Kristen Brooke



New alumna and former undergraduate research ambassador Yuen Yee Leung dives into her lifelong curiosity for science

The young girl peered closely at a small green leaf in her hand—her scientific curiosity growing and blossoming like the plant. Little did she know that one day, she would travel across the world to satisfy that curiosity.

New Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science alumna and former undergraduate research ambassador Yuen Yee Leung developed an interest in science at an early age growing up in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and Hong Kong. From dissecting plant leaves to building volcanoes as a child, Leung has always been curious about the world around her.

“Throughout school, I took science classes whenever I could,” Leung shares. “Biology was my main interest, but I also enjoyed chemistry and physics.”

Encouraged by her secondary school biology teacher, Leung served as the Biology Subject Ambassador in her program. “That was the beginning of my interest in helping other students,” she explains. “It was also my first experience having a mentor and someone outside my family really support me.”

Attending an international high school also encouraged her to think globally when planning her future. “I applied to universities across the globe, but what drew me to UBC Okanagan was the connected environment where I could grow as a person in a close-knit, nurturing community.”

Though she initially chose to major in Psychology, the trajectory of Leung’s education was forever changed after an Introduction to Microbiology course reignited her passion for biology, leading Leung to switch majors and pursue the Microbiology Honours program. Through her undergraduate courses, she gradually developed a deeper interest in biomedical science research.

In her second year, Leung participated in the Undergraduate Research Awards, completing a research project focusing on the oxidation of camptothecin backbone through the use of oxidative enzymes. This research earned her an International Undergraduate Research Award and inspired a deep love of research—which she continued to nurture in her Microbiology honours research focusing on working with plants that produce high-value chemicals. “Research drives me to go above and beyond and truly understand the practical applications of what I’m studying,” shared the recent alumna. “I also like the collaborative nature of research — you don’t just do research by yourself—you bounce ideas off your colleagues and talk to your supervisor about your ideas and hypotheses. Research encourages students to dive into their curiosities and take action.”

Her experience with the Undergraduate Research Awards led her to apply for the role of Undergraduate Research Ambassador. “It’s a service I would have loved when I started undergraduate research,” she says. “As a first-generation university student, I completely understand how daunting navigating life during university can be, so having support from university resources, friends, and colleagues is extremely important.”

UBC Okanagan’s Undergraduate Research Ambassadors assist undergraduate students to get involved in the many research opportunities available at the university. Despite participating in the program during a year that saw COVID-19 measures implemented across campus, Leung is proud of the work their team was able to accomplish and sees exciting opportunities for the program to continue developing and supporting student research in new ways. “Through my interactions with the students, I’ve seen that there is a lot of interest, but students don’t know where to start. Although COVID-19 made things more difficult, we were still able to reach students through our pop-up events and webinars. In the future, I would love to see networking events and opportunities for conversations about research, academics and literature—that will give faculty a better idea of what students are interested in and how they can recruit students and create more opportunities for collaboration.”

More than supporting the research and academic community, Leung looked for other ways to support her fellow students, serving to promote financial literacy with Enactus UBCO, as well as working to support educational equity both globally and locally through student-led non-profit club, Nourishing Futures. “Growing up, I witnessed people struggle due to societal barriers, leading me to become a passionate advocate for increased access to education. I’m grateful I was able to continue my passion in this area through Nourishing Futures and Enactus UBCO.”

Now that she’s an alumna, Leung plans to spend time working in a research laboratory and exploring Canada before pursuing further education. “Looking back on my experience at UBCO, I am extremely grateful for the friends I have made and the experiences I have had. They have all played a critical role in shaping who I am today and who I may be in the future.” As for her advice to undergraduate students interested in pursuing research? “Take the first step and reach out—talk about your interest in research, and from there, it will shape itself.”

Meet Michelle Lamberson

Role: Director, Flexible Learning Special Projects

Dr. Michelle N. Lamberson is the Director of Flexible Learning Special Projects in the Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic at UBC’s Okanagan Campus. She provides strategic support to innovative teaching, learning and curriculum initiatives; her current focus areas include supporting the transition to online learning, coordinating UBCO’s career and personal education efforts, and managing UBCO’s ALT-2040 fund. Prior to joining UBCO’s Provost Office team in 2015, Michelle served in a variety of roles in the UBC Vancouver Provost Portfolio since 2002.


