UBC president Santa Ono moves quickly to assemble new team of vice presidents

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      UBC will have another new member of its executive team next April.

      This week, the university announced that Ainsley Carry has been hired as vice president, students.

      Carry has been vice president of student affairs at the University of Southern California since 2013.

      He previous worked at five other U.S. postsecondary institutions: Auburn University, Southern Methodist University, University of Arkansas, Temple University, and the University of Florida.

      “Students are at the heart of everything we do,” UBC president Santa Ono said in a news release announcing the appointment. “In this spirit, I am excited to welcome Dr. Carry and look forward to working with him to advance our excellence in student experience, scholarship and well-being."

      The interim vice president, students is Andrew Parr, who's also UBC's managing director, student housing and hospitality services.

      Ono, a former president of the University of Cincinnati, became UBC president on November 22, 2016. In the two years since he arrived on campus, several other vice presidents have been hired, including Andrew Szerl, who's provost and vice president, academic.

      Szerl was previously at the University of California at Berkeley before joining UBC last year.

      UBC president Santa Ono has a fleet of new vice presidents at his side.

      Another major appointment occurred last year when Gail Murphy became vice president, research and innovation. A professor in UBC's department of computer science, she previously held several administrative roles at UBC, including associate vice president, research pro tem and associate dean of research in the faculty of science.

      Earlier this year, UBC named alumna Heather McCaw as vice president, development and alumni engagement.

      Other vice presidents appointed in the Ono era include Barbara Meens Thistle, who oversees human resources, and Peter Smailes, who heads finance and operations.

      Meanwhile, UBC's vice president, external relations, Philip Steenkamp, will become the president of Royal Roads University on January 1. A former senior government bureaucrat, he was working at Simon Fraser University before joining UBC in late 2015.

      Steenkamp's position at UBC hasn't been filled yet.

      He's leaving as UBC is grappling with a controversy triggered by last month's resignation of Philippe Tortell as director of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. Tortell is also a professor in the departments of botany and earth, ocean, and atmospheric sciences.

      In a letter to Wall Institute faculty associates, Tortell stated that he received a letter from Ono "outlining a series of directives for the future of Institute programs".

      "These directives were approved by the Trustees during an in camera session, excluding myself and the two current Wall Distinguished Professors, Brett Finlay and Derek Gregory," Tortell wrote. "The Trustees voted to eliminate the majority of PWIAS programs (including International Research Roundtables, Distinguished Visiting Professor and Wall Solutions Initiative) and to modify the remaining programs to achieve closer alignment with the existing VPR Research Excellence Clusters."

      As a result, Tortell declared that a "large fraction" of the institute's funding would support an ongoing UBC program run by vice presidents Szerl and Murphy.

      Philippe Tortell oversaw the publication of two books in his two years at the helm of the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.

      Ono responded on November 21 by describing Tortell's resignation as "unexpected" and "disappointing".

      The president followed up with two more statements, including one on November 27 saying that the board "has heard from many scholars and community members about the PWIAS' unique role and mission at UBC".

      "With this in mind, the Board plans to develop a series of dialogues to explore opportunities to strengthen the distinctive nature of the institute and, as a result, UBC," Ono said. "To support this work, a facilitator will be appointed to ensure all voices are heard in the process. Feedback from these sessions will be provided directly to Trustees."

      On December 3, current and past Wall Institute scholars met to talk about the "best way forward" in the wake of Tortell's departure.

      "Discussions focused on the need to structure the Institute’s governance in a way that ensures the Institute’s stability and its academic independence," the meeting conveners, Kalina Christoff and Evan Thompson, said in a statement. "It was agreed that transparency of process and ongoing consultation with the academic community should be an integral part of PWIAS governance moving forward. Wall Scholars and the UBC academic community as a whole should play a fundamental role in the Institute’s governance and in shaping its academic mission and values."