The new president of the University of British Columbia says he’s impressed by what the Okanagan campus of the university he is about to lead has done in its short nine-year history.
Arvind Gupta was introduced as UBC’s 13th president and vice-chancellor Wednesday at events in Vancouver and Kelowna.
Gupta told the gathering at the UBCO campus his is impressed not only with the campus itself, but also by the work and commitment of its faculty and the spirit of its students.
“It’s evident we’re going to succeed here,” said Gupta, who will officially take over from the departing Stephen Toope in July.
Toope, who is leaving to head the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs after eight years leading UBC, was credited by Gupta in his remarks for moving UBC from what he called a regional powerhouse to an international powerhouse.
Gupta deferred questions about his vision for the university until after he has had a chance to settle in and talk with students, staff and faculty at both campuses about where they see the university going.
But he did note that what’s key is preparing young people for the jobs of the future, jobs he said that may not even be known yet.
“But I think universities are in a perfect position to look ahead and see where we are going,” he said.
During his remarks in Kelowna Wednesday afternoon, Gupta noted the pride he said he saw in people here during a recent vacation when it came to talking about the fact UBC has a campus here.
“People here talk with pride about having the university in their community,” said Gupta, a renowned expert in research and innovation policy who has forged close collaborations between universities, civil society and business.
He said that is not the same in Vancouver.
“You don’t hear people in the grocery story (in Vancouver) saying they are proud UBC is there,” said Gupta.
He said that sense of pride felt here is something the university can build on and it shows how connected the university is to the community.
Gupta is a UBC computer science professor and is currently chief executive officer and scientific director of Mitacs, a not-for-profit organization recognized internationally for nurturing the next generation of research and business-savvy innovators.
His five-year term as president will start on July 1.
The UBC board of governors made the appointment following a year-long international search by a 22-member search committee comprising faculty, staff, students, alumni, senate and board members from UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, and chaired by UBC chancellor Sarah Morgan-Silvester.
“As a member of the UBC community, I know how great a responsibility and honour this is,” said Gupta. “I have the privilege of taking the baton from Professor Toope, who has guided UBC to a strong position. We have exciting days ahead and I relish the opportunity.”
Gupta was welcomed to the position by both the UBC board chairman John Montalbano and the university’s deputy vice-chancellor and principal of the Okanagan campus Deborah Buszard.
“It’s a great day and I’m excited,” said Buszard, adding she was looking forward to working with Gupta and learning from him.
Telling him remarkable progress has been made here by the university since it opened in Kelowna in 2005, Buszard said she was excited by the opportunities that lay ahead for the UBCO campus.
For his part, Gupta said he was committed to coming here as much as possible and meeting with administration, faculty, staff and students. And he urged them to contact him to set up meetings.
“I want to hear from you all,” he said.
An internationally recognized university, and the largest university in B.C., UBC has more than 58,000 students and 15,000 faculty and staff at its Vancouver campus and 8,500 students and 1,400 faculty and staff in Kelowna.
The university has an annual budget of $2.2 billion and makes an estimated $12.7 billion annual contribution to the B.C. economy.