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The Story of UBC Wellbeing

UBC Wellbeing is regenerative—it is not simply about addressing the negative, but about furthering the good—enabling people to leave UBC better than when they first arrived, and to carry this into the next phase of their lives.

People who are well are able to engage in deeper learning, are more productive and have a stronger sense of community and connection—all of which help create a happier, healthier campus community. 

However, stress and anxiety, sedentary behaviour, unhealthy food intake, and barriers to inclusion that affect academic performance, workplace enjoyment, and overall sense of wellbeing are a reality for many. By focusing on wellbeing in our teaching, learning, and workplace environments, UBC can help set our community members up for long-term success and improve their resilience, retention, and satisfaction.

The story of UBC Wellbeing is one that we are creating together. Through improved collaboration, UBC is working towards becoming a global leader in supporting wellbeing for our community. Cross-campus efforts, such as Thrive, Move UBC and the VOICE Study, as well as support from senior leadership, have elevated the profile and understanding of wellbeing across the university and created a more connected approach across academics and operations.

UBC Wellbeing Milestones

All across UBC, wellbeing work is in action—woven throughout strategic plans, in research across diverse disciplines, and embedded in a broad range of programs, services and initiatives.

Since UBC first opened Student Health Services in 1929, we have championed wellbeing on our campuses through both services and strategic initiatives.  While there is a substantial amount of work to be done to ensure that wellbeing truly becomes embedded and a deeply-held value for all, over the past decades UBC has made great strides towards becoming a health-promoting university and will continue to explore ways to promote wellbeing.

  • UBC Okanagan's Student Wellness Team enhances student wellbeing and campus food security with the opening of Picnic

  • UBC introduces required mental health literacy training for managers and supervisors

  • Health, Wellbeing and Benefits, Workplace Health and Wellbeing, and the Office of Wellbeing Strategy launch the Activate Wellbeing Toolkit.

  • Healthy Minds | Healthy Campuses community partners and stakeholders came together for a three-day virtual summit.

  • Campus as a Living Lab establishes new Wellbeing stream and announces funding recipients. 

  • UBC Okanagan’s Student Wellness team hosted the inaugural Celebration of Student Leadership in Healthy Campus Development – a dual-campus event showcasing student leaders helping to create a healthier campus environment at UBC.

  • UBC Okanagan’s launches a new Wellbeing Award to recognize staff leaders.

  • In February, the Food Hub Market opened its doors to provide low cost groceries for the UBC-V campus in a welcoming community space. A collaborative pilot project led by UBC Wellbeing, UBC Food Services, and UBC Sustainability Hub with funding from UBC’s Student Directed Initiative Funding, this initiative strived to improve campus food security and inspire conversation around what a future food hub at UBC could look like.⁠ 
  • In May, the International Health Promoting Campuses Network hosted a full-day virtual Symposium aiming to activate the Okanagan Charter on higher education campuses around the world. As part of this event, a free webinar "Wellbeing as a Priority: Presidents & Vice-Chancellors in Conversation" explored how senior leaders in post secondary education settings globally mobilise campus communities to address complex issues. Panelists included UBC President Santa Ono, Glasgow Caledonian University Principal and Vice-Chancellor Pamela Gillies and The University of Alabama at Birmingham President Ray Watts.
  • In January 2021, the UBC Climate Emergency Engagement Final Report and Recommendations were released, including strategic priorities related to the intersections of climate justice and wellbeing, core principles of the Okanagan Charter, and UC3 and UBC strategic plans. These recommendations led to the development of a student-led Climate Wellbeing Engagement Network, with next steps to embed climate resources in existing mental health workshops and wellbeing newsletters. 
  • The Food Security Initiative (FSI) launched the UBC Meal Share pilot program with the support of donors to the Student Wellbeing Fund to ensure students have access to food.
  • In the spring, UBC's new nutrition month program, NourishU, launched to support healthy relationships with food.
  • The “Promoting Food Security in Higher Education” conference series was organized in partnership with Meal Exchange, University of Guelph, McMaster University, University of Ottawa to increase opportunities for the campus community to explore local food environments and build community-wide food security.
  • The Inclusive Physical Activity Toolkit was designed to support inclusive physical activity across both UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan campuses. Created by the Physical Activity Committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff members from both UBC campuses, the toolkit can be used as a guiding document for promoting, planning and advocating for inclusive physical activity within your own context.
  • To meet the 2025 Targets, a 4-year Wellbeing Strategic Framework Roadmap with key milestones is currently being created with Wellbeing Priority Area Committees and other key partners. 
  • In November, the Food Security Initiative and key stakeholders launch the new Food Hub website — a platform to enhance community food security by providing easy access to relevant resources, supports, and ways to take action.