In many ways, the word “flexible” in my title says quite a bit about what I do, which has changed and transformed with new developments in teaching and learning in response to how the campus has evolved. As part of the Academic Operations and Services team led by Heather Berringer, my primary responsibilities are currently Continuing and Professional Education (CPE) and the Aspire-2040 Learning Transformations (ALT-2040) Fund. I’ve been with the Office of the Provost since 2015 and have had the opportunity to support strategic initiatives and projects at the intersection of teaching, learning and technology. Along the way, I’ve had the good fortune of working with many innovative faculty, students and staff. I have close ties with colleagues in the Centre for Teaching and Learning, the UBCO Library and UBCO IT. My work also involves collaborating with colleagues in similar portfolios on the Vancouver campus.


I am excited about building UBC Okanagan’s capacity to offer continuing and professional education (non-credit) courses and programs, supported by the Excellence Fund. I am fortunate to work on this project with two fantastic professionals, Vania Chan (Educational Consultant) and Laura Mabee (Support and Programming Analyst). The key challenge (and what makes it most interesting to us) is that the policies, systems, processes and services associated with non-credit education are not as well developed as credit education. To tackle this, we are taking a two-prong approach of supporting a set of micro-credential courses/programs while engaging more broadly with colleagues across UBC Okanagan and Vancouver to assess the ongoing structural needs of CPE. It’s quite a fast-moving project and keeps us on our toes!


I love working in a university – it’s such a dynamic environment, and the opportunity to support and contribute to peoples’ learning journeys is irresistible. I remember visiting the campus when it was first established in 2005. I was working at UBC Vancouver when I came to visit UBC Okanagan to consult with colleagues in the Centre for Teaching and Learning. I remember the remarkable energy in the Okanagan – with everyone contributing to make the goals and vision of the new campus a reality. When an opportunity arose to work here in 2015, I was excited. The people of UBC Okanagan are amazing. There is a small community feel, even though we are part of a larger organization. The community is close-knit and supportive. It is a young campus, constantly changing and growing, with opportunities to try new ideas and contribute to a positive learning environment.


The Okanagan is a world-class birding location, and I want to see every bird I can! I spend evenings and weekends in the summer (ok, year-round) wandering around backroads and hills throughout the valley. My favourite spots are Robert Lake, Beaver Lake Road and Rotary Marsh (Kelowna). When on campus, I’m often seen around the pond by EME with a camera in hand and binoculars around my neck.


UBC Okanagan students will have new opportunities to flourish in an increasingly interconnected environment with the proposed Bachelor of Arts Major in World Literatures and Intercultural Communication. Drawing on intercultural learning and international awareness fostered by the study of literature from a global perspective, this program will prepare graduates to meet the growing demand for intercultural communications across all industries.

Graduates of this program will gain:

  • Increased capacity to communicate across cultural differences
  • Written communication skills with knowledge and awareness of cultural context
  • Critical awareness of other cultures, and critical self-awareness with respect to their own culture
  • Ability to recognize and explain the importance of local territory, positionality and privilege in taking action towards reconciliation
  • Skills in active listening, critical thinking and judgement, complex problem solving, coordination and time management
  • and more!


Course Highlights

  • Introduction to Intercultural Communication  (Year 1)
  • Introduction to Decolonization: Indigenous Studies (Year 1)
  • Introduction to Management Thought and Social Responsibility (Year 1)
  • Introduction to World Literatures (Year 2)
  • Creative Communication and Engagement (Year 2)
  • Cross-cultural Travel Narratives (Year 3)
  • Indigenous Peoples United Nations and Global Issues (Year 4)
  • Community Service Learning (Year 4)


Provide a letter of support

Would your organization benefit from graduates with these skills? The Office of the Provost is collecting letters of support for the program from industry and businesses to complement the proposal for Ministry approval.

  • Could graduates with these skills make an impact in your workplace?
  • Would you hire these graduates if you had the funding?
  • What excites you the most about this program?

