Patty Wellborn



UBCO experts suggest wrapping gifts in reusable bags or boxes as one of several ways to keep the holiday season sustainable.

Regardless of what, or if, you decide to celebrate at this time of year, it’s hard to stay in budget and keep the holiday season sustainable.

A group of UBC Okanagan experts has some tips on how to keep the green in your pocket while ensuring it’s a green holiday for the planet.

Bryn Crawford, Research Engineer, Program Manager, PacifiCan-MMRI Accelerating Circular Economy

It’s all about the packaging. Think about how something is packaged before you buy it. Is the packaging recyclable or reusable? Also, when it comes to wrapping, keeping and re-using gift-wrapping paper is a great way to reduce waste. Look for gifts that don’t use materials that would persist in landfill or would divert waste from landfill.

“I suggest people look for gifts that are composed of natural, untreated materials such as wood, paper, cotton, or highly recyclable materials such as aluminum or steel. Also look for items made from upcycled waste, try to shop at stores that allow you to bring in a bottle or container to refill, or look for merchants that sell items in bottles or packages that are made from 100 per cent recycled plastics.”

Nathan Pelletier, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science/Faculty of Management

Every Christmas there is inevitably a debate regarding the sustainability of real versus artificial trees.

So, which is better? Unfortunately, Dr. Pelletier says there is no simple answer.

Relative impacts and benefits will be influenced by production practices and location, transportation distances—including your own. Spending half a day searching for a tree in a pickup truck will definitely weight the outcome. And use behaviours should also be considered. An artificial tree used for 15 years will have a fraction of the impact of one that is only used for five years.

Also important to keep in mind are the specific aspects of sustainability that we consider, and how we prioritize among them. For example, carbon footprints versus biodiversity impacts, or jobs versus landscape aesthetic value.

“Comparisons are always complicated and perhaps distract from simple, powerful strategies like giving the gift of time to those we love and focusing on quality over quantity.”

Eric Li, Faculty of Management

Be present and give fewer presents. Use your time generously and think about volunteering at a local organization or providing your time to do something with someone, even if it’s a neighbour or acquaintance.

“We all live in a busy world, so perhaps the gift of your time is something another person might really appreciate. A key component of the season is about being with family and friends, so make a point of doing that.”

By all means, give gifts, but think about the material products. What’s really necessary. Maybe buy less this year. And try to buy local. Also think of where the packaging this gift is coming from and where it might end up.

Ross Hickey, Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

Donations to registered Canadian charities are on sale this year, as always. Giving to charities on behalf of others can help people give a gift that lets the recipient know how much the giver truly knows the recipient. Also, giving to registered religious organizations and advocacy groups can help others in a variety of ways. You’re giving a gift twice, to the charity and also to the recipient.

A fan of the 1905 classic tale the Gift of Magi, Dr. Hickey says shoppers should keep that story in mind while shopping.

“The story is about a young couple who each sell their most prized possessions to buy a gift for each other,” explains Dr. Hickey. “While they both ended up with gifts they couldn’t use, the theory is a gift that comes from self-sacrifice and love is what really matters. When it comes to overspending, I think that story says it all.”

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A photo of graduating students throwing their hats

UBCO is hosting a unique fall graduation ceremony Thursday. Students who graduated in 2020 and 2021 will now have the opportunity to toss their caps in celebration like these students did in 2018.

They’re baaack!

This week UBC Okanagan’s campus will be filled with students, now alumni, who graduated and were celebrated with a virtual ceremony during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 600 are returning to campus to take part in a special ceremony on November 10. The event will recognize the accomplishments of those who didn’t have the chance to experience that iconic opportunity of crossing the stage to receive their degree at a live graduation.

This will be the first time UBC Okanagan has hosted a fall graduation ceremony and it’s a special event for those who graduated in 2020 and 2021, says UBCO Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lesley Cormack. Those graduates were surveyed and many indicated they were interested in coming back to campus for a make-up graduation ceremony.

“These are students who completed their studies during a particularly difficult and disconnected time,” Dr. Cormack says. “While UBC honoured our graduates during the height of the pandemic with virtual ceremonies, nothing can compare to the distinction of an in-person event, complete with student speakers and a gym full of proud family members.”

Each ceremony will be complete with speeches from students and special moments to recognize people who received honorary degrees during the pandemic.

