The appointment of UBC’s new president, Santa Ono, has so far been met with universal praise. From the search committee to the AMS, everyone seems to have found Ono to be likeable, experienced and up to the task of running a university that is still in the aftermath of what has been termed a governance crisis.
The chair of the presidential search committee, Lindsay Gordon, for one, noted that Ono is “literally the perfect person to lead UBC into its next century.”
“If you go back to the consultation, we came out with a selection criteria. When you think about his background he absolutely stands out as meeting those key criteria — fantastic academic pedigree, great leadership skills, great communicator, very good values, ethics, emotional intelligence, his focus on diversity, his international experience … and very importantly the focus and commitment at least on aboriginal engagement,” he said.
Aaron Bailey, one of the student representatives on the search committee, emphasized his track record with students and commitment to student engagement.
“One thing I found interesting about Santa is … he isn’t someone who tokenizes consultation with students — he is someone who very genuinely wants to engage,” said Bailey. “He considers himself a servant leader, he goes out to to the community before he does anything.”
Bailey noted that his emphasis on consultation becomes especially apparent when you look at his presence on social media — especially twitter.
“He is absolutely adored by the entire community of the University of Cincinnati (UC), students especially though, he takes the time to literally respond individually to every student.”
The current AMS President, Ava Nasiri, is also supportive of the new president saying that his philosophy of servant leadership — meaning that he believes his role is to serve all members of the UBC community — mirrors her own philosophy as a president.
“We definitely look forward to collaborating with Dr. Ono to continue shaping and facilitating the campus experience and environment into something that can really shape student success,” said Nasiri.
UBC’s Okanagan campus also gave President Ono a warm reception, according to the deputy vice-chancellor and president of the UBCO campus, Deborah Buszard. She also commends the experience and knowledge he brings to his new role.
"I think he’s got a really good sense of the issues modern universities face,” she said. “What I’m looking forward to is working with him on growing the success and impact of the Okanagan campus. For us, a ten year old campus, we’re still very much in the beginning of our development and I think we have a great start and we’re a young campus and I think there is so much for potential for us.”
Mark Mac Lean, the president of the faculty association — which has expressed a lack of confidence in UBC's governance, was also pleased with the new president and his initial words.
“I'm encouraged by both his past experience and actions at other institutions and by the language at the address today that he is sincerely aware of the level of governance crisis that we've had at UBC and he is going to help engage with faculty to try to strengthen collegial governance at the university. So I'm maybe hopeful by what he's saying and what these early days will actually have a hope at playing out into change at the institution,” he said.
Ono himself is also very optimistic about the future.
“There are challenges everywhere,” he said during a press conference after the announcement of his appointment. “When I was first elevated as interim president and then president at UC that was right after the sudden departure of my predecessor. I think the university is actually in very good shape with Martha Piper, what she's done. That doesn't bother me at all. This is fundamentally a world-class institution and I look forward to working with the members of this community to move it from strength to strength.”
Ono also emphasizes his strength as a communicator and the strong focus he puts on being available to students.
“I’m very student centered — that’s the last thing you need to worry about,” he said in an interview with The Ubyssey. “I’m going to continue my student engagement. I can’t wait for Imagine Day, I can’t wait for Block Party, I can’t wait to get involved in your traditions — I hope that students will reach out to me.”
He encourages students to follow his twitter and to realize that he’s an accessible president.
“I want [students] to know that I’m going to meet with different clubs and organizations and those sorts of things and I can’t wait to get to know the students of the university. I’m excited,” said Ono.
“Tell them I’m pumped.”