Download the Letter of Support Template


For questions or additional information, please contact:

Laura Prada
Senior Manager, Academic Programs, Teaching and Learning

Last winter, UBC Okanagan launched a campaign to collect unused iClicker remotes from students on campus. While the technology is no longer in use at UBC, there was an opportunity to collaborate with long-term institutional partner, the University for Development Studies (UDS) in Tamale, Ghana, to keep the technology in use. This summer, six classroom “kits” were shipped to UDS, including over 250 student-donated remotes and accompanying instructor remotes and base units to implement the technology. The two institutions plan to further collaborate on workshops that support clicker pedagogy and using student response systems as a means of engaging students effectively in courses.

This summer UBC Okanagan hosted a series of workshops for the Banff International Research Station (BIRS). The programs provide a unique opportunity for local graduate students and faculty members to interact with world leaders in mathematics, computer science, data science and statistics.

Most recently, the campus hosted a two-week summer school sponsored by the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) based at the University of California-Berkeley and BIRS, providing UBCO STEM graduate students direct access to world-class instruction in a current hot area of optimization– an opportunity only offered at the UBC Okanagan campus.

Led by BIRS-UBCO Site Coordinator Dr. John Braun, ten summer research workshops were held in a cross-section of STEM disciplines, bringing up to 20 researchers to the campus for five days to study and work together, presenting the latest developments in their areas.

The BIRS events hosted at UBC Okanagan also produce world ambassadors for the campus, with researchers returning to their home campuses with stories of their experiences here.

The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (STLHE) has opened the nomination process for the 2023 3M National Teaching Fellows, with an earlier deadline than in recent years (November 15th).

Recognizing that UBC Okanagan has many faculty members who are worthy of this prestigious recognition, faculty are strongly encouraged to support and encourage colleagues from their Faculty or School.  The award recognizes and rewards a faculty member who, in addition to being known for extraordinary teaching, is also active in promoting exemplary teaching in others.

Individuals self-nominate for this award, usually coordinated through their home academic unit. The Office of the Provost and Vice-President, Academic provides the institutional letter of support for inclusion in the nomination package. Applicants/Heads are invited to contact Brad Wuetherick, Associate Provost, Academic Programs, Teaching and Learning early in the nomination process for advice and feedback regarding nominations.

Completed nomination packages for Okanagan faculty members should be sent to the Office of the Provost and VP, Academic, Okanagan, by Friday, October 28th. Following sign-off by the Provost, the package will be returned to the Faculty/School to submit directly to the competition by the final deadline, November 15th, 2022.

Undergraduate Research Ambassador Piya Bajaj combines her passion for research with principles of kindness and positivity learned at an early age.

Street lights illuminate the footsteps of many residents in New Delhi, India—but it wasn’t always this way. Early efforts by UBC Okanagan Undergraduate Research Ambassador Piya Bajaj helped increase safety for women in New Delhi while also igniting a lifelong passion for research and helping others.

Growing up on the quieter streets of Mumbai, Piya noticed a culture shift after moving to New Delhi with her family at 11 years old. Transitioning to life in her new city meant adapting to a different culture and rules that would ensure her safety and security in the larger centre. “As a young girl, it was an initial shock to me being told not to leave the house after 5pm because it was unsafe,” Piya explains. “So that shaped a lot of community work I did.”

When Piya reminiscences about her childhood experiences, she points to lessons about the importance of helping others. Education was highly valued in her family, but an equal emphasis was placed on kindness and generosity. “My mother and grandmother were always very involved in community service and teaching underprivileged children back home,” shares the third-year Bachelor of Arts student. “When I continued with my school career, one thing I knew I wanted for sure was to help people and work with them.”

These experiences served as an inspiration for Piya to be a force for change and a strong advocate for women’s safety. She joined the Centre for Active Citizenship at her school, where she was part of both the women’s safety and road safety teams. Piya and her classmates set forth on a research project that saw them survey more than 200 women in busy metropolitan areas over five hours to learn more about how safe they felt in these areas. The researchers learned that women felt most unsafe where there were fewer street lights, so, armed with this information, Piya and her team made it their goal to make streetlights a reality.

Over the next few months, the group advocated passionately to the municipal government until their mission was a success. “This was my entry into the world of research. I collected data, analyzed it and took action to get those lights installed. Working on this project as a young child shaped my passion for international relations and research.”