Evangeline Saclamacis, who graduated with an applied sciences degree in 2021, is currently working with an international renewable power generation business in Vancouver. She says there are a lot of emotions flowing as she looks forward to returning to UBCO for the ceremony and connecting with former classmates.

“I’m excited to see how the campus has changed since I was last there, and also inspired to see how much I have changed since I first started as a student in 2016,” she says. “UBCO was a place that not only allowed me to grow as an individual, but also allowed me to connect with people with similar aspirations and goals. I’m really excited to return and walk the stage, closing the chapter on my bachelor’s degree.”

Aneesha Thouli, who graduated from UBC Okanagan’s Health and Exercise Sciences program in 2020, is now back at school and is currently a third-year medical student in the Southern Medical Program based at UBCO.

“While this ceremony will look different than any of us expected, I’m grateful we have the chance finally to celebrate,” she says. “I think having been alumni for a few years gives us a unique perspective on the ceremony overall and gives us an opportunity to celebrate our successes in a totally different way than previous classes.”

Three ceremonies will take place on November 10, the first starting at 8:30 am with School of Engineering graduates. Following that, graduates in the School of Education, Faculty of Management and Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science will cross the stage. The final ceremony takes place at 1:30 pm where graduates in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Faculty of Health and Social Development and the Faculty of Creative and Critical studies will be celebrated.

Rain Inaba graduated with an undergraduate degree in microbiology and remained at UBCO to begin his master’s in biochemistry and molecular biology. Inaba is excited to reconnect with the many friends he made while living in residences and says Thursday’s ceremony will allow his fellow graduates to relive past moments and finally celebrate with their families, friends and faculty members.

“With these ceremonies, alumni from all faculties are welcomed back to the campus we all called home for many years,” he says. “This is a day of deserved festivities and a moment of recognition for our graduates. Let us make the ceremonies loud and memorable for each of our classmates as they cross the stage.”

As they have already technically been conferred as UBCO graduates and are officially UBC alumni, these ceremonies will be slightly different from spring convocation. However, Dr. Cormack says every student, especially those who persevered with their studies online, should enjoy the moments of being celebrated at their own graduation ceremony.

“While different, these ceremonies will include many of the traditions of graduation to honour the profound achievements and celebrate the resiliency of these students,” Dr. Cormack says. “We’re proud to have these incredibly engaged alumni who are going out of their way to come back for their graduation. I’m looking forward to congratulating each and every one of them in person.”

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A photo of people looking at an art installation

All the People of the World is a an art installation that uses grains of rice to represent population statistics. In the Okanagan, it will combine current affairs with local history and news, including themes of the SE-Change Festival.

What: SE-Change Festival
Who: Artists, members of the public, and UBC faculty, staff and students
When: Saturday, July 16, 3 to 5 pm; and Monday, July 18 to Friday, July 22; 9 am to 5 pm daily
Where: Innovation Centre, 460 Doyle Avenue, Kelowna

Social and economic change can dramatically impact our lives. How do we respond?

UBC Okanagan’s Social and Economic Change Laboratory (SE-Change) is hosting its first-ever festival starting Saturday. Through exhibitions, performances and conversations, the SE-Change Festival explores social and economic change in real places—what it looks like, its effects and how it is shaped.

The festival brings together members of the public, artists and UBC students, faculty and staff—locally and from various parts of the world, in a forum where they can interact, express themselves and ask questions.

It begins on Saturday, July 16 with a mobile performance in downtown Kelowna from 3 to 5 pm. Activities continue throughout the week with exhibitions, performances, installations, documentaries and open discussions, including rooftop receptions.

The SE-Change lab at UBC’s Okanagan campus focuses on the interdisciplinary study of social and economic change. The lab works with members of the public in different contexts—in communities, cities, regions, industries and wherever there might be a shared interest in social and economic change. Its focus is to share and co-create knowledge, both locally and globally, on the challenges that matter to each public.

SE-Change Festival activities are free and open to all. People are encouraged to join in the conversations on social and economic challenges.

More information and details about the activities needing prior registration can be found at:

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A photo of Dr. Rob Shaw playing wheelchair tennis

Dr. Rob Shaw, one of Canada’s top wheelchair tennis players, is UBC Okanagan’s 2022 recipient of the Governor General Gold Medal.

Some might think it’s a bit ironic that the winner of UBC Okanagan’s Governor General Gold Medal is already a gold-medal-winning athlete.

