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Professor Santa J. Ono reappointed as president and vice-chancellor of UBC

Professor Santa J. Ono has been appointed to a second five-year term as president and vice-chancellor of the University of British Columbia, the university announced today.

Ono was originally appointed to a five-year term that began in 2016.

“Professor Ono has been a remarkable leader helping propel UBC forward as a globally recognized university known for excellence in teaching, learning and research,” said Nancy McKenzie, chair of the UBC board of governors. “As we look to the start of the new academic year, we find ourselves in a time of uncertainty due to COVID-19. However, the board of governors has every confidence in Professor Ono’s ability to help steer UBC through these unique times and emerge even stronger.”

During his first term, Ono led the comprehensive, consultative process to create UBC’s strategic plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century. He spearheaded initiatives to advance the university’s strategic priorities, including supporting world-changing research, attracting top faculty members in a wide range of disciplines, and promoting interdisciplinary work across the university. He was also instrumental in launching and leading the Blue & Gold Campaign for Students, the largest fundraising campaign for students in UBC history. Three of UBC’s most successful fundraising years, including the largest individual year, occurred during Ono’s first term.

“I am humbled and honoured to be reappointed as president and vice-chancellor of UBC for another five years,” said Ono. “During my second term, I look forward to continuing to work with our students, faculty, staff, and friends to help drive our mission to inspire people, ideas and actions for a better world.”

During his first term, Ono helped further build on UBC’s reputation as a sustainability leader in addressing the climate crisis. He was recently appointed to lead the University Climate Change Coalition (UC3), a network of 22 leading North American research universities working together to accelerate local and regional climate action. Under his leadership, the university also ranked No. 1 in the world in 2019 and again in 2020 by the Times Higher Education Impact Ranking for taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

“Climate change and the transition to a low-carbon future has been and will continue to be one of my key priorities for the university moving forward,” said Ono. “At this pivotal moment in our planet’s future, I am committed to helping bring about significant and lasting systemic changes to curb greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainability.”

Over the last four years, Ono has also brought thoughtfulness to the university community’s relationships with Indigenous communities and commitment to reconciliation, including the opening of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre and issuing an apology for the university’s role in that history. Ono has been a clear voice on behalf of the university with regard to systemic racism, and will continue to make anti-racism and anti-discrimination a priority in his second term.

“At UBC, it is my hope that we can work to model a different kind of community—one where we embrace difference and work to build each other up while enacting values of dignity, mutual respect, and justice,” said Ono. “We must work together to eliminate the oppression that remains prevalent and entrenched in our everyday systems, and find a way to support and elevate those who have been traditionally, systemically, and historically marginalized.”

As a strong advocate for mental health who has been open about his own personal struggles with depression, Ono is also committed to safeguarding the health and wellbeing of the UBC community, and reducing the stigma associated with mental health.

“Mental health issues affect students in every year of study, from first year through graduate school,” said Ono. “Our goal is to connect students to the right resources and support as early as possible, before difficulties become overwhelming. As someone who struggled with mental health issues when I was younger, I am committed to doing what I can so that no member of the UBC community feels unsupported.”

An experienced biomedical researcher, Ono’s research focus is in the area of the immune system, eye inflammation and age-related macular degeneration. He also plays the cello and finds the time to perform on occasion, either at UBC’s Chan Centre or via social media. Known for his engagement through social media, Ono’s open communication style has also served UBC well, allowing him to engage with students, faculty, staff and the broader community on a personal level and inspire passion for learning and research.

Ono’s performance during his first term was reviewed by a presidential reappointment committee made up of members of the UBC board of governors. The committee consulted widely with individuals and organizations both on and off-campus, including faculty, students and staff, student leaders, Indigenous leaders, alumni, and donors, among others.

“I would like to thank everyone who took the time to share their feedback, and the committee for their thorough work gathering input from the community,” said Sandra Cawley, former interim UBC board chair. “Professor Ono has proven himself to be an exemplary leader since joining UBC. On behalf of the UBC community, I would like to congratulate Professor Ono on his reappointment and wish him well during his next term.”