Piya came to UBC Okanagan with the continued desire to support and help others while pursuing her own education—and she has embraced every opportunity to do so. From serving as an Orientation Leader and Student Connector to working in the Student Experience Office and volunteering for Amnesty International UBCO, Piya found joy in helping and encouraging others. “Wherever I go, I try to do good to people. I try to carry that in my personal life and my professional life to make a positive impact in the world.”

When Piya first came across the Undergraduate Research Ambassador program, she saw an exciting opportunity to combine her passion for research with her strong desire to help her classmates. UBC Okanagan’s Undergraduate Research Ambassadors assist students to navigate the many opportunities available to undergraduate students to get involved in research, perfectly fitting. “Research is the way forward. Unless we dive into things we don’t know about, the world won’t change,” she says. “As human beings, we all have a desire to know something about the world we live in.”

As an Undergraduate Research Ambassador, a role she shared with two other students, Piya was excited to work with students from a variety of different fields and backgrounds. Bringing her love of research into her own work, Piya currently serves as a directed studies student in Psychology as well as an Undergraduate Research Assistant with the Faculty of Management. These personal experiences gave Piya a deeper understanding of the challenges her fellow students faced in research and allowed her to grow in her role as an Undergraduate Research Ambassador. “Every experience has been uniquely beautiful,” she shares. “Every conversation is different, every person is different. Everybody is looking for different things.”

One of her favourite memories at UBC Okanagan was moderating an event hosted by the Undergraduate Research Ambassadors—called Undergraduate Experiences in Research—that brought together students from different facilities to share their experiences and ask questions.

In the future, Piya sees herself in a field where she can continue to help people develop and grow. After graduating, she plans to spend time growing her career before bringing her lived experiences to further education in Psychology or Data Analytics. She encourages fellow students to look for their passion and take advantage of opportunities: “The world is so big, and there’s so much that humanity has left to do. Look around yourself and see what inspires you.”

Meet Janet Kalesnikoff

Role: Director, Academic Strategic Initiatives

Janet Kalesnikoff joined the Office of the Provost in 2019 as Senior Manager, Strategic Projects. She completed her undergraduate (BSc) and graduate training (Ph.D. in Experimental Medicine) at UBC Vancouver, and postdoctoral training (Pathology/Immunology) at Stanford University. She held various administrative roles at Stanford University, where she worked for 16 years, serving as Executive Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Stanford University School of Medicine before returning to Canada to work at UBC Okanagan.

Please describe what you do in the Office of the Provost.

In my role, I work closely with Mike Burgess, Associate Provost, Strategy, to advance strategic objectives and projects at UBC Okanagan through engagement with faculty, staff, students and the community. I support a number of working groups and task forces that provide important recommendations and feedback that shape the future of UBC Okanagan. I love the range of projects I get to work on—from capital projects and strategic reviews to developing new initiatives and programs, exploring new partnerships, and everything in between!

My favourite thing about my job is that it allows me to work closely with faculty, students, and staff across multiple Faculties and units at UBC Okanagan and UBC Vancouver. I also work closely with our community partners, including the Syilx Okanagan Nation. We get immense value from the diversity of perspectives providing input into our projects, and important opportunities to learn from others as we work to advance strategic projects on our campus.

What upcoming projects or current initiatives are you most excited about?

Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Innovation (ICI) building

One of the first projects I began working on when I started at UBC Okanagan was the Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Innovation (ICI) building. It has been exciting to see this project take shape over the years. We are currently working with the VPRI office and representatives from all Faculties/Schools to develop a plan to fill the building, which is scheduled to open in 2025. I’m looking forward to launching this process and getting our campus community excited about this unique interdisciplinary opportunity.

Strategic Review of Health

We recently completed an external review of the campus’ health-related programming and activities. I am looking forward to broadening this conversation with our campus community, UBC Health and our external partners as we define the next steps over the coming months.

What made you choose to work AT UBC Okanagan?

I truly enjoyed every stage of my education and training and love working in academia! After 16 years in the states, I was looking to return to an academic institution in Canada. I had been watching the development of UBC Okanagan for years, and I was eager to join the team. I was most excited about the size of the campus—it is growing quickly, but has retained the values of a small campus—and tremendous opportunities for growth, impact and service both locally and globally. I completed my undergraduate and graduate training at UBC Vancouver, so I was delighted to be able to return to UBC!

