A Message from PWIAS Interim Director: The Year in 2020

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Dear Colleagues,

As we approach the end of this year, I wanted to recap some of the advances the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PWIAS) achieved in 2020. Here are some highlights of our academic activities and our ongoing work to improve the Institute’s governance framework.

  • In January 2020, a four-member panel of international experts with expertise in the governance of Institutes for Advanced Study visited the Institute as part of the 2020 PWIAS External Review process. The panel met with numerous members of the academic community and others in order to investigate and make recommendations on the Institute’s structures and governance. The panel also reviewed a comprehensive PWIAS Self-study Document (available from the PWIAS website along with other documents related to the Institute’s external reviews). 
  • In March 2020, PWIAS received the External Review Report, including a list of specific recommendations for changes to the Institute’s governance arrangements. Also in March, shortly before the University closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we held our annual Gala event, the 2020 Wallapalooza, that brought together many of you for a celebration of the Institute and our 2019 Wall Scholars. The Gala event, our 2019 Wall Scholars, and other Institute activities are featured in our 2019-2020 Annual Report.
  • In April 2020, we adapted our programs to prioritize COVID-19 related initiatives. We funded multiple working groupsWall Solutions projects and Virtual Roundtables to reflect the unique circumstances our society faced in 2020.
  • In June 2020, the Board of Trustees and myself as Interim Director embarked on a process of reviewing the Institute’s governance arrangements and preparing a joint response to the External Review. Discussions were held bi-monthly and focused on the development of an updated governance framework for the Institute. 
  • In August 2020, with a comprehensive COVID-19 Workplace Safety plan in place, we held the 2020 Wall Scholars opening research workshop at the Institute. Throughout September and October the Wall Scholars engaged in weekly in-person gatherings. These meetings allowed them to forge close personal relationships that laid the ground for successful collaborations during this challenging year.
  • In September 2020, President Ono stepped down as Chair of the Board of Trustees and appointed Professor Moura Quayle, Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President Academic Affairs at UBC, to serve as Board Chair. Also in September, President Ono and I appointed a reconstituted PWIAS Academic Advisory Board (AAB), including a broad spectrum of voices. The nine distinguished members of the AAB provide President Ono and myself with recommendations on various matters relating to the Institute, including its academic governance and mandate.
  • In October 2020, the Board of Trustees approved, on my recommendation, funding for an expanded 2021-2022 Wall Scholar program, including 12 Wall Scholars and the inclusion of international non-UBC Scholars. The 2021-2022 Wall Scholar program call, with a newly introduced yearly thematic focus, drew applications from across UBC, Canada, and internationally. 
  • In November 2020, the Board of Trustees and myself submitted our Joint Response to the 2020 PWIAS External Review to the UBC Provost. This response will be on the UBC Senate agenda in January 2021, and will help shape the future development of a strong governance framework for the Institute. As UBC moves to put in place this new governance framework, your continued involvement with the Institute and participation in discussions informing this framework will be crucial to ensure it reflects a diversity of academic voices and the unique values of Institutes for Advanced Study world-wide.
  • Throughout the year we’ve released many Ways of Knowing podcasts with interviews of scholars across our UBC community representing the broad range of knowledge from multiple disciplines.
  • We look forward to announcing the 2021-2022 Wall Scholar awardees in January 2021, and to welcoming the two new Board of Trustees members who will begin their terms in February 2021. Above all, we look forward to hopefully reopening to in-person events and Associate gatherings in the new year and to seeing all of you at the Institute again.

Thank you all for your contributions, commitment, and involvement with the Institute, and for making these advances possible.

With my best wishes for this holiday season,


Kalina Christoff
PWIAS Interim Director