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

In the last few weeks, it has been extremely gratifying to see how we have come together. Everyone’s inclination to serve the community has become visible. Even with schools and daycares closed, and the increased challenges of working from home, our faculty and staff are continuing to persevere.

None of this would have been possible without the support of the families of our faculty and staff. Thank you UBCO family. Also, a special thanks to those members of our community who continue to work on campus, providing the much-needed supports in IT, Security, and other essential services.

Several of you have written and spoken to me to express your appreciation about the way things are proceeding. On behalf of our teams, let me say that I am deeply humbled by your words. I have also heard many compliments from students who, despite some of their challenges, have many words of appreciation for their faculty. I have learned that the grade submissions have been very prompt. Thank you.

President Ono has announced plans for the Fall semester 2020. In keeping with the public health guidelines, most of our classes will be online. Some selected classes may need to happen in person. Faculties are currently working to determine the curriculum that is appropriate for their programs.

Let me now tell you a bit about what we have been doing and plans for continuing to move forward.

Our response so far

Our students are profoundly affected by the outbreak, abruptly adapting to new forms of educational delivery while facing financial challenges and other living disruptions they could not have anticipated. To support this, the UBC Students’ Union Okanagan (UBCSUO) has partnered with UBC Okanagan to establish a COVID-19 Emergency Bursary Fund for students in urgent financial need. The Fund is comprised of contributions from four sources: the students’ union (UBCSUO); UBC Okanagan budget; the province; and external donations. UBCSUO has also directed us to add $400,000 from tuition surplus to the Emergency Fund. It now has a total of $677,000, with a potential to increase as other contributions come in.

I have been incredibly moved to hear of faculty and staff making direct contributions to this fund including Karen Ragoonaden, winner of the Teaching Excellence and Innovation Award, who donated her prize money. As of May 1, we have received 1,000+ applications and disbursed $434,000. Thank you to all of you who have donated to A.W. Hunt, QC Student Emergency Assistance Fund, which has received $20,060 to date.

All students -- international domestic, graduate, undergraduate -- are eligible to receive assistance. For Indigenous students, we have matched the funds we have received from the province. Graduate students of the two campuses have come together to self-advocate and I look forward to working with them as we look for solutions to their unique challenges.

UBC has also delayed the fee payment deadline for the summer until June 15, which brings some easing of immediate pressure on students.

Through discussions with the Faculty Association, we have taken steps to support faculty. The deans are also taking many steps to support their faculty members. Our Deans’ Council is meeting at least twice weekly, but our conversations are not limited to the meetings, of course. I am sure the provost’s emails to their inboxes (followed by texts and voice messages) seem relentless, but I am deeply touched by the collaboration we have been able to engender.

As you already know, UBC Okanagan has also been actively supporting the community. To meet temporary demand for personal protective equipment at Interior Health, UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering and makerspaceUBCO have recently joined a broad community effort to design and produce 3D printed, medical-grade face shields for front-line health care workers. In order to extend their capacity to protect our front line works they are raising funds for supplies.

Check here for more details.

UBCO’s Cortnee Chulo wears a prototype 3D-printed face shield.
UBCO’s Cortnee Chulo wears a prototype 3D-printed face shield.

Recognizing the profound psychological impact of the COVID -19 outbreak on health care workers, Professor Lesley Lutes in the Department of Psychology is coordinating a new initiative that will deliver free online access to psychological services to any front-line health care worker. Based on extreme need, the services were recently expanded to allow all British Columbians to have access. The mental health support network will see more than 200 registered psychologists volunteering their time to this initiative.

Looking forward

Significant discussions are ongoing regarding Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 curriculum. Faculties and administrative units such as Enrolment Services, Student Services, Campus Operations are working together to get us ready for the Fall.

In making these plans, we have to adhere to two sets of principles – the guidelines from public health authorities and the pedagogical needs of different subject matters. I am sure with the involvement of our faculty colleagues and our academic leaders we will successfully bring UBC to our students, wherever they are.

We have established two designated funds to support the transition to distance learning: the COVID-19 Learning Transformation Fund will support faculty; and the COVID-19 Student Experience Support Fund will support students through this transition to optimize their experience as learners. Both of these aim to embed supports in Faculties, while my office is undertaking the coordination. For now, I have asked my entire team to focus on this transition. The work is being led by Heather Berringer, Associate Provost, Learning Services. With her, we have Michelle Lamberson, Laura Prada, Perpetuah Muthui and Kirsten Bennett working on a regular basis, pulling in others as necessary. These are the projects on the anvil:

Initiatives to support faculty

Faculty Learning Technology Rovers
The Provost’s Office and Centre for Teaching and Learning are collaborating to embed Faculty Learning Technology Rovers (F-LTRs) in Faculties and Schools to provide online, one-on-one learning technology support during the summer months. The F-LTRs will provide critical support for online teaching and learning while also providing meaningful employment opportunities for our students in this critical time. We are grateful to the Co-op Office, CTL, and Faculties and Schools for their support of this initiative.

