UBC student athletes promoting excellence beyond the classroom

Transformative Learning | Strategy 15: Student Experience
Theme: Collaboration

In addition to its academics, the vibrant culture of sports and athletics is one that UBC takes pride in.  

Through many different types of student recreation programs across both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses round the calendar, UBC Athletics and Recreation is always active in action towards their motto, “Inspiring excellence, championing health and sport, building our community.” The UBC Thunderbirds, comprised of 26 varsity teams, and the UBC Okanagan Heat, comprised of 12 varsity teams have represented UBC in inter-university and national competition for years, giving both student-athletes and supporters an amazing opportunity to achieve excellence, make memories and bond over sports. Many UBC athletes have also gone on to bear the flag for Canada in the international arena. 

Ainsley Carry, UBC Vice-President, Students and Kavie Toor, Managing Director of Athletics and Recreation recently briefed the Board of Governors about the experiences and achievements of student-athletes, featuring both current students and alumni that have represented UBC in different fields of sports. Toor noted that the experiences shared “highlight the impact of sport and recreation on building the UBC community, promoting health and wellbeing, and elevating UBC’s profile all while moving forward the academic mission of the university.” 

Hillary Janssens (right) and Caileigh Filmer (left) celebrate their bronze medals in the women’s pair (rowing) Tokyo 2020. Photo credit: Merijn Soeters –

Hillary Janssens, who won the bronze medal in Women’s Rowing at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 started her rowing career at UBC Vancouver in 2012. She mentions her time as part of the UBC Thunderbird Rowing Team influenced her greatly in her recent successes. “Spending time around so many driven teammates and coaches brought out the best in me, both academically and athletically,” mentioned Janssens. 

Garrett Rooker in the UBC Thunderbirds vs University of Alberta Golden Bears during U Sports Canada West action at UBC in Vancouver, BC, October, 1, 2021 | Photo credit: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics Photo

Garrett Rooker, quarterback for the UBC Thunderbirds Football team and a UBC Kinesiology student credits UBC’s reputation for both academic and athletic excellence to inspire him to apply to the university. “Here at UBC, you get to attend one of the most prestigious academic universities in the world,” says Rooker. “While also being at a place with an outstanding and solidified athletics program.” In addition to becoming better in academic and athletic fields, Rooker looks forward to being a part of the student leadership at UBC.

Lauren McNeil competes at the U SPORTS Cross Country Championships on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City on November 20, 2021. Photo credit: Mathieu Belanger

Visiting exchange student from Nottingham University, Lauren McNeil has also solidified her place as a Women’s Cross Country athlete with the UBC Okanagan Heat team. In 2021, she won the silver medal at both the U SPORTS and Canada West championships and was subsequently named the U SPORTS and Canada West Rookie of the Year and a U SPORTS First Team All-Canadian. She mentions her time on campus in Kelowna and as a member of the cross-country team has been a positive experience. McNeil hopes to come back to UBC again as a student.

To see the full presentation to Board, please view the recorded livestream video (jump to minute 2: 24:20), and read the presentation slideshow

Through Strategy 15: Student Experience, UBC works to foster student communities and provide resources that enable students to feel engaged and supported during their time as students.