News Archive

Will Hughes appointed Director, School of Engineering

Dear colleagues,

We are pleased to announce that Professor Will Hughes has been appointed Director for the School of Engineering at UBC Okanagan for a five-year term commencing July 1, 2022.

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2022 Aspire-2040 Learning Transformations Fund Awards

Dear colleagues,

The Aspire-2040 Learning Transformations (ALT-2040) Fund supports program development, curriculum transformations, student experience enhancement and educational resource development that accelerates the curricular vision in UBC’s strategic planning documents Outlook 2040 and UBC’s Strategic Plan, Shaping UBC’s Next Century.

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Message from the Provost

Dear colleagues,

As we conclude a busy winter term at UBC Okanagan, I am pleased to share a new iteration of the Provost Office newsletter, Academic Update. We will be issuing this newsletter quarterly on the Provost’s website to keep you apprised of the many academic initiatives happening on our campus.

I encourage you to learn more about exciting academic initiatives and upcoming events in the May 2022 Academic Update.

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Student Profile: Piya Bajaj

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.”

Staff Profile: Meet Janet Kalesnikoff

Meet Janet Kalesnikoff

Role: Senior Manager, Strategic Projects

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.


2022 UBC Okanagan Teaching Excellence and Innovation Awards recipients

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.

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