President Santa Ono: Fostering a more intercultural campus at UBC

Laurence Watt, BC - Political Science

This summer, Santa Ono was appointed the 15th President and Vice Chancellor of the University of British Columbia. Among other things, Ono’s been a faculty member at Harvard University, the 28th President of the University of Cincinnati, and made instrumental contributions to the understanding of inflammation in the eye.

On Thursday, I had the opportunity to sit down and conduct an interview with the new president where we discussed everything from his policy ideas to his stance on the death of Harambe. However, what stood out in particular was his opinion on how to foster an intercultural campus at UBC.

“If you look on the surface at both campuses and the institution as a whole, the University of British Columbia is incredibly diverse,” said Ono. “For me, what’s more important than just having a diverse population of faculty and students is to really have an inclusive community.”

“The fact that UBC does not have, as an institution, a diversity plan is something that I think is an opportunity for students, faculty and staff in leadership to work toward. I had a chance to speak with the executive and individuals that have been involved at Diversity and Inclusion at both campuses, and I think they’re enthusiastic about creating such a diversity plan.”

“We had two five-year diversity plans during my time at Cincinnati… and you need to do that. UBC has achieved diversity in the faculty and the students of the institution, but now’s the time to leverage that to make it a rich environment for every member of the community.”

“For example, UBC is one of the most international universities in the world. And I think that if we really think about how to bridge activities between international students and domestic students, between faculty members from all around the world in a very intentional way and support that activity, it will enrich the educational experience and the overall growth of every member in the community.”

What stood out most during this exchange was when Ono touched upon the fact that UBC’s lack of an official diversity plan provides an opportunity to create one. Although Ono didn’t go into much detail regarding what a potential UBC diversity plan could look like, it’s likely the new President will draw some ideas from the two diversity plans he oversaw during his time at the University of Cincinnati.

Whatever the case, it’s clear that, having written extensively on the topic of diversity and having both experience in and a passion for promoting inclusivity, Ono is certainly determined and adequately equipped to help transform UBC from a multicultural institution into an intercultural one.