Alden Habacon, Senior Advisor Intercultural Understanding

The following message is sent on behalf of Dr. Sara-Jane Finlay, Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion.  It is for the attention of UBC Deans, Directors, Managers and Administrative Heads of Units.

A message from Sara-Jane Finlay, Associate Vice President, Equity and Inclusion:

In the New Year, Alden Habacon, Director of Intercultural Understanding at UBC will transition his position to a consultant role, primarily working with the Equity and Inclusion Office.

Alden’s intercultural understanding strategic planning work, which brought him to UBC five years ago, has been for the most part successfully completed. This included consulting with the UBC community around their intercultural needs and developing and initiating a strategic plan, inspiring both campuses around intercultural initiatives, and growing self-sustaining capacity throughout the university.

In short, UBC has seen real culture change and a growing momentum around intercultural perspectives, approaches, skills development, and relationships—producing more intercultural learning, student experiences, research approaches and community engagement. The demand for training and professional development is now greater than one person can supply and it is time for a different approach to the work.

Although Alden won’t be as visible on the UBC campuses, I want to assure you that the intercultural understanding work at UBC is not finished. Alden will retain the title of Senior Advisor, Intercultural Understanding and the focus of his work will shift towards growing capacity at the local level to respond to the needs for intercultural understanding, skills and education. This change will enable him to intensify work within a handful of units.

In the last few years, Alden has also been engaged with many great organizations across Canada. The demand for his time outside of UBC has outgrown what he is able to provide and he aspires to share his knowledge and strategic vision with other universities across Canada.

If your unit is interested in opportunities to build intensive intercultural capacity and skills development, contact the Equity and Inclusion Office at, or contact Alden Habacon directly at

Alden and I would like to thank the UBC community for its enthusiasm, collaboration, healthy skepticism, advice and, most importantly, engagement with intercultural understanding.


Sara-Jane Finlay
Associate Vice-President, Equity and Inclusion
Equity and Inclusion Office
University of British Columbia

Eid-al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice) | September 24, 2015

This Thursday September 24, along with millions around the world, hundreds of UBC’s students and many UBC faculty and staff will be celebrating Eid-al-Adha, one of the two significant holidays in the Muslim calendar.

The word “Eid” means “festival” or “holiday” in Arabic, and can refer to a number of Muslim holidays, but is most often used to refer to Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan and took place in July.

To mark Eid-al-Adha, the UBC Muslim Students Association (MSA UBC) will be hosting a morning prayer on campus, so that students don’t have to miss their morning class. That said, many students may not make their first class, so as to attend morning prayers with their family. Information about the morning prayer is below.

Eid-al-Adha Morning Prayer
8:00 AM

Totem Ballroom
Open to anyone who wants to participate in the morning prayer.

There is also a dinner party which will take place on the following Friday:

Eid-al-Adha Dinner & Party
6:30 PM

Old Sub Ballroom
Open to everyone.
Tickets are $10, available at

Why do Muslims celebrate Eid al-Adha?
Eid al-Adha “commemorates the willingness of Ibrahim to sacrifice his son Ishmael as an act of obedience to Allah – and Allah’s mercy in putting a lamb in Ishmael’s place at the last moment. ‘Muslims believe that the very moment Ibrahim raised the knife, God told him to stop, that he had passed the test, and to replace Ishmael with a sacrificial ram,’ explains Al Arabiya. Eid also marks the end of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia.”


(Above excerpted from:



What does ‘Intercultural Understanding’ actually mean?

With the on-going feedback of the UBC community, we have recently updated the working definition of intercultural understanding to make it clearer for those who are new to the concept:

Intercultural understanding refers to the profound sociocultural difference understood by individuals or by groups that reflect

(1.) social positions and statuses (including, but not limited to ethnicity, race, religion, age, gender identity and expression, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, socio-economic class, immigration as well as academic, employment or professional status);

(2.) the cultural histories, creative practices and faith perspectives of various social groups; and

(3.) the dynamic power relations that shape the interactions between dominant and non-dominant cultures, including the undercurrents of difference found within these interrelations.

As summarized in the following:

An understanding of the social positions, practices and power relations of sociocultural difference understood by individuals or groups within a society.

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UBC’s Asian Canadian Asian Migration Studies Minor Takes First Students in September 2014

The University of British Columbia is pleased to announce the creation of the Asian Canadian Asian Migration Studies Minor during the recognition of Asian Heritage Month in Canada and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in the United States.

