One-on-One is an ongoing series aimed at getting ’behind the scenes‘ with senior leadership at UBC.
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Dr. Louise Cowin began her five-year term as UBC’s Vice President, Students in October 2011, and has leadership responsibility for shaping the student experience and broad learning environment at UBC. Her portfolio includes Student Development and Services, Student Housing and Hospitality Services, and Athletics and Recreation. Prior to joining UBC, Louise worked at three other Universities in Canada — she was the Warden of Hart House at the University of Toronto, a Professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie University, and a Professor of Outdoor and Experiential Education at Queen’s University.
If you weren’t in the field you are now, what role might have interested you?
LC: I really enjoy working with and for youth, and I love being active outdoors. So, I’m a bit torn… either directing a children’s residential summer camp or the owner of an outdoor tripping company.
What do you think of when you hear the word holiday?
LC: Anything from being off the grid, to exploring emerging neighbourhoods where art and communities are coalescing and thriving.
In what instance would you say, I won’t?
LC: I won’t take a risk that would compromise my values.
What quality do you most admire in a leader?
LC: There are so many facets to leadership, but I do admire a leader who has the courage to make difficult decisions.
What is the song you sang out loud as a teenager?
LC: We are the Champions by Queen. Love Freddie Mercury!
Who is your favourite historical figure?
LC: Actually, I want to give a shout out to someone who is making a history right now… Clara Hughes is amazing for all her work in raising awareness on mental health, her achievements as a multiple sport athlete, and Canadian Olympian. She is making history every day.
What inspires you about living on the West coast?
LC: I’ve lived in several different cities, but Vancouver speaks to me in ways the other cities haven’t. It’s hard to compete with being surrounded by the ocean, mountains and forests… plus, Vancouver has a certain vibrancy that is intriguing to me!
What makes you laugh?
LC: I like the kind of humour that is spontaneous, quick and dry — it’s all about the unexpected.
One thing on your desk you brought from home?
LC: The national flag of the Isle of Man is composed of three legs — meaning whichever way you throw me, I’ll stand.
What is the best advice you were ever given?
LC: Nothing ventured. Nothing gained.
What do you think is the most important invention?
If you could live anywhere, where would it be?
LC: By the ocean.
Who are your favourite writers?
LC: Alice Munro, Jeanette Winterson, Rohinton Mistry.
What do you value in your colleagues?
LC: Compassion, integrity, dedication, collegiality and an ability to laugh at themselves.
What advice would you give a young student just starting out?
LC: Find a way to get involved at UBC… and step out of your comfort zone — both actions will centre you, and bring lots of fun, learning, and people into your life.
What is your greatest extravagance?
LC: Extravagance is not a word frequently associated with me — but I do appreciate a good single malt, and my current indulgence is Himalayan pink salt caramels.
What would you like to be remembered for?
LC: Compassion, integrity, dedication, collegiality and an ability to laugh at myself (see question 14).
What is your motto?
LC: Be humble yet bold.
What is the one question that you wished we asked but didn’t?
LC: "What’s it like to be a queer identified woman in the senior administration?"
For you what makes UBC different?
LC: UBC is different because of its spectacular setting, and importantly our relationship to the land and the Musqueam people.