What a year 2020 has been. I am certain you are all looking forward to the break, even more this year than most. While we are not able to gather to mark the holidays this season, there will be much to celebrate together when we are able.
Since I arrived at UBC Okanagan this summer, I have been struck by the hard work and commitment to the university and its mission each of you has displayed. In the face of adversity, our campus has continued to strive towards our future vision while continuing to support and empower one another, as is so important in times like these.
Our students, faculty and staff have been incredibly adaptive and resilient through this year’s major shift to new ways of learning, teaching and working. I know it has not been easy, and I have been so impressed with the collective strength of character I have observed during this trying time.
Throughout British Columbia, across Canada and around the world, students have continued to pursue their educational goals at UBC Okanagan, despite the challenges of a global pandemic, with approximately 11,600 students enrolled this fall from across 18 different time zones. It is an incredible vote of confidence in the UBC education offered here at the Okanagan campus.
In June, we announced the purchase of a property at 550 Doyle Avenue in downtown Kelowna and UBC’s intention to create a significant new site for education, community-facing programming and residential development. Plans for the building are in the works now, and construction is expected to begin later in 2021.
An existing building on the site has been provided to BC Housing and Kelowna Gospel Mission for service this winter as a temporary 24/7 emergency shelter for people experiencing homelessness. It is a meaningful way we can contribute to improving health and wellbeing for those most in need, particularly in this year of pandemic response.
Research programs curtailed at the onset of COVID-19 have resumed in many areas. In addition to the important projects that have carried on from prior to the pandemic, UBC Okanagan researchers have stepped up across a broad range of domains to address the many aspects of COVID-19 and its impacts. From understanding the mental health effects of the pandemic to the development of sustainable medical masks that use a novel filtration layer derived from wood-based lignin and cellulose, dozens of projects are underway to support and protect individuals and communities.
Planning is underway for the next major facility to be built on campus – the Interdisciplinary Centre for Innovation – and this fall, we opened the new Plant Growth Facility, a 5,100 square-foot state-of-the-art research greenhouse.
As the year comes to an end, I would like to encourage everyone to take a moment to reflect on the past year, not on the undeniable challenges, but rather on our shared accomplishments and the strength our community has shown. Despite this unprecedented global environment, your unwavering commitment to your craft – be it in education, research, or other areas of work – serves as a source of inspiration and pride.
Each of you has had your own professional and personal trials this year, and I am grateful for the long hours and hard work that has allowed UBC Okanagan to continue to serve as a community and sectoral leader during these challenging times.
On behalf of the UBC Okanagan campus leadership team, I want to wish the entire campus community a warm and safe holiday season. Thank you for continuing to make our university an outstanding place to learn, work and live.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal