1, Adrienne Vedan was appointed Senior Advisor on Indigenous Affairs to continue to help shape the future work of our university with Indigenous partners.

Rehan Sadiq’s appointment as the Executive Associate Dean of the School of Engineering was extended for five years, effective July 1.

The search for the Dean of the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences is nearing completion. Professor Bryce Traister will be stepping into the role of Dean pro tem of the Faculty from September 1.

In September, I also look forward to welcoming Dale Mullings our new Associate Vice-President, Students.

Keeping our eye on the horizon

I am pleased to share that plans for the Interdisciplinary Collaboration & Innovation (ICI) building are moving forward. The project received Board 1 approval on June 16 allowing for progression to the next stage of securing architectural and design consultants. This wouldn’t have been possible without the work of Michael Burgess, Associate Provost, Strategy, Janet Kalesnikoff, Senior Manager, Strategic Projects, and all of the faculty, staff and students who provided input to this process.

The ICI building will bring social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, creative fields, and professional disciplines together to facilitate collaboration and learning that enable novel solutions and approaches to real-world challenges. The building will be designed with maximum flexibility, providing shared and common infrastructure, enabling clusters of interdisciplinary research and teaching activity in the areas of high-value agriculture, health, and data, with social and economic regional development and Indigeneity as overarching themes.

As we navigate the uncertain waters created by our current global situation it is imperative that we do not lose sight of our long-term goals for growth at UBC Okanagan. The continuation of projects such as the ICI building and our recent downtown acquisition will leave UBC poised to continue growing and contributing to BC’s overall economic recovery.

In June, UBC Okanagan hosted Wine Vision 2040, an online conference which brought together wine leaders, communities and researchers from around the world. More than 200 attendees from 30 countries participated in conversations on the future of wine. This event coincided with UBC Okanagan becoming home to the headquarters of the Wine Research Centre (WRC). The WRC now has a dual-campus presence in Vancouver and the Okanagan, where researchers have developed strong collaborations with the BC wine community.

Despite the new and unique challenges we are confronting, I am inspired by the resiliency and tenacity that I witness in our students, faculty and staff as they rise to challenge.

Before I sign off, I want to express my gratitude to my team, and indeed our whole campus, without whom none of this work would be possible.


Ananya Mukherjee Reed
Provost and Vice-President Academic
UBC Okanagan