Last week a third-year student from Bangladesh stopped me as I was striding down the Main Mall at UBC Vancouver. He called out “Mr. President!” just behind me. I turned, and he gushed: “I just want to thank you for giving me such an amazing experience at UBC.” It turns out that he is one of our “International Leaders of Tomorrow” scholars, a program that enables gifted students from around the world to come to our university.
As I reflect back on my eight years as President of UBC, it’s moments like these that make the work seem much more than “worthwhile.” These moments remind me how privileged I am to, in a sense, embody UBC for so many wonderful students. In thanking me, that young Bangladeshi was really thanking scores of professors and teaching assistants, hundreds of fellow students and many staff members who have helped him along his voyage of discovery and achievement.
What may be less obvious is that he was also thanking you, our remarkable graduates. Amongst the reasons that my Bangladeshi student chose to come to UBC is our reputation, which continues to grow around the world. Some of that reputational boost comes from global rankings that reflect the growing impact and influence of UBC research. But our reputation is also built one graduate at a time. As you go out into the world and do great things for our local and global society, UBC’s name is strengthened. For a glimpse into what some of your fellow graduates are doing, take a look at yourevolution.ubc.ca, a new website where they are connecting with other alumni around their personal volunteer projects.
What you do matters to the future of your university, because you will always be our representative, whether or not you mean to be. And the support that you continue to give to UBC – through volunteering, mentoring current students, donating your money, and participating in the ever growing number of programs we develop especially for you – builds our reputation and enables UBC to welcome ambitious and talented students from BC of course, but also from across Canada and indeed, the world.
It has been a great honour to serve as the President of UBC. One of the evolutions that has given me most joy is to see the very idea of the “university community” expand, so that now we always talk of “students, faculty, staff and alumni.” So let me join that young Leader of Tomorrow in thanking you, as part of our community, for helping to make his UBC experience so powerful.