Learning Design Interns
This initiative will provide graduate students with an opportunity to gain knowledge and skills in learning design (applied to their disciplinary context), while enhancing support for faculty members who are transitioning to online and blended teaching. Graduate students will be provided with foundational training in learning design concepts by a team of faculty members and senior education experts. Throughout the summer, they will be mentored by the faculty and expert team, and provided with ongoing workshops to continue to grow their skills.

Flexible Learning Options for Physical Lab Requirements
We are working with relevant Heads and Directors to investigate options and assess needs (e.g.: materials delivery, media production, software required, interactive/virtual simulations, content availability) associated with the provision of laboratory experiences in online and blended learning situations. If this is an emerging need in your area, please reach out to Michelle Lamberson, Director, Flexible Learning Special Projects (michelle.lamberson@ubc.ca) so that we can support your efforts.

Initiatives to Enhance Student Experience

Student Technology Grant
A grant program is in development to assist students facing technological barriers in the transition to online learning; this program will support acquisition of required hardware and software. A draft proposal has been created with consultation from a wide variety of campus stakeholders.

Student Technology Support
During our various consultations, we have learned that a significant concern of all stakeholders is availability of technology support for students learning online. This requirement may well be fulfilled through a continuation and enhancement of the summer’s F-LTR pilot. We are in the process of convening a stakeholder group that includes IT Services, CTL, Library, and representatives from the AVP Students portfolio to map out student technology support requirements in a longer-term way, including through the potential redesign of the existing Peer Technology Assistant program to provide a broader range of student supports.

Enhancing Student Experience in remote learning
For aspects of student support that go beyond technology, we are also convening a stakeholder group to brainstorm possible areas of student challenge based on available data, and to understand initiatives already underway. Stay tuned.

As we plan amidst all of the present uncertainties, it is critical that we fully embrace what it means to be one of the top 20 public universities in the world at a time like this. We have to deliver to our students and our communities the extraordinary insights that might come from this experience, recognizing that they will surely constitute a unique moment in the history of knowledge. Whatever the mode of delivery, we must ensure that students get from UBC all that they expect and deserve. There is, indeed, something about human knowledge and creativity that defies material limitations. Otherwise many institutions and communities of learning would have disappeared by now. But they haven’t; they endure.

The question before us is not simply about ‘online vs. in-person’ delivery. The choice before us is much more substantive (and daunting). How do we immerse ourselves, participate in and shape responses to one of the ‘grandest challenges’ of our times? Answering this question when our students, the university as a whole and the community at large are facing significant resource challenges and huge uncertainties is extremely difficult.

However, we must try. I am extremely heartened by all of the efforts that are underway by individual faculty and the academic leadership at UBC Okanagan.

And our successes continue…

In addition to adapting to a new way of operating, it is also important to reflect on recent achievements leading the campus closer to the goals set out in Outlook 2040.

Water Canada’s annual Water’s Next Awards program recently recognized Rehan Sadiq, Executive Associate Dean of the School of Engineering, as a finalist in academic leadership for the 2020 Water’s Next Awards recognizing those having a positive impact on the water industry in Canada and beyond.

I am pleased to announce that on April 16, UBC’s Board of Governors approved the Bachelor of Nsyilxcn Fluency Degree. Students will achieve advanced proficiency levels in Nsyilxcn while learning about multiple ways to contribute to the language’s recovery and revitalization efforts. This degree is an integral element of UBC Okanagan’s commitment to meeting the challenge issued to Canadians by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada to engage in an ongoing process of reconciliation.

Congratulations to all of the successful recipients of the ALT 2040 awards. Projects will lead the university toward the Outlook 2040 themes of engaging community and industry, responding to rapid development in the world of work and training, preparing students for an increasingly interconnected world and supporting student well-being.

The important work of the university continues including the recruitment of Canada Research Chairs, dean searches and faculty hires. Although deans have decided not to undertake any new administrative hires at this time, discussions on restoring research activities are ongoing.

In March, UBC Okanagan launched the Festival of Ideas—a yearlong lineup of events curated to inspire ideas and catalyze conversation between UBC and the community and to mark 15 years as a campus. The inaugural event was a panel discussion with the Honourable Janet Austin, OBC, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and three guest speakers. The conversation focussed on themes of equity, diversity and inclusion; democracy and civic engagement; and reconciliation. We are exploring ways for continuing to connect and engage with different communities in new formats. Please see the Festival of Ideas website for updates on which events will be proceeding in an online format: ok.ubc.ca/festival-of-ideas

The Honourable Janet Austin, OBC Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Romil Jane, Karen Ragoonaden and Aaron Derrickson in discussion at the inaugural Festival of Ideas event
The Honourable Janet Austin, OBC Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, Romil Jane, Karen Ragoonaden and Aaron Derrickson in discussion at the inaugural Festival of Ideas event. The panel was moderated by Michael Burgess, Associate Provost, Strategy.

For updates and information related to UBC’s response to the COVID 19 outbreak, please continue to refer to the website: covid19.ubc.ca

On Thursdsay May 21 at 1pm I look forward to hosting a virtual townhall open to all to provide updates and address academic specific questions. An invitation with more information will be coming soon.

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.

Zoom meeting of the provost's office


Ananya Mukherjee Reed
Provost and Vice-President, Academic
UBC Okanagan