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UBC Okanagan marks Asian Heritage Month with virtual events

Asian Heritage Month graphic. Artwork by Meg Yamamoto.

Artwork by Meg Yamamoto.

Activities aim to foster a greater understanding of Asian cultures and communities

At this difficult time for communities, UBC Okanagan and its community partners are marking Asian Heritage month this May as a moment for coming together.

“Asian Heritage Month comes to us amidst significant adversities: the unprecedented rise of anti-Asian racism, the shadow of the unrelenting pandemic, the humanitarian crises in Asia and so on,” says Ananya Mukherjee Reed, provost and vice-president academic at UBC Okanagan. “And yet, even in the face of such daunting realities, we see communities coming together, raising their voices and offering support to one another, within and across borders. It is truly inspiring.”

In that spirit of coming together, this is the first time UBC Okanagan is hosting the Asian Heritage Month initiative. Throughout May, the university will feature invited artists and performers, virtual tours in collaboration with the Kelowna Museums Society, and presentations by students and faculty on Asian language, identity and heritage.

“Many people are surprised when they hear that Kelowna once had a Chinatown and they have an appetite to learn more,” says Linda Digby, executive director of the Kelowna Museums Society. “Our virtual tours offer a rare glimpse into this important chapter of community history, experienced through the perspective of East Asian university students today.”

Tony Yu, a fourth-year student in the UBCO’s performing arts program, says local artists are looking forward to sharing their work with the community.

“In this first-ever Asian Heritage Month event, there are 10 artists involved that will showcase different mediums of art,” he says. “The event gives Asian artists of Kelowna an excellent platform to promote their art as well as express their personal stories to a much wider audience.”

The community is invited — and encouraged — to attend the series of virtual events and learn and reflect together.

Upcoming events

May 6

Opening Event: Join Canada’s former Parliamentary Poet Laureate Fred Wah for a poetry reading, followed by a reading of Stories of Care — stories of Filipino care workers and the impact of the pandemic on them, including stories of employment, unemployment, family, grief, healing, community and resilience. Elder Larry Grant, who is of mixed Chinese and Musqueam ancestry will open the event.

May 12

Chinese Voices of the Okanagan: A Showcase. This event discusses linguistic diversity amongst members of the Chinese community in Kelowna — including those who trace their heritage to mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau — and showcases a website featuring community folksongs and folk stories. The event enhances understanding of the complexity of heritage languages and identities in the Chinese-Canadian diaspora, and to foster connections between UBC Okanagan students and community members.

May 13

The Story of Bhangra: Gurdeep Pandher, an internationally renowned artist based in the Yukon, will narrate the story of Bhangra, a popular dance form with deep connections to the land and people of Punjab, India. Born into a farming family in the village of Siahar in Punjab, Pandher brings together artists from all backgrounds to promote inclusivity and diversity. Pandher’s works have been published by many international art and media organizations including BBC News, CBC and The Globe and Mail. Pandher’s presentation will be followed by a Q&A session.

May 20

Rediscovering Chinatown: Rediscover the history of Kelowna’s Chinatown and the cultural forces that drove its creation on a virtual tour of the Okanagan Heritage Museum. UBC Okanagan students and museum staff will help tell this story in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.

May 26

UBC Okanagan Artists Showcase: An event featuring the work of UBC Okanagan students and faculty in performance, creative writing, media and visual arts while they negotiate the complexities of Asian experiences, identities and heritages. A discussion and Q&A session will follow.

More information about these ongoing events, including how to register, are available at:

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit:

UBC’s budget for 2021/22 set to bolster EDI, expand student supports, and further the university’s impact

Aerial view of UBC Okanagan

The UBC Board of Governors has approved the budget for 2021/22, setting spending priorities for the year ahead to support the ongoing recovery from COVID-19, to further UBC’s impact through key priorities, and to continue support for excellence in teaching, learning, and research.

The financial plan for 2021/22 will enable the university’s ongoing response to COVID-19, which is centred on supporting the long-term health and wellbeing of students, faculty, and staff. In 2020/21 UBC invested over $13.7M centrally to create an enriched online learning experience in response to the pandemic, and students received over $380M in financial support from university, as well as provincial and federal sources. The university is investing an additional $11M in 2021/22 to support the safe return to campus this fall.

In addition to the ongoing recovery from COVID-19, UBC is committed to investing in our students, furthering our academic mandate, and promoting a more inclusive, diverse, and vibrant community. Key areas outlined in the 2021/22 budget include: supporting excellence in teaching, learning, and research; continuing to elevate our research capacity and capabilities through the President’s Academic Excellence Initiative; championing the Climate Action Plan; furthering anti-racism and inclusive excellence initiatives across UBC’s campuses; and supporting the implementation of the Indigenous Strategic Plan.

