UBC President's Speeches and Writings

The Changing Role of Higher Education : Developing the Next Generation of Global Leaders Ono, Santa Jeremy Apr 18, 2017

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1	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	Ismaili	Centre	Speech	-	April	18,	2017		The	Changing	Role	of	Higher	Education:	Developing	the	Next	Generation	of	Global	Leaders	Santa	J.	Ono		The	Ismaili	Centre	International	Lecture,	April	18,	2017,	Burnaby		Thank	you	very	much.			It’s	an	honour	and	privilege	to	be	with	you,	in	this	strikingly	beautiful	Ismaili	Centre.		For	nearly	four	decades,	the	Ismaili	Centre	has	offered	spaces	for	spiritual	contemplation,	as	well	as	social,	cultural	and	intellectual	gatherings.			The	Centre	truly	does	provide	a	bridge	to	friendship	and	understanding	for	the	wider	community,	and	opens	our	minds	and	hearts	to	pluralism	in	Canada	and	around	the	world.			This	is	a	message	that	resonates	personally	with	me.	My	own	experiences	have	made	me	very	aware	of	how	different	cultures	and	races	interact	and	are	treated,	in	higher	education	and	elsewhere.	I	appreciate	the	work	the	Centre	does	in	this	regard.	2	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	I’m	proud	to	say	that	the	University	of	British	Columbia	and	the	Ismaili	community	collaborate	on	a	number	of	initiatives;	globally	through	the	Aga	Khan	Development	Network	and	locally	through	the	Ismaili	Council	of	BC:		• An	agreement	to	enable	UBC	to	design	curriculum	for	use	by	University	of	Central	Asia	(UCA)	faculty	members	to	teach	Earth	and	Environmental	Sciences	Program.	• A	Memorandum	of	Understanding	to	help	prepare	young	Kenyans	to	teach	the	International	Baccalaureate	program	and	contribute	more	widely	to	the	improvement	of	education	in	Kenya.	• A	collaborative	project	between	UBC	and	UCA	researchers	to	guide	the	development	of	long-term	socio-ecological	research	by	UCA’s	Mountain	Societies	Research	Institute.	• UBC	faculty	Peter	Klein	was	a	consultant	for	the	Aga	Khan	Foundation	and	helped	to	create	the	School	of	Journalism	at	Aga	Khan	University	in	Nairobi.	• UBC	Okanagan’s	Professor	Hussein	Keshani,	in	partnership	with	the	Aga	Khan	Trust	for	Culture	and	the	Devonian	Botanical	Garden	in	Edmonton,	is	developing	a	digital	application	for	visitors	to	a	new	Islamic	Garden	that	the	3	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	Aga	Khan	gifted	to	the	University	of	Alberta.	• The	Aga	Khan	Development	Network	works	closely	with	UBC's	Human	Early	Learning	Partnership.	(to	name	a	few)		As	president	of	UBC,	I	am	also	proud	to	acknowledge	…	• Khalil	(Z.)	Shariff,	CEO	of	the	Aga	Khan	Foundation	of	Canada,	is	a	graduate	of	UBC.	(moderating	this	evening)	• Firoz	Rasul,	a	former	member	of	UBC's	Board	of	Governors,	is	President	of	Aga	Khan	University.	• Shamez	Mohamed,	responsible	for	building	the	Aga	Khan	Museum	in	Toronto	and	the	Global	Centre	for	Pluralism	in	Ottawa,	has	served	on	the	UBC's	Museum	of	Anthropology	external	advisory	board.	• UBC's	former	head	of	Pediatrics,	Dr.	Robert	Armstrong,	Professor	of	Pediatrics	and	Foundation	Dean	of	the	Aga	Khan	University	Medical	College,	was	responsible	for	establishing	a	new	Medical	College	as	part	of	a	Faculty	of	Health	Sciences	for	East	Africa	based	in	Nairobi.	• The	VGH	and	UBC	Hospital	Foundation	was	the	principal	beneficiary	of	the	2016	annual	Ismaili	Walk.		We	are	grateful	for	this	support.	4	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	I	might	add	that	the	Ismaili	Student	Association	at	UBC	is	a	very	active	student	group,	holding	weekly	meetings,	volunteering,	and	supporting	their	fellow	students.		This	year,	their	annual	fundraiser	provided	$6,000	to	the	Downtown	Eastside	Women’s	Centre.			This	evening,	the	topic	of	our	dialogue	is	“the	changing	role	of	higher	education	in	developing	the	next	generation	of	global	leaders.”		