But Dr. Rob Shaw, who graduates this week with his Doctor of Philosophy in Interdisciplinary Studies, can quickly explain how much hard work goes into earning an honour of this calibre. Dr. Shaw is a wheelchair tennis player who won a gold medal at the 2019 Parapan American Games in Peru. He is the highest-ranked member of the Canadian wheelchair tennis team and last summer he competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics.

He didn’t get there without a lot of hard work. The same could be said of his accomplishment at UBCO.

Dr. Shaw is the highest-ranked graduate student at UBCO, an honour that has earned him the Governor General’s gold medal.

“Looking at past winners I can’t help but feel humbled by this award,” he says. “Five years ago, my supervisor and I committed to completing a PhD that would make an impact beyond the silos of academia and extend into the community to benefit people living with spinal cord injuries. I’d like to think that this award reflects that we achieved that goal.”

While earning his doctoral degree, his research focused on how peer mentorship can improve the health and wellbeing of people who have incurred a spinal cord injury. While his supervising professor Dr. Kathleen Martin Ginis describes his research as exemplary, she notes he has also become an internationally respected scientist and a community leader.

Throughout his degree, Dr. Martin Ginis says he has embraced an interdisciplinary spirit, but his impact extends beyond the traditional walls of academia and into the community. His leadership and expertise are frequently sought out by local, national and international organizations, and he has an unwavering commitment to examining and resolving pressing societal issues.

“An excellent scientist can produce a lot of great research. But an excellent scientific leader finds the potential in people and has the courage to inspire and support them. Rob has achieved excellence and acclaim as both a scientist and scientific leader,” she adds. “Through his research and leadership, and his outstanding global citizenship, Rob is making the world a better place.”

Dr. Shaw, however, says this award is only possible thanks to the support from Dr. Martin Ginis and others he has worked with along his doctoral journey.

“I am extremely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish, and I owe this award to her, my lab mates, my community partners, and most importantly to my participants who allowed me into their world so that I could try to make a real difference in their lives.”

Dr. Shaw has been described by Dr. Martin Ginis as an outspoken champion of equity, diversity and inclusion.

“He consistently reminds and challenges all of us to think about inclusion and accessibility in how we conduct and share our research with others.”

The importance of inclusion is also reflected in both the name and the criteria of the Lieutenant Governor’s Medal for Inclusion, Democracy and Reconciliation. This week it will be presented to UBC Okanagan student Azzah Al Zahra Farras, who just completed her Bachelor of Arts with a joint major in philosophy, political science and economics.

Shortly after arriving at UBCO in 2018, Farras established a campus-wide chapter of Amnesty International and began hosting conferences and events to examine local and international issues. She coordinated weekly sessions where students could discuss international injustices, while creating a safe space for marginalized students to share their stories and discuss opportunities for students to engage in change.

“Through the Amnesty International chapter, we created opportunities for students on campus to share issues about human rights, protection, justice and conflicts that they care about from their own country,” says Farras, explaining the students had engaging conversations about many issues including the farmer’s protest in India, Tibetan rights to self-determination, the Palestinian rights, and democratic rights for people living in Thailand.

“I am surrounded by a very international community at UBCO and it’s something we should all look forward to in universities,” she adds. “I have a lot of friends from different countries that support me and also celebrate my culture and my beliefs and values as I celebrate theirs. That’s what I’m really happy about.”

In September 2021, she joined the UBC Okanagan Library team as a student representative of the UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan and Indigenous Strategic Plan, where she independently developed projects to highlight Arab, Muslim, Asian, Indigenous and Black voices in literature and academia. Farras built multiple book displays at the library and designed digital LibGuide sites that list resources based on each theme, granting students information and access regardless of their location during COVID-19.

Farras recalls the day when a student approached the service desk and tearfully thanked the library staff saying how encouraging it was to see students with hijabs represented at the library and it helped make her feel included.

“For me, this was a full-circle moment,” says Farras. “Although I did feel isolated in my first year, I was able to change that situation for younger hijab-wearing students. I believe these efforts transpired important representation at UBCO. It raises important conversations on institutionalized racism and discrimination against marginalized groups. I am honoured to be a part of that shift.”

UBCO Librarian Christian Isbister says Farras worked tirelessly to engage the campus community and bring awareness to diverse voices in the library collection. Her book displays were always popular and well-received, and her work on the Book Fairies project helped encourage reading of more diverse authors, including Indigenous, Black, Asian and Arab writers.

