Santa Ono to leave UBC Presidency in October 2022

After six years as President and Vice Chancellor at UBC, Prof. Santa J. Ono has announced he is moving on to assume the presidency of the University of Michigan.

UBC Board of Governors chair Nancy McKenzie congratulated Ono and noted his achievements in her message to the UBC community announcing the leadership transition.

“Through his dedication and commitment, President Ono has led the development and implementation of many significant initiatives at the university,” McKenzie said.

She said Ono has a long list of accomplishments during his time at UBC. These include UBC’s Strategic Plan: Shaping UBC’s Next Century, initiating an academic renewal program through the President’s Academic Excellence Initiative and raising more than $217 million in scholarships for students through the Blue and Gold Campaign. He oversaw the launch of university’s Indigenous Strategic Plan and UBC’s commitment to lead in Truth and Reconciliation and implementing UNDRIP as well as establishing the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task to address systemic racism.

McKenzie also noted Ono’s work with UBC students, faculty, and staff in moving the university forward in declaring a climate emergency and creating an ambitious climate action plan.

“In addition to all of this work, President Ono led the university as it navigated a global pandemic, while ensuring UBC continued its academic mission and campus experience for all members of our community,” McKenzie said.

Ono’s letter to the UBC community thanks students, faculty, and staff for the collective efforts undertaken during his tenure.

“I wanted you to know how incredibly proud I am of our many accomplishments together as I prepare to transition from UBC to my new role. On all of our campuses of the university, we have strengthened our ability to deliver our core mission of education, research, scholarship, and service. Thank you for your willingness to collaborate to make UBC a better university for our cities, our country, and the world beyond our borders,” Ono said.

In his message to UBC, Ono noted the many areas UBC has advanced during his tenure, including:

  • Investments in the recruitment of faculty throughout the university through multiple programs;
  • Enhancement of the university’s infrastructure to advance teaching and research priorities through the construction of many major academic buildings, research facilities, student services buildings, and student residences;
  • Launching new academic endeavours such as the School of Biomedical Engineering, UBC School of Public Policy, and the UBC Emeritus College and three new Global Research Excellence Institutes;
  • Advocating for SkyTrain expansion to the Vancouver campus;
  • Renewing and implementing the university’s Indigenous Strategic Plan to become the first university in North America to commit to the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • Working to address systemic racism through the Anti-Racism and Inclusive Excellence Task Force and hosting several high-profile events aimed at providing leadership on anti-racism;
  • Providing leadership on climate change in declaring a climate emergency, creating a new Climate Action Plan and committing to divestment from fossil fuels;
  • Raising $1.3 billion through philanthropic support, including $217 million for new student scholarships through the new Blue and Gold Campaign for Students;
  • Steering the university through the impacts of COVID-19 while maintaining the financial health of UBC, playing a leading role in biomedical research on COVID, and helping to design additional supports for students while contributing to the sector’s approach to navigating through the pandemic.

Ono said that his family situation was a contributing factor to taking on his new role.

“All of these achievements notwithstanding, some of you who know me well know that the pandemic has been challenging for me personally. I have two elderly parents living alone in Baltimore and Wendy’s mother lives in Halifax. All three of them increasingly need us and we are unable to provide that support from across the continent. After several decades of taking care of us, it’s our turn to take care of them,” Ono said.

“Assuming the presidency of University of Michigan will allow me to continue my life’s work in public, post-secondary education; work that I have been so fortunate to carry out at UBC. And University of Michigan’s location — just a short flight away from Baltimore and Halifax — will allow Wendy and me to more easily care for our parents.”

Ono, 59, formally assumes his new role at Michigan on October 13, 2022. He will work with the UBC Board until October as UBC transitions to appoint an Acting President and begins the search process for a 16th President and Vice Chancellor. More details on the process and timelines will be shared as they become available.