The UBC financial awards database is getting a facelift.
“The database has existed for many years before, but hadn’t been professionally updated for quite a while — so we wanted to revisit refreshing it so that it can have a more common look and feel,” said Darran Fernandez, associate registrar and director of Enrolment Services.
So when AMS VP Academic Samantha So and her associate VP Kevin Doering approached Fernandez requesting a modernized and updated awards database that contained information regarding the more than 6,000 awards available at UBC, a mutual goal was set between them.
“[Darran] told us that expanding the awards database to be a little more transparent and exhaustive was one of his priorities for this year, so that was a really good parallel in priorities between us,” said So in an interview with The Ubyssey.
So what is this “refreshed” database going to look like?
Fernandez, So and Doering all expressed the same hope for a database with which students can pursue everything from specific faculty awards to simply inputting general criteria in order to see what awards they may or may not qualify for.
“That would be the ideal function of it — that a student can feel empowered to be able to find that information on their own. It’s not to say that the institution doesn’t have the onus of telling people about these things, but that it’s more seamless of a process,” said Fernandez.
Another key focus of the awards database was ensuring that the information presented allowed not only students, but also faculty and even donors to easily navigate through all the awards.
The hope is that a finished database will go live around the middle of the summer or early September. The exact timeline depends on how Fernandez and his team will circumvent the challenges that have slowed their process down a bit.
According to Fernandez, some of the awards information has not been updated in a few years. They have had to reword or write better descriptions of an award so that any member of the UBC community would be able to understand the criteria “as opposed to it being directed towards those that simply would need to do the back-end work in to pay the award out.”
Doering illustrated another challenge in the vast amount of data that must be sorted through.
“That’s a lot of new information that they have to find a new way to pull because it’s just not something that they’ve been doing before and have a set process for,” he said. On the other hand, So stressed the importance of communicating with the specific faculties and departments, as there are many awards that are adjudicated and given internally.
Fernandez also touched on the importance of keeping all parties informed and involved in this process, stating that they must ensure “that staff and faculty feel supported when we publish a database that is pretty broad-sweeping like this, as they may get more questions about it.”
When asked about the general state of awards at UBC itself, Fernandez spoke about how a diversity of awards, scholarships and bursaries has been more of priority to help support those who may be more marginalized in society.
“We shared a revised approach that we wanted to take to student financial support that focused our scholarships and awards on four of the traditionally underrepresented student populations. So those are Aboriginal students, those that are lower or mid-level income students who are coming from rural communities and first-generation learners,” said Fernandez.
He said that, hopefully, opening this more straightforward way to view the various forms of endowment, and the information and criteria surrounding them, will help to give these students — as well as the rest of the UBC populace — better access to the university.
Fernandez, Doering and So all share the same sentiment surrounding the database. They hope that it will serve as a transparent and easily usable wealth of information for whomever may require it.