“Azzah has dedicated herself to the promotion of inclusion on our campus,” says Isbister. “At the library, she demonstrated great leadership in developing initiatives to highlight diverse voices in our collection, and foster a sense of welcome and belonging for students belonging to marginalized communities. It was a pleasure to get to work with Azzah, and her presence in the library will be greatly missed.”

Also, this week, Anna Bernath, who just completed her Bachelor of Science degree with concentrations in biochemistry and molecular biology, was awarded the Pushor Mitchell Gold Medal Leadership Prize.

The $10,000 prize is the largest donor-funded award available to graduating Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science students. The award recognizes a student who has excelled academically and demonstrated leadership while earning their degree.

Bernath joined Dr. Andis Klegeris’ Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology Lab as a volunteer research assistant, and contributed upwards of 250 hours in the facility. She also conducted research studying the role of microglia—immune cells of the brain—in Alzheimer’s disease. When not in the lab or studying, she worked as a teaching assistant, acting as a liaison between faculty and students.

“I have immense gratitude for the faculty, staff and UBCO colleagues who created invaluable opportunities for growth and leadership, and I hope I made a lasting impact on junior students and excited them about research endeavours,” says Bernath.

The Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Award has been presented to a student at UBCO since 2009, explains Andrew Brunton, Managing Partner at Pushor Mitchell.

“Pushor Mitchell is very pleased to see another deserving student receive this award,” says Brunton.  “Our firm has been supporting this prestigious award at UBC Okanagan for 13 years now, presented to students based on both academic excellence and community leadership. We applaud this year’s recipient Anna Bernath and wish her luck with her career in neuroscience research.”

Farras and Bernath will be recognized as they cross the stage at Thursday’s convocation while Dr. Shaw will receive his medal Friday morning.

Other University of British Columbia medal (top of class) winners are:

  • UBC Medal in Arts: Abhineeth Adiraju
  • UBC Medal in Education: Anica McIntosh
  • UBC Medal in Engineering: Rachel May
  • UBC Medal in Fine Arts: Amelia Ford
  • UBC Medal in Human Kinetics: Kenedy Olsen
  • UBC Medal in Management: Jo-Elle Craig
  • UBC Medal in Media Studies: Jordan Pike
  • UBC Medal in Nursing: Camryn McCrystal
  • UBC Medal in Science: Megan Greenwood

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Brain scan photo

Getting medical help as quickly as possible is vital for stroke patients. A UBC Okanagan researcher uses mathematical modelling to investigate pre-hospital patient transfer policies.

Minutes matter when a stroke patient is being rushed to hospital—any delay in care can impact that person’s chance of survival and recovery.

Knowing how vital every second is for these patients, UBC Okanagan’s Dr. Amir Ardestani-Jaafari and Dr. Beste Kucukyazici from Michigan State University have analyzed transportation procedures and triage protocols to ensure stroke patients get the right level of care at the right time. Dr. Ardestani-Jaafari is an Assistant Professor in UBCO’s Faculty of Management and he specializes in health-care operations and logistics.

“Strokes, which are an attack on the brain, are a time-sensitive medical condition with only a short window available to administer therapeutic interventions,” says Dr. Ardestani-Jaafari. “Currently, patients are transported to the nearest stroke centre, following specific protocols. Yet, these protocols do not consider many factors, including the spatial variation in population density, the stroke’s severity, the time since stroke onset and the congestion level at the receiving stroke centre.”

His research, published recently in Management Science, presents a modelling framework that generates the optimal primary transport destinations for suspected acute stroke patients through an optimization model. The work also evaluates the impact of these destination decisions on patient outcomes and compares the performance of alternative policies through a simulation model.

“In our paper, we model the flow of patients in pre-hospital as well as hospital care and we examine the interactions between these two components of the stroke care continuum,” says Dr. Ardestani-Jaafari. “To be more specific, we investigate the impact of pre-hospital patient transfer policies on stroke unit congestion.”

Dr. Ardestani-Jaafari’s methodology uses mathematical modelling, including data analytics, along with discrete-event simulation, predictive and prescriptive analytics, to first understand why there is a problem in stroke transport in any urban city and what is the magnitude of the problem.