  • Inspired by the President's Leadership Forum in 2019, leaders declared their actionable commitments to embedding wellbeing, with 46 unique, whole-system commitments made across the six priority areas in the President's Leadership Form Summary Report.
  • Building off of the Food insecurity Action Team (FIAT) launched in 2019, and with support from the Board of Governors, the Food Security Initiative launched in February 2020 as an interdisciplinary partnership between UBC Wellbeing and the UBC Food Systems Project, taking a holistic, university-wide, and systems-based approach to increasing food security.
  • Recognizing the health impacts of beverages, the Food and Nutrition committee and key food-provider stakeholders worked together with students, faculty, and staff to implement the Healthy Beverage Initiative —  a collaborative effort to create a campus environment where it's easier to make healthier choices, including a number of interventions to support our target of reducing sugar sweetened beverages on our campuses.
  • In November, with the rapid switch to remote work, paired with increased levels of anxiety and mental health challenges in response to COVID-19 uncertainty, the Workplace Wellbeing team adapted quickly to support the mental health of the staff and faculty community, including the development of a new resource:  “Intersectional Approaches to Mental Health - A Facilitator’s Guide”. 
  • In December, the Canadian Health Promoting Campus Network and the Universities of British Columbia, Waterloo, and McGill hosted Leveraging the Okanagan Charter to Bounce Forward From the Major Crises of our Time: COVID-19 Pandemic, Systemic Racism, Colonialism, and the Climate Emergency. This virtual dialogue series explored complex issues around health and wellbeing.

  • UBC launched the Wellbeing Strategic Framework, our shared vision for UBC as a health and wellbeing promoting university where all people, places and communities can flourish. Called for in UBC's Strategic Plan, the Wellbeing Strategic Framework identifies targets and indicators in six wellbeing priority areas. 
  • To ensure collaboration, coordination and consideration of wellbeing in all aspects of life and learning on campus, the UBC Wellbeing Okanagan Action Network was launched at UBC Okanagan.
  • In the spring, SEEDS and UBC Wellbeing hosted a Food Security Action Symposium, bringing together stakeholders to share student-led research, identify gaps in our knowledge and data, and collaborate on actions to better address campus-based food insecurity. From this, a Food insecurity Action Team (FIAT), was formed to work on research and community outreach, support existing campus initiatives, and drive new opportunities.
  • In October, 120 senior leaders from both campuses gathered for the President's Leadership Forum to consider ways to meaningfully embed wellbeing into their portfolios at a system-level.
  • In November, UBC was one of three post-secondary institutions to pilot the Canadian Campus Wellbeing Survey on both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.
  • UBC celebrated the 10-year anniversary of Thrive with an entire month of events and initiatives aimed at fostering and maintaining mental health.
  • Also in November, the Vice President Student's Office and Development and Alumnae partnered to launch the Student Wellbeing Fund to directly support initiatives that impact student wellbeing—from relieving food insecurity, to providing mental health literacy resources. ​​
  • UBC Wellbeing Strategic Initiative Fund launched, granting funds to departments and units at UBC’s Vancouver and Okanagan campuses to support university-wide commitments to the Okanagan Charter to support our shared vision of becoming a health and wellbeing-promoting institution.
  • UBC Wellbeing holds ‘Leadership Workshops’ on both campuses, bringing together faculty, staff and student senior leaders to discuss why wellbeing matters and how to support it. Interim President Martha Piper and senior leaders agree–the wellbeing of our people must be a priority at both the individual and institutional level. 
  • In October, UBC proudly became one of the first universities in the world to formally commit to wellbeing on our campuses by jointly signing the Okanagan Charter alongside five other Canadian post-secondary institutions. 
  • Professor Santa J. Ono announces $1 million in ongoing funding to support the wellbeing of our community.
  • UBC's Student Health Promotion and Education Unit is formed to provide leadership on health promotion strategies and programs for students on the UBC Vancouver campus. 
  • UBC Wellbeing is established as a collaborative whole-university effort to make UBC  a better place to live, work, and learn for all community members
  • UBC Releases 20-year Sustainability Strategy: Following rigorous community engagement, this strategy takes a regenerative sustainability approach to embedding human and ecological wellbeing across teaching, learning and research; operations and infrastructure; and community.
  • UBC Senate adopts the framework for student mental health and wellbeing 
  • Third Workplace Experiences Survey (WES) conducted included the student workplace experience.