The heart of UBC’s financial approach is ensuring student success. Prior to the onset of COVID-19, the university adjusted the budget process, allocating revenue generated from the 2020/21 tuition increase directly to student-guided initiatives. Last year this generated $7.9M of funding to support priorities including emergency financial aid, student-facing climate projects, and upgrades to student spaces. In 2021/22 this funding totals $18M, which — based on student input — has been earmarked to support COVID-related needs for additional student financial aid to address tuition costs, the cost of living, and support for the delivery of hybrid learning and student programs and services.

“The past year has been challenging in many ways for our community. We have nevertheless achieved remarkable things in the face of adversity, and we continue to advance our key priorities as a university,” said Andrew Szeri, provost and vice-president academic, UBC Vancouver. “Support for our students remains a key focus, and we’re expanding investments in student financial aid as well as health supports and services to provide resources where they’re needed. Support for faculty and staff is also a key focus, with continuing enhanced support to handle the COVID-related stresses on the teaching mission of the university.”

A key goal in 2021/22 is to foster an even more diverse and inclusive community at UBC, through enhancing access, success, and representation of historically underserved, marginalized, and excluded populations. Two million dollars is being invested to begin addressing recommendations from the President’s Anti-Racism Task Force, and significant funding has been committed to consult on, develop, and implement an Indigenous and Black faculty hiring program for the next seven years.

More than $8M is earmarked to support Indigenous and Black students, including ongoing funding for the Indigenous Student Collegium at the First Nations House of Learning, a space to support Indigenous students as a home away from home. Building on $2M of investment in 2020/21, an additional $2.8M is budgeted next year for the implementation of the Indigenous Strategic Plan. A further $13M is earmarked over the next five years to follow consultation and enable the plan’s long-term sustainability.

“We are making space to invest in people who are going to move inclusive excellence forward at UBC,” says Lesley Cormack, deputy vice-chancellor and principal, UBC Okanagan. “These are not one-time commitments, but areas of focus that we have been developing over time, and that will continue to transform UBC and its impact.”

UBC is a research powerhouse with sponsored research drawing over $640M in investment in 2020/21, including over $24M to push forward critical advances relating to COVID-19. The university provided over $16M to continue advancing key research initiatives last year — including Research Excellence Clusters, the Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC), and Global Research Excellence Institutes (GREx) — and an additional $20M is proposed for 2021/22. Up to $88M is earmarked over the next seven years to ensure the long-term success and sustainability of these programs. In addition, recurring funding has been set aside to expand the President’s Academic Excellence Initiative, an ambitious and comprehensive approach that will elevate UBC’s overall research impact.

The climate emergency continues to be an area of focus for the university, through initiatives like Campus as a Living Lab, UBC’s divestment commitments, and several low-carbon infrastructure projects. In 2021/22 a further $1.3M is being invested in the Climate Action Plan and the climate emergency.

“UBC is committed to becoming a global leader in our response to the climate emergency,” explains Peter Smailes, vice-president, finance and operations. “Research and activity that addresses climate change is being undertaken across the university, and as an organization we are taking steps to continue to be a leader in sustainability. Our financial approach will continue to support these initiatives.”

UBC’s budget process

Given the financial pressures related to COVID-19, the approved budget is the result of a streamlined consultation process led by Szeri, Smailes, and Cormack.

In total, the budget plans for $3.1B in total spending through the 2021/22 year. While the 2021/22 operating budget projects a $61M deficit, the total consolidated budget — which includes capital spending and income earned from land development proceeds, research, and endowments — is projected to result just above a balanced position with a $10M surplus.

The university’s budget process began in the fall of 2020, supported by knowledge and experience gained through the previous year. Strong financial management through the initial impact of COVID-19, coupled with the active and engaged reduction of discretionary spending across the university by the community, have enabled UBC to remain in strong financial health. Recently, external credit rating agencies Moody’s Investors Services and S&P Global Ratings both reaffirmed UBC with Aa1 and AA+ ratings, respectively.

“We are a financially robust university, and while we have faced increased cost pressures as a result of COVID-19, we are recovering well and are positioned to continue investing in our strategic priorities,” adds Smailes. “The budget process this year has presented us with unique challenges, but strong financial management across the university has enabled us to maneuver through these challenges, and to continue advancing excellence in teaching, learning, and research.”

To learn more, read UBC’s 2021/22 Budget report.

About UBC's Okanagan campus

UBC’s Okanagan campus is an innovative hub for research and learning founded in 2005 in partnership with local Indigenous peoples, the Syilx Okanagan Nation, in whose territory the campus resides. As part of UBC—ranked among the world’s top 20 public universities—the Okanagan campus combines a globally recognized UBC education with a tight-knit and entrepreneurial community that welcomes students and faculty from around the world in British Columbia’s stunning Okanagan Valley.

To find out more, visit: