Research Themes

Vision: The University of British Columbia, aspiring to be one of the world’s best universities, will prepare students to become exceptional global citizens, promote the values of a civil and sustainable society, and conduct outstanding research to serve the people of British Columbia, Canada, and the world.

UBC’s Okanagan campus will manifest the UBC Vision in a distinctive way.  The Academic Plan summarises our vision as “excellence at all times and in all things.”  The Plan goes beyond traditional academics and calls for an intimate learning community that is also an integrated research community.  It is a community that is locally responsive, globally conscious, adaptable and sustainable.  To accomplish these goals,  UBC’s Okanagan campus has identified eight research themes that will cover a broad spectrum of basic and applied research, serving the needs of the local community and the world.

Theme I: Creative Processes

UBC’s Okanagan campus builds on a heritage of excellence in understanding the interrelations of art, culture and society from multiple perspectives, among them Creative Processes and modes of cultural reception (wherein it overlaps with theme 8). The Creative Processes cluster builds first on a long-standing strength in visual arts by adding and interweaving with it new directions in creative writing and theatre. Existing research strengths include poetry and prose fiction, devised theatre, installation art, painting, photography, printmaking, and video. UBC’s Okanagan campus also aims to develop new interdisciplinary research programs not only to create hybrid forms of art but also to collaborate with psychologists and others to examine the cognitive processes underlying creativity, visual attention, visual processing, and the like.

Theme 2: Contemporary Indigenous Studies

Indigenous Studies is emerging as a key research focus at UBC’s Okanagan campus on the basis of a recently created Indigenous Studies Undergraduate Program, the creation of a summer institute for graduate studies in the field, and the hiring of a Canada Research Chair in World Indigenous Peoples. Founded on a constructive partnership the University and the Okanagan Nation, Indigenous Studies hopes also to forge strong ties with other Indigenous communities and institutions, regionally, nationally and internationally. Current research strengths lie in the areas of agro-ecology, indigenous ecological knowledge, indigenous theory, epistemology and pedagogy, environmental ethics, health care, globalisation, language and oral traditions, indigenous women’s issues, visual arts, literature, cultural and environmental history, decolonization, aboriginal rights, law and governance. Several current projects are locally based while others span the continent, or extend to Central and South America or to Pacific Island Nations.

Theme 3: Sustainability

The concept of “sustainability” must, by necessity, encompass three fundamental needs—the needs of current populations, the needs of future populations, and the needs of Earth systems. More typically, sustainability is described in reference to either social, economic, or environmental concerns, but it is unrealistic to be concerned with only one element of sustainability to the detriment (or in ignorance) of others.  Sustainability, in the Okanagan campus context, is therefore an holistic concept that is explicitly inclusive of all academic disciplines and scholarly activities, particularly those that are regionally relevant, practically oriented, and of great value to the imperative of a civil and sustainable society. Current areas of specific strength include conservation biology/species at risk, environmetrics and quantitative ecological modelling, paleoecology and environmental change, soil biology, hydrology and biogeochemistry, stress biology, water resource science, and watershed sustainability.

Theme 4: Health and Wellness

Health and Wellness encompasses research programs that foster collaboration across disciplinary boundaries to focus on regional, national and international health priorities. Research in this theme will provide evidence to guide the development of innovative solutions to our most pressing health problems and the evidence required to make the best possible decisions to promote health and support effective health care delivery. Our research strengths lie in the areas of health management and policy, health promotion and community health, clinical and health psychological science, ageing, gender and health, substance abuse and innovative approaches to the provision of health care.

Theme 5: Technology and Innovation

Technology and Innovation relates to the creation, development and understanding of advanced technologies that will enhance the well being of society across a broad range of human endeavours — through economic benefits, productivity growth, improved living standards, and an improved quality of life. The common research approach focuses on the application of knowledge to the real world. Advanced technologies are not only creating new industries, they have become the key driver to progress in established areas such as manufacturing, the built environment, the resource sector, and health care. They are also addressing issues of sustainability and the environment. Ancillary areas will include optimisation and image processing, and the history and philosophy of science and technology.

Theme 6: Organisations, Economies and Governance

This research theme is focused on organisations — including their structure, governance, control systems, and operations. In this context, “organisation” is an inclusive term, encompassing public, not for profit, private, and government entities. It extends to individuals, groups, project teams, partnerships, and mergers within and across organisations. It also includes the way that organisations interact with the community around them and the structures and systems that are put into place to ensure that this interaction is authentic. Organisations and Governance will attract researchers from Management, Economics, social sciences, Engineering, Education and other disciplines. Sub-themes of interest include ethical leadership, corporate social responsibility, and small and medium sized enterprises.

Theme 7: Innovations in Learning

Innovations in Learning encompasses inquiry into learning and cognition, instructional processes, education and society, cultures and curricula, and technology and learning. The theme will be of primary interest for researchers in psychology, sociology, cultural studies, information technology, education and other professional programs.  The theme substantiates and informs scholarship in teaching in all disciplines. To support innovations in learning, UBC’s Okanagan campus will challenge people to continually expand their capacity to create positive learning environments that will engage learners and support new and expansive patterns of understanding.  A Centre for Teaching, Learning and Scholarship is being established to further research in this area.

Theme 8: Cultures and Communities

Cultures and Communities encompasses research programs in a large number of areas, especially (but not solely) those concerns bridging the creative arts with arts and sciences. Existing strengths include critical theory; cultural anthropology; Canadian art, history and literature; discourse analysis, economic history and theory; European history; globalism and anti-globalism; human geography; languages and world literatures; Latin American cultural and political studies; Renaissance and Medieval studies; social justice; war and peace studies; and women’s studies. Emerging areas of promise include ageing studies, cultural studies, film and media studies, and gender studies.