Recent medical advancements include the development of a new stroke treatment called endovascular therapy (EVT) for acute patients with a large vessel occlusion, explains Dr. Ardestani-Jaafari. Patients with this type of stroke, which is quite common, can have more complications and poor short- and long-term outcomes, he explains.

However, an EVT can remove the clot by sending a catheter to the blocked blood vessel in the brain and this can improve health outcomes.

But an EVT must be conducted in a matter of hours, meaning the patient must get to the right level of care as quickly as possible. When a destination hospital is fully congested, a patient might have to wait for admission and this wait for emergency care can have a negative impact including mortality and a person’s ability to function as they recover.

Dr. Ardestani-Jaafari’s modelling looks at whether it’s best to send a patient to a specialized stroke care facility, which may be a longer journey, instead of the closest emergency room. Getting to an emergency room that is backlogged and can’t take a patient, or cannot perform an EVT, could prove disastrous for the patient, he adds.

“The aim of this research is to find the connection and provide a solution between the delay of pre-hospital care and in boarding into a care unit,” he says. “We want to prevent any delay with the goal to improve the patient functionality at the time of discharge. This could help the patient’s recovery and their chance of returning to society and, hopefully, their ordinary lifestyle as soon as possible.”

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image of vineyard

Wine grapes are particularly sensitive to drastic changes in temperatures. Even minor weather variations can jeopardize flavour and aroma development, making wine production vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Elizabeth Wolkowich photo.

In all wine-producing regions of the world, climate change is disrupting the traditional science of winemaking.

Devastating frosts and periods of intense drought and heat, combined with the danger of wild fires and smoke, have forced wine-producing regions from Bordeaux to Napa Valley to British Columbia to constantly adapt to changing and volatile conditions.

The sensitivity of wine grapes is what makes wine production so vulnerable to the effects of climatic shifts. Even minor variations in temperature can jeopardize certain flavour and aroma development, explains Dr. Jacques-Olivier Pesme—Director of UBC’s Wine Research Centre (WRC).

Dr. Pesme is moderating the Canadian portion of this week’s French Ameri-Can Climate Talks (FACT-B). Established in 2015 by the French Embassies in the United States and Canada, FACT-B is a series of high-level conferences that bring scientists, wine growers, consumers, associations and public authorities together to proactively discuss climate change and how it is affecting the wine industry.

This week, Fact B will welcome both French and local leaders to Kelowna, Vancouver and San Francisco. Dr. Pesme discusses sustainability and how wine producers may consider new practices to adapt to the forecasted climactic shifts to wine production.

How do changes in environmental conditions affect winemaking from grape to glass?

Climate change affects all aspects of our day-to-day life.

Naturally, wine does not escape the rule. The changing environmental conditions can provoke an earlier phenology/flowering which can be good in certain regions.

But not always, and this can have an impact for all aspects of wine production and in particular the harvest period. For instance, in many wine regions climate change will have an impact on higher levels of sugar and alcohol as well as lower levels of acidity in the grapes. This combination is undesirable because it will favor the production of wines that are less sharp, less bright, heavier and highly concentrated—which isn’t what consumers are looking for.

Are specific grape varieties, or wine regions, in danger?

Some wine regions may actually benefit from the forecasted shifts of climate. Typically, northern regions didn’t have the right conditions to growing grapes. For instance, the United Kingdom is interesting in that respect as we have seen the development of a new sparkling wine industry, inspired by Champagne.

However, in some parts of South Australia, around Riverland—the largest Australian winery region—it is the opposite. Heat and droughts are now so intense it raises the question of the sustainability of maintaining the production of wine grapes in some wine regions across the world.

These types of changes present significant challenges to growing grape varieties in many regions around the world. They’re not in danger per se, but as a wine region’s environmental conditions change, formerly successful varietals will no longer thrive. Take for instance, Merlot, which is the main varietal grown in Bordeaux. With climate warming, the Bordeaux region is becoming less suitable for the Merlot grape.

However, these changes could be seen to present opportunities to innovate and has led to the rediscovery and testing of long-forgotten and discarded native grape varieties—a kind of viticultural archaeology. The late ripening, acidity and resilience to climate stress of several of these ancestral varieties could withstand potentially extreme environmental conditions.

How is UBC’s Wine Research Centre (WRC) working with Canadian wine producers to help adapt to climate change?

