UBC Connects at Robson Square is a two-year pilot program that aims to promote public relevance and community engagement. The program is a spin-off of UBC’s flagship public engagement initiative UBC Connects, which launched in early 2018 and is currently on hiatus. Planning for the pilot program at Robson Square started in January 2022, with its first event being hosted in May 2022. The program hopes to connect UBC faculty, students, staff, alumni, and community partners with the public in downtown Vancouver, through events such as film screenings, pop-up concerts, and public talks, and offers up to $7,000 in funding plus promotional and logistical support.
Located in the heart of Vancouver’s vibrant downtown core, UBC’s Robson Square facility expands the university’s reach beyond the Point Grey campus, and provides the perfect venue for encouraging equitable knowledge exchange between UBC and the downtown Vancouver community. To date, the UBC Connects at Robson Square program has hosted 25 events, with 95% of these aligning with UBC’S Presidential Priority areas including Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Climate Change, and Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation. The program is planning to run 11 more events from September to December.
Samantha Young, Project Coordinator of UBC’s Transformative Health and Justice Research Cluster (THJRC) for whom UBC Connects organized a community event noted, “THJRC values this opportunity, as many community organizations do not have the funding to put on these events, but would like the ability to reach a wider audience and connect more with the community of Vancouver and beyond”.
Two of the stand-out past events hosted by the program include a screening and panel discussion of the film Big Fight in Little Chinatown and a Summer Pop-Up Concert Series. Big Fight in Little Chinatown opened the 2023 DOXA Documentary Film Festival in Vancouver and coincided with May’s Asian Heritage Month. The discussion following the screening explored culturally significant neighborhoods in Vancouver such as Chinatown and Punjabi Market as landscapes that are brought alive through the activities of everyday life and cultural experiences tying people to their heritage.
The Summer Pop-Up Concert Series saw UBC students Mina McKenzie and Jack Campbell – known by the name of The Matrix Duo – perform on piano and violin respectively. Event organizer Dr. T. Patrick Carrabré said, “The Pop-Up concert series at UBC Robson Square was a great opportunity for our student performers to play in a new environment and to introduce a downtown audience to the outstanding level of artistry we have available in the School of Music.”
On July 27 the event: Tackling Climate Change and the Just Transition to Renewable Energy was hosted. Part of a series of French-Ameri-Can Climate Panels (FACTS) on climate change which have been held throughout North America in the past decade, this two-part sold-out event featured a diverse group of eminent Canadian and French leaders, namely René Aïd, Gael Giraud, Seth Klein, and Andrew Weaver.
Dr. Brian Marcus, UBC site director for the Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences (PIMS), which promotes excellent research and applications of the mathematical sciences, was one of the main organizers of the event and is grateful to UBC Connects at Robson Square for part- funding the Climate Change event. He was also appreciative of the quick turnaround with the acceptance of PIMS’ application for funding as well as the offer to waive the lecture hall fee and help in hiring an outside vendor for audio-visual support.
The panel, also attended by graduate students who were part of an earlier PIMS’ summer school in renewable energy, consisted of an initial networking session, followed by a panel and Q&A session, and ended with a further networking session.
Dr.. Marcus remarked that the quality of the panelists was the driving reason behind the event being sold-out, pointing out, “A lot of them are well known locally, some of them nationally, some of them internationally,” and adding, “They are five very eminent leaders in various aspects of climate change.”
Panelist Dr. Gael Giraud, Founder, Director, and Professor of Georgetown University’s Environmental Justice Program, noted, “It mixed both the scientific aspect… and also the political aspect. its very rare to have this kind of combination and I think it’s very very fruitful.”
Due to the overwhelming response and popularity of the UBC Connect at Robson Square program, all available funds have now been allocated to support various events and activities scheduled until March 2024. Please visit the website for a listing of upcoming and past events, and sign up for the UBC at Robson Square newsletter.
Through Strategy 16: Public Relevance, UBC is working to align its efforts more closely with priority issues in British Columbia and beyond.