As part of the University’s tribute to honour the UBC Japanese Canadian students of 1942, the Dean of Arts announced in March 2012 that an Asian Canadian Minor program would be created and launched to accept its first students in September 2014.

Consultation processes that involved many individuals from the Asian Canadian and UBC communities were initiated and conducted over a 12-month period. The feedback and advice received encouraged the University to envision a more comprehensive program beyond the scope originally conceived.

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20-min Overview of Mid-Level Plan (Video)

As promised to Heads and Directors, the working draft of The Intercultural Promise has been put into a 20-minute overview (video above). The Executive Summary and Final Draft of The Intercultural Promise, can be downloaded below:

Intercultural Understanding Exec Summary May 2014

We have completed the development of the plan, and are currently working on the creation of a website where much of the mid-level will live. Implementation is already underway in many units.

Info sessions and presentations are being made all across the Vancouver campus. For more information or to arrange a presentation in your unit, please email Anna Wong at


The Intercultural Promise:
Intercultural Understanding Strategic Plan (UBC Vancouver Campus)
Executive Summary
Prepared by Alden E. Habacon
Updated May 2014

The University’s commitment towards intercultural understanding is a response to a unique opportunity at UBC Vancouver (UBCV) to be a genuinely intercultural learning and work environment, contribute to the human wellbeing of the campus community, and fulfill the University’s social obligation towards intellectual diversity.

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Request for Feedback from UBC Students

Over the last semester I have been meeting with student groups for a final look at the working draft of the mid-level plan.

I had promised students and Heads and Directors to turn my presentations into a 20-minute video that could be shared. Here it is, providing an overview of the working draft of The Intercultural Promise. To download and review the working draft of The Intercultural Promise.

The mid-level plan features six strategic goals. The first three address the core issues at UBC that contribute to intercultural barriers.

  1. Fostering a culture of dynamic interaction (aka. “friend-making”);
  2. Growing our capacity for “courageous conversations”; and
  3. Classroom content: Integrating intercultural understanding into the classroom experience.

We have consulted students all through the plan’s development and just want to loop back to students before we put out a more final version of the mid-level plan.

We are currently asking students the following question:

Do these strategic goals contribute to UBC students’ aspiration for an intercultural campus?

We are asking students to respond by sending thoughts and comments by email to or through the following survey:

Here are the list of groups we have already presented to that provided an opportunity for student feedback:

  • VP Students Group (June 2013)
  • AMS Council (July 2013)
  • Student Administrative Commission (August 2013)
  • Constituency President’s Council (October 2013)
  • Student Clubs at Global Lounge (October 2013)
  • SAC Info Sessions (November 2013)
  • UBC Board of Governors (November 2013)

Presentation to Parking & Access Control Services

As part of implementing the mid-level plan, I have put out an open invitation to present the plan to managers across the University. I gave a presentation to the managers of Parking & Access Control Services today, in their sparkling new office. This unit, of around 70 employees, is already very diverse.

As much as I hope attendees learn from and are inspired by my presentation, I also gain a lot from their feedback and questions. Here are the key ideas that came out of the presentation:

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Dr. Michael Ungar gave a great keynote at the UBC Advising Conference

This year’s UBC Advising Conference kicked off with a keynote from Dr. Michael Ungar, who spoke on “Nurturing Resilience Among Students Experiencing Adversity.

Here are my key takeaways from his impressively captivating and informative talk:

  • We are not trying to create “resiliency” within students, but can manipulate external factors that help students “be more resilient.” We shape environments that enable students to better cope with adversity.
  • Psychological resilience means having the capacity to navigate and negotiate, in culturally meaningful ways, what a student needs when they experience adversity.
  • Culturally meaningful is very important. What might seem “weird” to us, might be a very culturally acceptable form of coping.
  • There are seven factors that contribute to resilience.

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Canadian pluralism at a crossroads, says John Stackhouse, delivering the Ismaili Centre Lecture

On Sunday December 1, 2013 at the Ismaili Centre in Vancouver, John Stackhouse delivered the 2013 Ismaili Centre Lecture on the topic of “Canadian pluralism at a crossroads.”

For your reference, a video of the speech, along with a transcript and article may be found at the following link:

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Working Draft of ‘Intercultural Promise’ Presented to Board of Governors

The working draft of The Intercultural Promise v1.9.4, the intercultural understanding mid-level strategic plan, was presented to the UBC Board of Governors on November 19, 2013.

Above is the Prezi that was presented to the Board of Governors, followed by a question period (please be patient, as It might take some time to load).

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