Barbara Miles, Vice-President, Development and Alumni Engagement

One-on-One with
Barbara Miles

Barbara Miles is UBC’s Vice-President, Development and Alumni Engagement. Ms. Miles is responsible for leading one of the most innovative and integrated development and alumni engagement portfolios in North America.


What quality do you most admire in a leader?

BM: A great leader has the ability to choose and motivate talented people and let them operate at their fullest potential. And the person needs to do all this with an eye permanently fixed on the future. Great leaders are all about the future, not the status quo.


What makes you laugh?

BM: Being a Brit, I was raised on British comedy so am still addicted to the Monty Python team and before them the comedy duo Morecambe and Wise.


Who inspires you, and why?

BM: I am inspired by the donors and alumni that I meet every day. It is a privilege to work so closely with altruistic individuals who want to make the world better for our students, our faculty and our communities.


What is the song you sang out loud as a teenager?

BM: I have a degree in Music so my head was always full of songs from all eras – usually all at the same time!


How do you like to recharge?

BM: We live in some of the most beautiful landscapes on the planet in Vancouver so walking is a great pleasure. Of course, music also plays a large part in my life, both listening and playing.


What attracted you to join UBC? What makes it different?

BM: I was attracted by the vision that President Toope laid out for the university and the chance to run a historic fundraising and alumni engagement campaign, start an evolution, which we just completed successfully in 2015.

More than that, though, UBC felt like a place that had huge ambition but also felt grounded in the BC community - a place I could help link donor and alumni passions to the great work that was taking place on so many fronts. That was very appealing.

I also felt that UBC was an outward looking place. I was born in Hong Kong and lived in Singapore as a teenager, and have always felt a connection to Asia. UBC seemed to have those connections too.


What is the best advice you were ever given?

BM: A mentor of mine had one key piece of advice: always be thinking ‘who else needs to know?’ In an interconnected place like a university, these are words to live by!


What do you value in your colleagues?

BM: I really respect the fact that they are experts in their fields. Every person brings a unique perspective so that we can get to the best possible decisions.

Intellectual curiosity is also very important — this is a university and questioning is what we do. Never a dull moment.


What would you like to be remembered for?

BM: In UBC terms, for being able to connect alumni and donors to the university for even greater impact. The campaign was a great example of this, but it is what we do every day.


If you could have a super power, what would it be?

BM: Telepathy. (I knew you were going to ask that!)


What do you see as the main challenges and opportunities for higher education?

BM: As the world becomes more complex, people often reach for simple solutions because they can sound comforting. But today’s issues are not simple, they are complex and we need universities that can address that reality. This is both our greatest challenge and our greatest strength. Which is why I believe our donors and alumni form a key part of this complex solution. Tuum Est!

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