The	topic	is	almost	limitless	in	scope,	but	I	can	think	of	no	better	way	of	thinking	about	how	we	can	shape	future	leaders	than	by	the	example	of	His	Highness	the	Aga	Khan	through	sixty	years	of	global	leadership	and	tireless	humanitarian	service.	I’d	like	to	begin	by	sharing	some	of	the	words	His	Highness	spoke	in	Toronto	last	year	on	accepting	the	Inaugural	Adrienne	Clarkson	prize	for	Global	Citizenship.		Here	is	what	he	said:	“Perhaps	the	key	to	resolving	the	‘Paradox	of	Citizenship’	is	to	think	about	layers	of	overlapping	identity.		After	all,	one	can	honour	a	variety	of	loyalties	--	to	a	faith,	an	ethnicity,	a	language,	a	nation,	a	city,	a	profession,	a	school,	even	to	a	sports	team!		One	might	share	some	of	these	identities	with	some	people,	and	other	identities	with	others.	“My	own	religious	community	identifies	proudly	as	Ismaili	5	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	Muslims,	with	our	specific	interpretation	of	Islamic	faith	and	history.		But	we	also	feel	a	sense	of	belonging	with	the	whole	of	the	Muslim	world,	what	we	call	the	Ummah.		Within	the	Ummah,	the	diversity	of	identities	is	immense	--	greater	than	most	people	realize	--	differences	based	on	language,	on	history,	on	nationhood,	ethnicity	and	a	variety	of	local	affiliations.		But,	at	the	same	time,	I	observe	a	growing	sense	within	the	Ummah	of	a	meaningful	global	bond.	“When	the	question	of	human	identity	is	seen	in	this	context,	then	diversity	itself	can	be	seen	as	a	gift.		Diversity	is	not	a	reason	to	put	up	walls,	but	rather	to	open	windows.		It	is	not	a	burden;	it	is	a	blessing.		In	the	end	of	course,	we	must	realize	that	living	with	diversity	is	a	challenging	process.		We	are	wrong	to	think	it	will	be	easy.		The	work	of	pluralism	is	always	a	work	in	progress.”	As	a	university	president,	I	find	his	words	especially	relevant	and	inspiring.		The	very	nature	of	a	post-secondary	environment	is	a	place	to	foster	diversity,	as	students	encounter	people	whose	views	and	backgrounds	differ	from	their	own.		Higher	education	is	a	transformative	experience,	as	students	learn	not	only	about	themselves,	but	others	as	well.			In	an	open	learning	environment,	students	need	to	be	able	to	build	successful	networks	and	collaborations	that	are	diverse	and	global	in	order	to	pragmatically	understand	and	experience	6	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	pluralism.	The	spirit	of	innovation	and	global	citizenship	is	very	much	at	the	heart	of	what	we	are	trying	to	do	in	our	colleges,	polytechnics,	and	universities	today.		Traditional	methods	of	teaching	and	learning	are	being	transformed	as	we	prepare	our	students	to	meet	the	challenges	of	a	world	very	different	from	the	one	encountered	by	their	parents	and	grandparents.		Students	today	have	progressed	far	beyond	the	passive	recipients	of	information	they	were	in	the	old	days.		Today,	professors	tend	to	be	facilitators,	creating	the	right	environments	for	students	to	acquire	information	in	a	variety	of	dynamic	ways.	Courses	in	many	areas,	such	as	law,	medicine,	and	engineering,	are	often	case-based	or	problem-based,	requiring	students	to	work	collaboratively	in	teams	to	find	solutions—and	preparing	them	for	the	way	problems	are	tackled	in	the	working	world	beyond	university.			Higher	education	is	responding	to	pressures	for	change	by	introducing	new	courses	to	prepare	students	for	work	in	fields	that	barely	existed	a	decade	ago.		At	UBC,	for	example,	students	in	Arts	can	now	take	a	program	in	Cognitive	Systems,	in	which	the	participating	units	are	Philosophy,	Psychology,	Linguistics,	and	Computer	Science.		Through	the	interrelated	7	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	study	of	these	fields,	the	students	gain	a	comprehensive	understanding	of	human	cognition,	and	learn	to	apply	this	knowledge	to	create	intelligent	artificial	systems.			The	traditional	barriers	between	disciplines	are	disappearing	as	we	try	to	prepare	students	for	the	demands	of	the	working	world.		