The WRC’s mission is to support the development of a competitive and sustainable BC wine industry. We see our role is to co-create knowledge with the wine producers—knowledge produced by the B.C. region but also through collaboration with leading institutions around the world such as the Universitie de Bordeaux.

Working together with industry and researchers the work of the WRC is wide-ranging. Our group of researchers assess the effect of climate and specific environmental factors on grape ripening and composition, investigate smoke odour compounds in grapes and wines caused by wildfires, and also explore the impacts of climate change on phenolic compounds.

What could global consumers expect to see as a result—will there be higher prices or a lower quality of wine in response to environmental changes?

If we take the right measures, in a place like BC, climate change could be seen as both a challenge and an opportunity. With great conditions for producing premium wines, BC has an opportunity to invest in the wine industry in ways which are better for both for the environment and for the consumer.

One thing is for sure, climate change in BC is a game-changer, and our Centre is hoping to work alongside industry to be best prepare to adapt to those changes.

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A woman looking stressed while trying to talk on the phone and carry a baby

A new study from UBC Okanagan suggests that women and racialized faculty members were hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In March 2020, the usual buzz of collaboration and creativity in research spaces at Canadian universities suddenly went silent.

COVID-19 was on the rise in Canada—and researchers were forced to cease all in-person research activities in the interest of public health.

While most would agree that all members of university communities were affected by the pandemic in some way, a new study from UBC Okanagan suggests that women and racialized faculty members were hardest hit.

Dr. Jennifer Davis, a Canada Research Chair in Applied Health Economics and lead author of a study published recently in the journal Gender, Work and Organization. Dr. Davis, an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Management, shares her research findings and insights on how to advance equity in academia.

How did this research come about?

During the onset of COVID-19, several important changes were quickly felt by those working in academia. These included the closure of research labs, the shutting down of trials, transitions to virtual classrooms and limitations on how resources were used.

While all of this was happening, I began to wonder what shifts were being felt across faculties and institutions, and how these may affect the health, wellbeing and productivity of faculty members in Canada.

What type of information were you hoping to uncover and what did you find?

I was looking to identify who was most significantly affected by these research curtailments and whether or not some groups were disproportionately affected.

My team and I rolled out a survey across public academic institutions in Canada following the initial lockdown to gauge the consequences. The data we gathered demonstrated that women and racialized faculty members said they were experiencing higher levels of stress, social isolation and lower levels of wellbeing.

Fewer women felt their health and wellness were being supported, and one example given was that they had an increased caregiving burden at home that was affecting their research productivity.

These effects were most exacerbated among pre-tenured faculty.

What did you find most interesting about your findings and how will they inform research going forward?

While our study focused on those in academia, it’s interesting to note that other studies had similar findings, particularly related to women and increased caregiving responsibilities due to COVID-19.

This illustrates that these issues were not limited to folks working in academia, as they were reported across other sectors too. In this study, we provide some recommendations for moving forward that I hope will create positive change and prevent further exacerbation of systemic inequities. 

What do you suggest to prevent a worsening of these inequities?

One of our key recommendations is to increase the use of narrative and storytelling to share the experiences of faculty members. We propose examining ways to collect and understand stories about individual repercussions of the pandemic on faculty members who conduct research.

Our research supports the idea that sharing individual experiences of the consequences of COVID-19 will foster more understanding in academia and hopefully support a sense of community among women and racialized faculty.

I’d like to think our work can also provide a path for senior administrators, or managers in other sectors, to connect directly with the experiences of marginalized faculty members or employees and engage with disparities in an effort to create more inclusive work environments.

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A photo of this year's UBCO researchers of the year

From left: Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta, Dr. Jennifer Davis Dr. Kyle Larson and Rhyann McKay.

Four UBC Okanagan researchers—whose work is making a difference locally and globally—were recognized at a special event last week when the campus celebrated the Researchers of the Year.

In a university dominated by timely and meaningful research, it’s hard to stand out in the crowd. But Phil Barker, UBCO’s Vice-Principal and Associate Vice-President of Research and Innovation, says the unique and outstanding contributions from this year’s winners allows UBCO to shine the light on their accomplishments.

“The Researcher of the Year ceremony is one of my favourite events of the year. It is a distinct pleasure to acknowledge some of our star researchers and highlight their contributions,” he says. “UBC Okanagan is one of the most rapidly expanding campuses in Canada and we are attracting top-notch scholars and researchers who are leaders in their fields.”