  • “Wellbeing tune-ins” with campus stakeholders, studies and surveys such as the Undergraduate Experience Survey and Workplace Experiences Survey, showed overwhelming support to collaborate on shared goals around enhancing wellbeing.
  • UBC establishes the UBC Sustainability Initiative (USI), an ambitious initiative to integrate operational and academic sustainability.
  • UBC invests in three signature climate action projects and sets bold targets to reduce GHG emissions; 33 per cent by 2015, 67 per cent by 2020, and 100 per cent by 2050 (compared to 2007 levels). 
  • UBC launches Thrive to promote positive mental health on our campuses. What began as a conversation between two colleagues about creating a campus environment that better understood the importance of mental health and wellbeing, has grown to an annual week-long series of events celebrated at numerous campuses across Canada. 
  • First Workplace Experiences Survey (WES) conducted to give voice to faculty and staff and understand their experiences in the workplace. The survey help shaped FOP priorities as well as people practices and actions within Faculties and administrative units.

  • UBC HR launches the Focus on People Strategic Framework, focusing on creating a workplace that is dedicated to excellence, equity, wellbeing, and mutual respect, was introduced. As part of FOP, UBC established the Healthy Workplace Initiatives Fund (HWIF) supporting departments in creating grass roots health promotions initiatives as part of the FOP priority to “develop a sustainable, healthy workplace.”
  • UBC introduces a Respectful Environment Statement for Faculty, Staff, and Students. The Statement speaks to our freedoms and our responsibilities, and provides the guiding principles to support us in building an environment in which respect, civility, diversity, opportunity and inclusion are valued.

  • UBC launches VOICE, a longitudinal research program about healthy community development on UBC’s Okanagan campus. 
  • UBC expands the Health Promotions Program with a role specifically designed to foster wellbeing in the workplace through proactive health promotion awareness and education initiatives and actions.
  •  UBC establishes a Health Promotions Programs unit focusing on return-to-work to help faculty and staff to return or remain at work in a supportive and safe manner.

By working together, we can build on our significant strengths and achieve remarkable progress in championing wellbeing for all of our community members.  


Land Acknowledgment

UBC Wellbeing acknowledges the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) and Syilx Okanagan Nation Peoples, on whose traditional territories UBC campuses are located and where we are privileged to live, work, and play. 

Wellbeing Annual Reports 

To find out more about how UBC supports wellbeing on our campuses, visit the Wellbeing Annual Reports



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We all have a hand in shaping campus environments that support health, wellbeing, and sustainability. By championing wellbeing, we can build stronger and more inclusive communities at UBC and beyond.