UBC president Arvind Gupta spoke to the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Friday and praised the close relationship between the community and the university's Okanagan campus.

UBC president praises connection between Kelowna and university

Arvid Gupta tells the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce UBC is "tearing down any remaining walls" between the university and the community.

The new president of UBC wants to tear down the walls of post-secondary education’s ivory towers here.

Arvind Gupta told the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce Friday great cities and great universities need each other to be truely successful and he is proud of the connection his university has made with Kelonwa in the nine years since it opened its Okanagan in Kelowna.

“We are turning UBC inside out, tearing down any remaining walls between us and you and putting our resources —human, physical and virtual—in service to the community,” said Gupta.

He the world’s most livable cities all have great universities  and he wants to see both UBC Okanagan and Kelowna grow together.

“In every sector, our goal is to raise the bar, improving the health, prosperity and sustainability of the Okanagan Valley,” Gupta told the chamber luncheon.

In the nine years of its existence, he said UBCO has doubled both its students numbers and its land holdings and tripled its building space and its spending on research. UNCO now has just over 8,200 students.

And the key to future growth will be partnerships with the community—government, industry and not-for-profit groups.

Gupta said he wants to spend so much time here talking and listening to people, engaging partners for the university and building relations ships that his visits will no longer be news.

Pointing to innovation as one way the university is moving forward, he said UBC as an institution is developing an innovation strategy that includes building strategic partnerships, improving community access, increasing employability of its students, support for the innovation ecosystem in the region and building UBC’s internal innovation support structure.

One of the ways the Okanagan campus has distinguished itself both provincially and nationally, he said, has been through its aboriginal education programs.

While there were just 58 aboriginal students at UBCO when its opened its campus here in 2005, there are now 333 aboriginal students on campus, and 26 are registered in masters or PhD studies.

“That’s a phenominal success story in access,” he said.

According to Gupta, while 28 per cent of UBCO’s students are from the Okanagan, 25 per cent are from metro Vancouver, 20 per cent are from other parts of Canada and 11 per cent are international students, a whopping 70 per cent of its graduate choose to stay in Kelowna or the surrounding communities after they finish their studies. And that, he said, not only points to the livability of this area, something strengthened by having a world-class university here, but it also helps the community grow.

UBCO estimated economic impact to the Okanagan Valley is now pegged at $1.4 billion.

The UBC president, installed just eight months ago, said when he applied for the job he was no that familiar with the university’s Okanagan campus. But he said he was impressed when he came here and heard first hand about the connection the community feels it has with the university.

“You don’t see that everywhere with a university and the surrounding community,” said Guta.

“Everywhere I go here now, people ask what they can do to work with the university. That’s refreshing.”