President’s Message

Stephen J. Toope, President and Vice-Chancellor

The Mi’kmaq people of North America’s northeastern seaboard are said to have no word for goodbye. No ancient language had a word for the colour blue. Guugu Yimithirr, an indigenous Australian language, has no word for left or right. And English—young by comparison but spoken by over a billion people around the globe and the predominant language of the World Wide Web—has no word for ….

Zen Buddhists call it satori. A flash of sudden awareness. An intuitive experience, an opening to infinite space that arrives seemingly out of nowhere, sometimes without preamble, other times after years of intense study. A bursting into consciousness of a new truth hitherto undreamed of.

In English, all we have is a sound: A-ha. The breathing in of surprise, the breathing out of wonder.

It is the everyday enlightenment of new learning; the adrenaline rush of discovery; and the joy of connection through contribution. It can come as easily in a cathedral of cedar trees as in the classroom. It’s as likely in front of your laptop as in the library. And it belongs as surely to a laughing crowd as to the lone scholar. The home of the ‘A-ha moment’ is not so much a place in space as a place of mind.

In this year’s Annual Review, we celebrate some of the UBC staff, students, faculty, and alumni whose talent and tenacity have sparked such moments. I see in their stories, and know from my own experience, that the ‘A-ha moment’ is not the end but in fact the beginning of a journey, and I look forward to seeing where these inspirations and innovations will lead them next.

Even as we look ahead, we also take a moment to look back on a year of historic firsts and major milestones. UBC’s University Industry Liaison Office received its 3,000th invention disclosure. We opened the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (CIRS), a living laboratory 10 years in the making that has been declared North America’s greenest building, and we garnered Canada’s first ‘Gold’ in the new university sustainability ratings. UBC Okanagan became the 52nd official member of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, awarded its first Human Kinetics degrees, and conferred the first PhD completed entirely at UBC’s Okanagan campus. And this fall, UBC launched the largest university fundraising and alumni engagement campaign in Canadian history. These moments and so many more have illuminated the passage of this remarkable year.

A university relies on words to describe its vision, values, and commitments, and to communicate its strategic plan and its unique place in the post-secondary universe. But when it comes to the most important moments in that university’s life—the learning, the discoveries, and the contributions that occur in the interior lives of its people—we are left with just a single sound: A-ha.
Surprise.
Wonder.
And the question: What is next …?

"a-ha. the breathing in of surprise, the breathing out of wonder."

a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

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