So,	for	example,	a	student	in	Applied	Science	can	twin	her	studies	in	hydraulic	engineering	with	a	program	in	entrepreneurship,	so	that	she	is	prepared	for	the	post-university	challenges	of	commercializing	and	monetizing	her	skills.	Many	more	examples	can	be	found,	in	both	the	so-called	STEM	fields	(science,	technology,	engineering	and	mathematics)	and	in	the	arts	&	social	sciences.	Indeed,	I’ve	been	telling	people	that	we	need	to	add	the	Arts	to	that	acronym	and	talk	about	STEAM,	not	STEM.		The	Arts	and	STEM	subjects	are	now	beginning	to	intersect	in	ways	we	could	never	have	predicted	a	few	years	ago.	Such	interrelatedness	is	essential	if	we	are	to	give	our	students	the	kind	of	preparation	that	will	prepare	them	for	a	profession	beyond	the	BA	or	the	BSc	in	an	increasingly	technology-oriented	workplace.	Through	a	combination	of	carefully	crafted	curricular	learning	objectives	in	the	classroom	and	experiential	learning	in	8	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	internships	or	co-ops,	the	liberal	arts	student	at	UBC	is	encouraged	to	cultivate	a	unique	professional	identity,	an	identity	that	reflects	their	personal	interests	while	at	the	same	time	giving	them	the	tools	they	need	to	succeed	in	a	world	that	is	increasingly	shaped	by	science	and	technology.	And	on	the	other	side	of	the	coin,	engineering	and	science	graduates	are	beginning	to	discover	the	social	and	ethical	implications	of	their	disciplines	through	new	breadth	requirements	and	arts	electives.	What	we’re	all	aiming	for	is	to	create	an	environment	in	which	our	students	are	exposed	to	a	variety	of	ideas,	and	acquire	the	knowledge	and	skills	that	will	enable	them	to	achieve	their	personal	goals	and	become	responsible	members	of	society,	regardless	of	their	choice	of	profession.		And	then,	of	course,	there’s	the	whole	area	of	information	technology.		The	huge	expansion	of	digital	tools	has	revolutionized	the	business	of	teaching	and	learning.		Many	courses	now	take	a	blended	approach,	mixing	face-to-face	presentations	with	online	or	video	presentations.		Students	now	have	instantaneous	access	to	vast	electronic	databases,	and	require	a	sophisticated	understanding	of	software	tools	to	access	and	use	that	information.	9	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	Many	students	also	have	the	benefit	of	co-op	education	programs,	where	they	can	gain	invaluable	work	experience	before	they	graduate.		UBC	offers	a	program	called	Go	Global,	where	we	partner	with	over	200	universities	and	institutions	worldwide	for	students	to	study	abroad	for	a	semester.		Leaving	home	to	study	in	another	country,	students	learn	to	approach	different	situations	and	people	with	respect	and	sensitivity,	to	remain	humble,	to	make	the	effort	to	learn	things	about	other	cultures,	and	to	become	aware	of	their	own	biases	So	you	can	see	that	higher	education	is	preparing	a	highly	skilled,	tech	savvy,	and	cosmopolitan	workforce.		However,	I	don’t	think	we	can	we	talk	about	developing	the	next	generation	of	global	leaders,	without	talking	about	their	need	for	jobs.			Could	any	students	embarking	on	a	degree	program	in	2004	have	predicted	the	economic	situation	awaiting	them	on	graduation	in	2008?		The	precarity	of	new	graduates	with	$50,000	in	student	loans	to	repay,	seeking	a	position	in	their	field	during	a	depressed	economy,	cannot	be	overstated.		That	is	why	I’d	like	to	spend	a	few	moments	on	how	the	post-secondary	education	sector	plays	an	important	role	as	an	economic	growth	engine.		Recently,	I	was	honored	to	be	appointed	by	the	premier	as	Chief	Advisor	for	the	BC	10	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	Innovation	Network.	This	is	an	open,	collaborative	network	that	will	bridge	the	efforts	of	industry,	government	and	post-secondary	institutions.		One	of	the	most	important	ways	the	B.C.	post-secondary	sector	is	contributing	to	the	economy	is	through	research	clusters.		These	are	interdepartmental	networks	of	leaders	in	particular	fields	who	are	brought	together	to	investigate	large	problems	through	collaborative	research.		