What’s your favourite Okanagan activity or spot and why?

I love skiing! There is a LOT of excitement in our house when it snows. I missed the mountains and snow during my 16 years in California. My kids graduated to blue runs this year, so I look forward to exploring more of Big White and our other local mountains next season when I’m not in the ice rink watching my kids play hockey.


On May 24, 2022, the Office of the Provost and the Wine Research Centre are co-hosting an event with the Consul General of France in Vancouver regarding the impact of climate change on wine regions. This is part of a series called the French Ameri-Can Climate Talks – Biodiversity (FACT-B), a series of high-level conferences bringing together French and American or French and Canadian speakers from the academic world, regulatory bodies, NGOs and think tanks.

The purpose of FACT-B is twofold: to strengthen exchanges between experts on biodiversity issues and to raise awareness among the public and decision-makers in France, the United States and Canada in order to better understand the issues and challenges ahead for our three countries. FACT-B is part of France’s broader efforts to make the fight against climate change and its consequences a priority at the international level.

Register Here

Dear colleagues,

UBC Okanagan is proud to celebrate outstanding and innovative teaching. Each year, we recognize exemplary role models who make a significant impact on the culture of teaching and learning on our campus with the Provost’s Award for Teaching Excellence and Innovation. This year, we are pleased to expand our award category to recognize the contributions of instructors holding limited-term appointments at UBC Okanagan.

Please join us in congratulating the 2022 award recipients:

2022 recipients of the Provost Teaching Excellence and Innovation Award

Ayman Elnaggar | Associate Professor of Teaching | School of Engineering

With over 30 years of industrial and academic experience, Dr. Ayman Elnaggar has been an innovative problem-solver inside and outside the classroom since he joined UBC Okanagan in 2014. He has led the development of several new initiatives and academic opportunities, including his successful proposal to introduce Fall Reading Week to the UBC community and the School of Engineering Dual-Credit Program.


Bowen Hui | Associate Professor of Teaching | Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

A well-known mentor, collaborator and leader, Dr. Bowen Hui has championed computational thinking and active learning for learners of all ages. An innovative instructor, Dr. Hui has piloted new techniques in her classroom, including a personalized learning approach, and has been involved in the redesign and creation of several courses as well as provided formal mentorship to more than 50 students.


Firas Moosvi | Lecturer| Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science

Dr. Firas Moosvi’s has been a significant driver of teaching and learning innovations, using technology-enabled solutions and personal connections to support and engage his students as partners in learning. Dr. Moosvi is a strong advocate for building a community of teaching and learning, regularly collaborating with colleagues as well as conducting and facilitating more than ten Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) projects.


Mehran Shirazi | Lecturer | School of Engineering

Dr. Mehran Shirazi has quickly gained a reputation as a dedicated and supportive educator thanks to his tireless work and advocacy to ensure positive learning experiences for his students, earning several notable teaching accolades, including Thank a Prof and Golden Apple awards as well as the Canadian Federation of Engineering Students Association Appreciation award. He has worked extensively with the CTL and led important campus-wide initiatives, such as the Learning Technology Rovers and Learning Design Interns.

2022 recipients of the Provost Award for Teaching Assistants and Tutors

We are also pleased to announce the 2022 recipients of the Provost Award for Teaching Assistants and Tutors, which recognizes exceptional undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants and tutors for their contributions to academic life on our campus.

    • Cara Johnston – Student Learning Hub
    • Jesse Ghashti – Student Learning Hub
    • Megan Schroeder – Student Learning Hub
    • Mahmoud Sakr – School of Engineering
    • Negin Jalili – School of Engineering
    • Jacqueline Barnett – Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science


Teaching Excellence Celebration

The campus community is invited to join us to recognize the achievements of UBC Okanagan teachers and mentors and celebrate our community of teaching excellence.

Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2022
Time: 4:30 to 6 pm | Celebration followed by award presentations
Location: UBC Ballroom | UNC 200
RSVP: Register to attend the celebration

Congratulations to the 2022 teaching award recipients.


Rehan Sadiq
Provost and Vice-President Academic pro tem
UBC Okanagan

Brad Wuetherick
Associate Provost, Academic Programs, Teaching and Learning
UBC Okanagan