Community Update - March 19, 2021

March 19, 2021

At the time of this update, UBC is six weeks away from the end of Winter Term 2. More significantly, March 2021 marks a year from when UBC transitioned to remote teaching, learning, and work under the direction of the provincial health authority.  With the promising news of vaccine distributions, we are looking forward to a fall term that will signal a return to our campuses and in person teaching, learning and research as noted in President’s Ono broadcast email, and more recently in the community message from Andrew Szeri, Provost and Vice-President, Academic, UBC Vancouver.

As this fiscal year end draws to a close, the leadership team in the Office of the CIO is looking forward to the future, establishing new priorities, and assessing opportunities to help support our communities return to in person activity. Below are a few of our commitments for the start of the new fiscal year.

Investing in teaching and learning through renewal and innovation
Having successfully completed the major renewal of UBC’s HR and Finance systems recently, our focus is now on the renewal of the Student Information System (SIS). This will be no small feat and many considerations are being weighed on how to deliver this replacement with equally successful results. The proposal for renewing the SIS and its ecosystem is proceeding through the appropriate governance processes over the next several months. Another capital project on the horizon includes working with Enrolment Services to leverage existing classroom scheduling software for better administration and ease in booking teaching spaces on the Vancouver campus.

Strengthening infrastructure to support research excellence
For UBC researchers, there was no better time than this past year to take advantage of UBC’s investment in digital research infrastructure (DRI), a $18.58M expenditure approved in 2019/20 to support research productivity and innovation by providing the necessary equipment, data storage, and computing power to our researchers. As an example of the impact, for Professor Muhammed Abdul-Mageed, the use of UBC’s Sockeye in his research projects was critical to his work in analyzing large datasets to understand the impact of COVID-19 on how humans communicate.

In addition to DRI, researchers stand to benefit from our partnerships with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, with a number of pilot projects to address existing and new research challenges. UBC is actively engaged with Microsoft through the VP, Research and Innovation’s Open Science partnership to collaborate on designing and piloting solutions. And, researchers can access the AWS-based RONIN cloud platform, providing a cloud infrastructure for complex compute resources.

Mitigating Institutional Risk
Late last year, we concluded our Cybersecurity Maturity Assessment with an external consultant. The recommendations from the final report were brought forward along with a proposal to continue UBC’s Privacy and Information Security Management (PrISM) program, which concludes its three-year pilot phase at the end of this fiscal year. The timing for both of these initiatives is ideal, providing context in prioritizing resourcing, security software costs, and network security improvements – all of which are necessary regardless of whether on-campus activities resume or in hybrid remote work environments.  

We anticipate a busy spring ahead in understanding how we can best deliver services to both remote and in-person scenarios. At the centre of our service delivery is our people. Our IT workforce has been agile in adjusting over this last year, and with some stability returning this year, we can resume our commitment to the Focus on People 2025 directives, with emphasis on workforce planning, recruitment and retention strategies, and performance and leadership development. We will also develop our departmental level EDI initiatives to align with UBC’s Inclusion Action Plan.

We look forward to what the next few months bring, and working with our colleagues to prepare our internal readiness for the campus community.

Jennifer Burns
AVP, Information Technology & CIO