Andrew Parr was appointed Associate Vice-President, Student Housing & Community Services in December 2019. His portfolio includes Student Housing, Food Services, UBC Bookstore, Conferences and Accommodation, Parking and Access, Child Care Services and Campus Mail. Prior to becoming AVP, he was the Managing Director of Student Housing and Hospitality Services (SHHS).
In his role, Andrew is focused on enhancing the academic and social experience for students and supporting the creation of a strong and fulsome campus community at both Vancouver and Okanagan campuses. This effort also encompasses a desire to drive sustainability, wellbeing, equity and inclusion within his portfolio.
Outside of work, Andrew is a west coast explorer and motorcycle enthusiast with a penchant for open-road adventure.
Q1. What quality do you most admire in a leader?
AP: Honesty and transparency. I admire leaders who listen, display emotional intelligence, and place trust in others. It’s about those human factors along with being consistent in your values and how you behave. I also value those who are willing to take risks and have empathy for different perspectives. Now, during COVID-19, there are so many stresses and challenges about coping with “the here and now” and the unknowns of our future; this is a time that true, influential, empathic and nimble leadership is critically important.
Q2. What makes you laugh?
AP: I love British comedy, such as Fawlty Towers and Blackadder. My kids also make me laugh. I am an avid motorcyclist and there are times when I am riding down a deserted highway with my earbuds in, and I am laughing as I sing at the top of my lungs. Fun, joy, and happiness are not frivolous words — they are essential ingredients that contribute to a healthy and successful life.
Q3. Who inspires you, and why?
AP: I’ve been at UBC for many years, and I’ve worked with many leaders who have inspired me. There are three names that stand out: Stephen Toope (former UBC President), Martha Piper (former UBC President), and Pierre Ouillet (former VP Finance, Resources and Operations). I recall that Stephen was an incredible listener who would invite directors to offer their perspective before he made significant decisions. Martha had such compassion and care for everyone in the community. Pierre inspired me through his ability to quickly understand the nuances of a situation, cut to the chase, and take clear and creative action to improve that situation.
Q4. For you, what makes UBC different?
AP: For me, it’s three things, 1) our dedication to sustainability and wellbeing in all forms, 2) our commitment to working towards true equity and inclusion, and 3) supporting the important and honourable cause of educating the next generation. I know this latter point is important to many staff within SHCS who choose to work at UBC to support this greater cause.
Q5. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned, in your career to date?
AP: I’ve learned a variety of lessons over the years — some from leaders I’ve worked with, and others from life itself. One key lesson I’ve learned is not to let conflict fester, but instead, deal with it head on as it arises. Some people think that ignoring conflict will make it go away, but that is not true — it can often make the situation worse for those directly involved and others on the periphery. More recently, I’ve learned that working from home has its ups and downs! Looking ahead, I expect we’ll see new opportunities for hybrid working conditions and shared work stations where employees split their time between remote and on-campus workdays.
Q6. How do you like to recharge?
AP: From the freedom that comes with motorcycling. I started riding a motorbike when I was 18. I now ride an adventure bike, and I love getting out into the wilderness along back roads with friends. Nature is my happy place. I also recharge by spending valuable time with family and friends.
Q7. What is the best advice you were ever given?
AP: I think back to Pierre once more, and a time when we were considering expanding some of the services within SHHS. I remember telling him that I wasn’t confident it would be financially viable. He said: “I am giving you permission to take a risk.” That allowed me to become more comfortable with having a “let’s try it” attitude.
Q8. What do you value in your colleagues?
AP: I am blessed with a leadership team who are dedicated, smart, and who truly take ownership of their areas of responsibility. They are also a lot of fun and challenge me daily.
Q9. What do you hope will be your lasting impact at UBC?
AP: Whenever we make a big decision as a unit I think about the legacy of that decision. I am proud to say we have achieved a lot over the last 10 years. For instance, we’ve added 4,500 student housing beds, making UBC the largest student housing operator in Canada. With over 14,000 residents, we operate over 40 food service locations, host a large number of conferences, camps and groups, and provide over 700 children with child care. All of this, while also being leaders in the retail (bookstore) and parking industries.
I am proud of the quality, scope, and scale of all the business units we operate on both campuses and believe a huge portion of the UBC community recognizes this quality. With the impact of COVID-19, we are now having to explore what this means for our services and UBC as a whole. But we are equipped for this challenge, and can use our entrepreneurial spirit to continue to support the student experience. I believe the truly integrated approach to how we function, and the common and shared culture within SHCS on both campuses, is a model for others to follow.
Q10. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
AP: To fly, like an eagle. My family and I often go to Denman Island and I love nothing more than getting up early, sitting with a cup of coffee, and watching the eagles soar above me.
Q11. How important is the student experience? What role does Student Housing & Community Services play in this?
AP: I think that our function is critical to the student experience, and the entire campus experience. From where people park and grab their lunch, to child care, to the UBC Bookstore and student accommodations, we play a critical part in so many aspects of daily life that has a direct and meaningful impact on the campus experience. We also know that our students are under increasing pressure and stress, so it’s important that we make life outside the classroom as positive and as smooth as possible. Things have changed in recent months but we have been responsive and I am excited to think of the ways in which we will continue to support our new and returning students this fall.
Q12. The portfolio has such a wide variety of functions from parking and campus mail to child care. What is the shared vision for Student Housing & Community Services at UBC?
AP: Although SHHS has existed for many years, the more recently formed SHCS (Student Housing & Community Services) is a new portfolio. We conducted a staff survey earlier this year and identified an opportunity to clarify our vision and purpose. We are so diverse, but we also have some common themes. We strive to be an employer of choice by creating an environment that allows our staff to thrive and do their best work. We also want to continue delivering outstanding services while meeting our financial mandates. Our portfolio is different from many others because we are solely ‘self-funded’ through revenues received from services provided. But we also have an objective to be as affordable as possible. This means we get to demonstrate entrepreneurial spirit in our work — and we get to be nimble and responsive to opportunity.
Interviewed by: Kate Hunter, UBC Internal Communications