A message from Dean Gage Averill

Dr. Gage Averill. Photo: Cherihan Hassun

Dear Arts faculty, staff and students:

It is with profoundly mixed emotions that I wish to announce that I am stepping away from my role as Dean of the Faculty of Arts, to take up the position of Provost and Vice-President, Academic pro tem, for UBC Vancouver, starting on April 4.

Serving as Dean of Arts at UBC since 2010 (with a year leave between my two terms) has been the greatest challenge as well as the absolute high point of my academic career. Working with my enormously talented executive team, with an ever-strengthening group of heads and directors, and with our staff, faculty and students, we’ve brought many facilities to Arts, including the C.K. Choi Building, the Liu Institute for Global Issues, the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts, the Audain Art Centre, the Iona Building, and most recently our Arts Students Centre.

Among our new units and programs, we’ve strengthened our ability to advance Indigenous engagement with the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies; we’ve built an engine to confront intolerance with the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice; we launched the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs to foster research, teaching and engagement on complex local and global issues; we’ve advanced community-based research with the program in Asian Canadian and Asian Migration Studies and an emerging Centre for Asian Canadian Research and Engagement; we’re working across Faculty lines to enhance public scholarship with our Public Humanities Hub; we raised our global profile in Economics with the Vancouver School of Economics; and we achieved School status for Creative Writing. Our newest research centres include one devoted to Climate Justice, one for Migration Studies, and one focused on Language Sciences—all of these testify to the vastly enhanced interdisciplinary impact of this Faculty on critical world issues.

Over the last twelve years we have also added more than 200 net-new faculty positions, and these have allowed our Social Sciences to rise to the #1 ranking in Canada and facilitated the steady rise in ranking of most of our departments. We have numerous units listed in the leading world university rankings as among the top five-to-ten departments in the world, and many of our departments have moved from rankings in the 40s to the top 20s globally.  Along with this growth has come a spectacular level of diversification of our professoriate and our leadership.  Today, half of our heads and directors are women, whereas only a few women were unit leaders 12 years ago. Almost all of our departments now include Indigenous faculty, and racialized faculty members have comprised over 35% of our hires for many years.

If I had to pick the two parts of this job that have been most rewarding though, one would have to be watching so many of our students transform into committed, talented, and self-sufficient young adults whose contributions to changing the world for the better will ripple outward for generations to come.  The other would be the honour to have worked here on Musqueam territory to deepen our engagement and commitment to advancing reconciliation and justice for Indigenous people through the work of this great Faculty, with programs at the Museum of Anthropology, the Belkin Gallery, and the Chan Centre; through our Musqueam Language Program and the Program in First Nations and Endangered Languages in CIS, our Humanities 101 program in the Downtown Eastside, the Laboratory of Archaeology, field camps, our Indigenous students transfer partnership with Langara College, and through so many other departments, programs and initiatives.

No statement as short as this can begin to hint at the outpouring of creativity, pedagogical innovation, public scholarship, research impact, and leadership that I have had the privilege to witness over the years. I am deeply grateful for the support of so many of you, for the welcome I received 12 years ago, and for the conversations, ideas, and generosity I encountered here. There is still so much important work to be done, but it is a great time to transition to a new dean who will work with our community to find those next transformative opportunities for the Faculty of Arts.

UBC is due to announce the new Dean of Arts in the coming weeks, but there will be a transition period which will require interim leadership. As announced today by Andrew Szeri, Provost and Vice-President Academic, UBC Vancouver, this interim leadership period will begin on April 4 with Professor Stefania Burk serving as Dean pro tem, followed by a transition to Professor Janice Stewart as Dean pro tem starting July 1. Prof. Burk (she/her) has been serving as the Associate Dean, Academic since 2015 and is an Associate Professor of Teaching in the Asian Studies Department. Prof. Stewart (they/their) is currently the Associate Dean, Faculty and a professor at the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice. I am deeply grateful to Professor Burk and Professor Stewart for their willingness to take over the Faculty during the interim period. I can promise you that we will have a smooth transition, and that the Faculty will be in great hands.

I am fortunate to have been entrusted for the next year with the role of Provost and Vice President Academic pro tem in a period of great importance and change for the university, and I look forward to working with President and Vice Chancellor Ono, his Executive team, the Deans, the Board of Governors and with the faculty, staff and students in the UBC Vancouver community on the tasks ahead.

I want to express a special thanks to my predecessor in the Provost role, Andrew Szeri, who, in his five years as Provost and Vice President Academic, played a pivotal role in drafting UBC’s strategic plan, stewarding the President’s Academic Excellence Initiative that has dramatically increased the number of leading scholars on our campus, and who, along with his office, provided calm and progressive leadership for the academic enterprise through the COVID-19 pandemic, helping to provide resources to our instructors and our students in a time of great distress. His grace, counsel, and his support of the deans and of the Faculties has been inspirational to me.

I certainly will continue to cherish the relationships I’ve developed with so many colleagues in the Faculty of Arts, and hope to see many of you in the weeks and months ahead. I will savour the opportunity to continue to work with the Faculty of Arts in my new role.

With all best wishes,

Gage Averill
Dean of Arts