The winners of the prestigious awards are Dr. Jennifer Davis for health research, Dr. Kyle Larson in natural sciences and engineering and Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta, the winner of the social sciences and humanities award. Rhyann McKay was recognized as the Student Researcher of the Year.

Teaching in the Faculty of Management, Dr. Jennifer Davis is a Canada Research Chair in Applied Health Economics. Her research focuses on improving the health of older Canadians who are at risk for falls or cognitive decline. Much of her work assesses the economic value of dementia and mobility intervention and prevention efforts through partnerships with clinicians. Dr. Davis’s international collaborations have resulted in policy change and significant advancements in applying health economic evidence to lifestyle interventions.

A professor in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Science, Dr. Kyle Larson is an innovator of analytical techniques for tectonics research. His novel methods have led to fundamental discoveries about how major mountain belts form, including a solution to a decades-old geological controversy surrounding the origin of the Himalayas. As Director of the Fipke Laboratory for Trace Element Research, Dr. Larson’s work has helped develop paradigm-shifting methods for the rapid dating of geological material.

Teaching in the Okanagan School of Education, Dr. Margaret Macintyre Latta is a prominent researcher who transforms traditional approaches to education. A champion of interdisciplinary and community-based research, her focus is to advance curriculum as a shared learning experience that inspires reconciliation. Her research with Indigenous, school district and community partners helps educators to decolonize curriculum and teaching practices.

As a doctoral student in the School of Health and Exercise Sciences, Rhyann McKay conducted research in partnership with provincial spinal cord injury organizations across Canada to co-develop behaviour change interventions for support providers to enhance wellbeing and self-care. McKay is currently a health system impact fellow at the University of Alberta, evaluating the implementation of acute care intervention.

“The purpose of these awards is to highlight and honour the research excellence that makes UBC a top-40 global university,” adds Dr. Barker. “I am impressed with the calibre of all our researchers, grateful for their efforts, and am very proud of this year’s recipients. I look forward to tracking their careers and celebrating their future successes.”

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A graphic that says Life Raft Debate

What: Fourth annual Life Raft Debate
Who: UBC professors debate to win a seat in a time machine and change history
When: Wednesday, January 26, beginning at 7 pm
Venue: Online, virtual event

Once again, UBC Okanagan professors are being called upon to share their expertise and help save the world. But this year, it involves going back in time to right the wrongs of humanity.

The annual Life Raft Debate is a fun way to showcase the talents of professors by using an “end-of-the-world” premise, explains Lyndsey Chesham, Society of Scholars Program Assistant and a fourth-year microbiology student. The professors must do their best to sway the audience to earn the last seat on the life raft. However, this year it’s a seat in a time machine.

“For this year’s debate, humans have made an irrevocable mistake leading to our demise,” Chesham says. “Our only option is an experimental time machine capable of sending someone on a one-way trip to the first known human civilization.”

The catch? There is only one seat in the time machine. Not only must the time traveller win the debate, they must—without any modern technology—be able to influence society to not make the same mistakes. It’s up to them to prevent the downfall of the human race.

“Our traveller must assert the importance of their discipline in order to lead the ancient society, fix the mistakes of the past, and lead us to a brighter, more promising future,” adds Chesham. “But we must also question if it is even worth sending anyone back at all. It’s up to our audience to decide who we send, or if we even bother.”

Competing for the chance to time travel include chemistry’s Dr. Tamara Freeman, creative writing’s Michael V. Smith, engineering’s Dr. Vicki Komisar, psychology’s Dr. Liane Gabora and management’s Tamara Ebl. Associate Dean of Research Dr. Dean Greg Garrard will play the role of devil’s advocate, suggesting no one deserves to go back in time.

After all the words are spoken, the audience—using Zoom technology—will decide if someone does go back and restart society. And who it will be.

“The Society of Scholars brought this student-led event to UBCO to give students a chance to get to know their professors through the scope of a light-hearted and fun event,” adds Chesham. “Our debaters get very passionate and it is wonderful to see the professors speak about their life’s work so enthusiastically.”

New this year will be opening remarks from UBC President Santa Ono and closing remarks from UBCO’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal Lesley Cormack.

The Life Raft Debate takes place Wednesday, January 26 at 7 pm. It is a free, virtual presentation and follows with a question and answer session. To register or find out more, visit:

A photo of a row of wine bottles

UBC Okanagans researchers have been exploring BC’s wine identity and recently published a paper explaining why identity matters for a wine-producing territory.

