For Santa Ono, Social Media is a Method to Get In Touch With Students

Santa Ono UBC president MONTECRISTO magazine interview

When the presidents of more than 45 universities around the globe gathered for a summit at the Élysée Palace in Paris in July, one took a photo that took the show at house, winning national media coverage. No surprise that it was Dr. Santa Ono, the bow-tie dressed social networks smart president of the University of British Columbia, who slanted his phone and positioned with French president Emmanuel Macron– likewise known to be keen on a good selfie.

When I satisfy UBC’s 15th president and vice-chancellor for an interview in his seventh-floor office (part of the Walter C. Koerner Library) he admits that social media is one of his preferred tools– and a periodic vice.

“It’s not really strategic, it’s just honestly who I am,” he says of his prolific social media output. “I have great deals of buddies that are university presidents, and I would say I’m a bit out there because there’s more spontaneity. I’ll say silly things. It’s even if I want to be me.” He also warns: “I probably invest too much time looking at YouTube and checking out news on my phone.”

He comprehends the negative side of social media, having witnessed its effect on his two daughters, aged 15 and 21, and their buddies.

“Social network is effective, however it is also very harmful,” he states. “And I see it in the truth that a great deal of kids aren’t pleased with an image of themselves. They need to repair it– they need to be ideal. That is something that wasn’t the case when I was a kid. I do fret about that expectation … since nobody is ideal.”

While other university leaders restrict themselves to sharing campus news or offering congratulations to brand-new graduates or award-winners, Ono’s posts on Instagram are never ever filtered and his declarations on Twitter are uniquely candid for someone in his position. He dipped a toe into U.S. politics in July after President Donald Trump said Baltimore homeowners were “residing in hell”, tweeting that he was “proud to have lived and operated in the 7th district of Baltimore throughout my years on the faculty of the Johns Hopkins University.” When an alumna was put behind bars in Saudi Arabia, Ono decided (that was criticized by faculty and the student paper) to launch a declaration on his feed.

On the image-focused Instagram platform, he posts almost National Geographic-worthwhile shots of bears bathing on Grouse Mountain and Vancouver architecture. Or, if he runs into a student’s daddy, he publishes a selfie with him. “Jessye,” one such post checks out. “Your Daddy and I say hey there from Seattle.'”

He cultivated this deeply individual style in his previous position as president of the University of Cincinnati, where he won a following among faculty and students largely through interactions on social media. A specifying minute of his period followed the death by suicide of a student called Brogan Dulle, with Ono’s unexpected openness throughout a fundraising occasion held to honour the boy.

To the surprise of those in presence, Ono exposed the mental health problems that had marked his own youth, consisting of efforts– the first at age 14– to end his life. (He also shared these details on Twitter.) The truth that such an accomplished and well-liked leader was so open about his own struggles with mental health was praised, and Ono was called bold for his sincerity and vulnerability. He insists his decision to share his distressed past was not about being brave, but about staying truthful. “I don’t wish to be simply a figure or face,” he describes. “I’m comfy with being simply me. It’s a lot much better to be yourself than to be some sort of production.”

Among Ono’s previous coworkers at Cincinnati, Beth Robinson, states his method had an enormous influence on that university’s reputation. “Walking around with him resembled strolling down the street with a rock star. He actually raised the brand name. Enrolment went through the roofing system.”

Santa Jeremy Ono matured in a family of prodigies. His dad, Takashi Ono, was among the leading young mathematicians who were hired from Japan by Robert Oppenheimer to become checking out scholars at Princeton following the dropping of the atomic bomb throughout the Second World War. From there he was used a position at UBC and, in 1962, Takashi and Sachiko Ono welcomed their second kid, Santa, when they lived on-campus in a house on a street called President’s Row. (Another popular Japanese-Canadian, Happiness Kogawa, the author of Obasan,was a neighbour.)

The youngest Ono brother, Ken, among the world’s leading mathematicians, was understood to be a prodigy at a young age. Eldest sibling Momoro, a professor of music, played with the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra at the age of 14.

“Part of the problem when you’re young is that you don’t recognize that life is a marathon, not a sprint,” Ono states. “My life until the age of 14 was controlled with sensations of insufficiency, that all kids should resemble my siblings. ‘I am just so dumb’ and ‘I don’t belong in this world’– that was my psychology at the time.”

Hospitalized after a second suicide effort in his late 20s, he was identified with bipolar affective disorder. He credits medication and psychotherapy with his healing, and he has actually been symptom-free
for decades.

His office at UBC is tidy and intense. The deep colors of a Persian carpet match the mid-century contemporary furniture completely, and give a nod to Ono’s cultural interests. He has an appreciation for music and theatre of all types, however his real passion is for symphonic music; a cellist, he still finds time to use the weekend. He and his partner, Wendy Yip, met while working as college students in the same research group at McGill University, but it was their shared love of symphonic music that brought them together.

“I liked that he had more measurements to him than just science,” Yip says when I reach her on her cellular phone as she runs errands on UBC’s Point Grey campus. “That thread of music has been going through our lives all along, and we still go to performances together.”

Ono’s research study focuses on macular degeneration– a leading cause of blindness. He was inducted by Johns Hopkins University into its Society of Scholars in 2015 and has held professors positions at Harvard, University College London, and Emory University.

Still, he considers his position at UBC to be something of a dream job– he took a pay cut when he left Cincinnati to return to Vancouver, attracted by the institution’s eminence and capacity. Among the more youthful universities to regularly make the leading global rankings, UBC’s rise parallels the shift westward in a North American economy influenced by the development of other Pacific Rim countries. “In 50 or 60 years,” he keeps in mind, “UBC has catapulted from being an extremely strong leading Canadian university to being among the best on the planet.” He compares being a university president to carrying out an orchestra– you get to stand at the front and wave your arms, however the resulting sound only works if you have the ideal ensemble.

In Canada, the University of Toronto is regularly ranked as the top research study university, a procedure that focuses on the variety of citations gotten by research journals where professors release. Ono considers this a narrow meaning of success and sees a university’s objective more broadly, as “developing a much better world.”

To assist provide on his concerns, Ono has actually been making key hires within the senior administration, including many recruits from south of the border. He and his team have actually started revealing initial services to some of UBC’s closer-to-home concerns, consisting of a pilot task that offers leasings to personnel topped at 30 per cent of household earnings, and a first-ever federal government service enterprise that will allow the university to borrow cash to construct terribly required trainee housing more rapidly.

The year ahead will be critical to Ono’s legacy. If he is going to leave his stamp on the university and raise its profile in your home and abroad, he will require to utilize the brand name he has constructed into action. A crucial part of that will constantly be his presence on social networks, he argues. It’s his way of staying connected, promoting psychological health and wellness, knowing the community he serves, and getting the message out that success is bigger than an institution’s ranking.

“I in fact think individuals and communities [can attain much more] if they make the effort to take care of themselves separately, and if people in the neighborhood care for each other,” he says. “If you have a faculty member or student who is healthy, as specified in every sense of the word, they tend to carry out at a higher level.”


Learn more from our Autumn 2019 concern here.

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