One	UBC	example	is	a	cluster	formed	by	bringing	together	researchers	from	the	Faculty	of	Forestry,	Botany,	the	Michael	Smith	Laboratories,	Biodiversity,	and	the	Faculty	of	Land	and	Food	Systems.	They	have	formed	a	forestry	and	plant	productivity	group	studying	plant	genomics	and	bio-products	from	renewable	resources.		Other	BC	post-secondary	institutions	can	provide	similar	examples.	By	working	together,	we	can	promote	stronger	links	between	the	B.C.	companies	that	depend	on	the	availability	of	talented	people,	and	the	colleges,	technical	institutes	and	universities	that	are	responsible	for	training	and	educating	our	students	to	take	on	those	jobs.	Another	component	in	fostering	global	citizenship	is	the	role	of	international	students.		At	one	time	the	idea	of	11	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	internationalizing	the	university	was	seen	as	something	threatening	and	undesirable,	because	it	was	thought	that	such	students	were	taking	seats	that	should	be	reserved	for	domestic	students	only.			But	under	my	predecessors,	UBC	began	to	expand	international	enrolment,	recognizing	that	there	is	a	huge	pool	of	potential	talent,	investment,	and	immigration	that	will	be	of	immense	benefit	to	this	country.		Recruitment	of	top	international	students	brings	with	it	future	networks	that	will	enhance	connections	with	our	international	partners.	Let	me	share	with	you	the	words	of	one	of	UBC’s	international	graduate	students,	from	the	valedictory	address	given	by	Dr.	Olga	Pena,	on	receiving	her	PhD	in	Microbiology	and	Immunology.		Here	is	what	she	had	to	say	about	on	her	student	experience:			“My	experience	at	UBC	went	far	and	beyond	than	just	acquiring	academic	knowledge.			“At	UBC,	I	also	learned	the	real	meaning	of	multiculturalism,	by	interacting	with	people	from	many	different	countries	and	cultures.	“I	learned	the	meaning	of	international	and	community	12	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	engagement,	by	being	engaged	and	engaging	others	in	initiatives	that	can	contribute	to	building	a	better	world	through	dialogue,	teaching	and	learning.		“I	learned	the	meaning	of	sustainability	and	not	just	the	importance	of	environmental	but	also	economic	and	social	sustainability,	by	applying	these	concepts	into	my	every	day	life.	“I	learned	the	real	meaning	of	research	excellence,	by	following	excellent	role	models	such	as	my	own	PhD	supervisor	and	other	great	professors.		“As	a	wife	in	love,	a	very	happy	mom,	and	a	career-oriented	woman,	I	learned	the	real	meaning	of	having	a	balanced	life,	understanding	that	with	love	and	collaboration	everything	is	possible.	I	was	personally	able	to	finish	my	PhD	while	being	a	Mom,	thanks	to	my	lovely	husband	and	what	we	call	teamwork	and	my	beautiful	family	in	Colombia	who	has	always	been	there	supporting	me.		As	a	woman,	I	truly	believe	we	can	be	great	moms,	while	following	our	passion	for	knowledge.	“Most	importantly,	as	an	international	student	coming	from	a	very	small	town	called	Chicoral,	I	also	learned	that	I	am	not	just	a	citizen	of	Colombia,	and	you,	my	fellow	graduates	are	not	only	citizens	of	Canada	or	Germany	or	China	or	Brazil…	We	are	citizens	of	the	world!”		13	Ismaili	Centre	Speech,	April	18,	2017	It’s	obvious	to	me	this	international	student	took	to	heart	UBC’s	motto:	Tuum	Est	–	It	is	Yours.		It’s	up	to	you.		A	campus	environment	fosters	conversation	about	identity,	race,	religion,	politics;	it’s	up	to	each	individual	student	to	take	advantage	of	the	opportunities	to	step	out	of	their	comfort	zone	and	grow	--	intellectually,	spiritually,	and	emotionally.	I	believe	the	next	generation	holds	great	promise	in	meeting	the	social,	geo-political	and	economic	challenges	that	lie	before	us,	and	stepping	into	leadership	roles	at	home	and	around	the	world.		I’m	looking	forward	to	our	dialogue	with	Khalil,	a	UBC	alumnus	and	a	living	example	of	global	leadership!	Thank	you.						


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