It’s wine season in the Okanagan and wineries are busy harvesting crops and producing vintages to be enjoyed in the years to come.

While many people may have an image of what the Okanagan wine region looks like, researchers at UBC’s Wine Research Centre (WRC) say there is a lot more to the identity of a wine region and the wider territory than what many might think.

Working across both campuses, the WRC, which is part of the Social Economic Change Laboratory and headquartered in the Okanagan, conducts research in enology, viticulture, management and social sciences. It engages with industry and communities on the challenges of wine territory development.

Researchers at UBC Okanagan’s Faculty of Management Jacques-Olivier Pesme, Roger Sugden, Malida Mooken, Marcela Valania and Kim Buschert recently published a paper presenting a four-step process to engage a wine territory in reflecting on its identity.

Mooken explains why a wine territory’s identity is important.

Your research talks about a specific identity for a wine-producing region. Does this include all of BC?

Our work emphasizes the value of a shared identity for a wine-producing territory. In this case, we consider BC as a wine-producing territory, comprising several wine regions including the Okanagan Valley, Vancouver Island, Fraser Valley, Gulf Islands, Similkameen Valley, Kootenays, Lillooet, Shuswap and Thompson Valley.

Can you explain the concept of identity?

One can start exploring the concept of identity through three simple questions: Who are we? What do we aspire to do and become? How do others perceive us? However, a reflective process is necessary to get to meaningful answers.

When applied at a territorial level, the concept of identity is collective, shaped by natural and human attributes. Relationships between people and the environment, history, culture and associated social, economic and political factors all play a part in what and how identity is formed, by whom and for which purposes.

Why does identity matter for a wine-producing territory, and what are your observations with regard to BC?

Consciously reflecting on, shaping and communicating its identity are fundamental steps for any wine territory to differentiate itself, and operate in the highly competitive world of wine.

An industry-commissioned report estimates the overall economic impact of the BC wine industry in 2015 at more than $2.5 billion, with direct and indirect employment exceeding 10,000. Despite its recent growth, BC is still not a globally recognized wine territory.

With growing competition on the Canadian wine market, a collective approach with an authentic identity would limit the effect of dispersed action across the territory and strengthen BC’s position vis- à-vis other wine territories at provincial, national and international levels.

Some studies have reported a lack of territorial cohesion across BC wine regions. A shared identity contributes to that cohesion. For example, it has been argued that the process of developing a shared identity can support initiatives such as collective quality enhancement, which is crucial for relatively young wine regions. Such developments provide a strong foundation for communication strategies that enhance territorial reputation, recognition by audiences and government support.

What challenges are faced when an emerging wine-producing territory like BC tries pinning down its own identity?

Identity is not static and it would defeat the purpose to try and pin it down. It evolves continuously, shaped by the choice, behaviour and action of individuals or groups.

For an emerging wine-producing territory like BC, with significant geographical distance between wine regions and diverse industry actors—each with its own values, ambitions and strategies—shared attributes may be hard to define. The lack of proximity might impede the development of strong relations and collective efforts. There is also a potential gap between the image built around an idyllic development that some people may aspire to and the need for a consistent story that reflects the true nature of the territory, with its own local ecological and economic realities.

What sort of work have you been doing with the wine industry, specifically on the topic of identity?

Our group at UBC has been engaging with the wine industry since 2012 in the context of territorial development. Creating independent, safe learning environments to facilitate collective knowledge on a number of issues is a prominent feature of our work.

Most recently, we developed a four-step iterative process to explore BC’s identity as a wine-producing territory. Those are understanding identity, identifying commonalities and differences, developing a shared narrative and sharing best practices. More than 50 wineries across BC participated through workshops, interviews and other conversations.

Discussions included themes such as terroir, authenticity, expression and narrative. Participants realized that there were commonalities to build on and differences to value. For example, a commonality stressed was the presence and importance of small family wineries and farms within as well as beyond the wine industry.

The interaction with industry has shown that there is significant interest in exploring identity, but more time and understanding are required for it to develop a shared narrative. We are also aware that more voices need to be included in the process; for example, grape growers and other communities.

In 2015, UBC received funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada for a three-year period, for work on the international positioning of the BC wine industry. This research, published earlier this summer in the International Journal of Wine Business Research is associated with that project.