Ngai Pindell is the Dean of the Peter A. Allard School of Law. He began his five-year term on November 8, 2021.
Prior to joining UBC, Dean Pindell completed a 21-year term at the William S. Boyd School of Law at the University of Nevada, where he held the title of International Gaming Institute Professor of Law. He also served as Vice-Provost and Special Advisor to the Executive and Vice-President. He was a Governor-appointed Commissioner for the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, and an appointee to the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee of the Law School Admission Council.
Dean Pindell received his BA in Economics from Duke University and his Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. More recently, his professional research and teaching interests focused on property law, wills and trusts, affordable housing, community development, and local government law.
In addition to his unwavering commitment to his Faculty and the university community, Dean Pindell also recognizes the need for the legal profession to reflect those in the community it serves and the diversity of Canadian society.
Q1. What quality do you most admire in a leader?
NP: Honesty, transparency, empathy, and the ability to inspire. Part of being a leader is setting a strategic vision to achieve your goals. I admire leaders who are able to be straightforward and transparent, not only about their present thought-process but also about the challenges that lie ahead. As a leader, it is so important to also be empathetic and inspirational – to bring people on board, get them excited about the road ahead, inspire them to become an active participant in your vision and help them imagine what is achievable.
Q2. What makes you laugh?
NP: My kids. I have two boys – nine and eleven. Their outlook on life comes from a very specific self-indulgent, and uninformed perspective – it’s wonderful! They have an ability to laugh at the silly things in life and ask questions that are both innocent and provocative. The simplicity of their joy is reassuring to me. They could be heading out the door on their way to school and suddenly spot a marble on the floor… and this simple distraction not only brings them incredible joy, but also leads to all kinds of hilarious outcomes and becomes a whole new adventure.
Q3. Who inspires you, and why?
NP: My mother has a special ability to ‘meet you where you are in the moment’. What I mean by that is, she has a gentle way of pushing me to be my best self without judgment or pressure. The push also comes with a solid reassurance that ‘you are ok where you are in life right now’. She always makes me feel good about myself and my choices. It made her an excellent elementary school teacher before she retired, as she worked with kids from all sorts of different backgrounds and abilities. She always ensured that her students felt supported, important, and successful.
Q4. For you, what makes UBC different?
NP: I’m new to Canada, I’m new to Vancouver, and I’m new to UBC. UBC has an impressive collection of accomplished individuals. UBC is a small city made up of so many interesting faculty, staff, and students performing at such a high level. It is an exceptional community whose members are supported to achieve excellence. This requires a robust infrastructure, a passionate student body, and a workforce who are aware of their impact both locally and globally. There is a commitment to communicate our collective achievement, and this commitment creates a palpable energy and enthusiasm on campus.
Q5. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned, in your career to date?
NP: Be flexible and open to new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to see the world from different perspectives, don’t be afraid to try new things, and most importantly, don’t be afraid to fail. Being told “no” can be challenging, but it only takes a handful of yesses to make a rewarding career. It takes a lot of courage and imagination to try new things, but it has the potential to open doors you may not have thought possible.
Q6. How do you like to recharge?
NP: I like to run, plus it’s a great way to explore Vancouver. It’s something I often do when I’m on vacation or travelling for work. Since moving to Vancouver, I’ve really enjoyed running through Pacific Spirit Park. Even in the winter, it’s such a pleasure to be alone with your thoughts in the forest and in the rain. The rain brings the forest to life and it’s so refreshing!
I also enjoy a good Netflix binge and watching movies with my kids.
Q7. What is the best advice you were ever given?
NP: Throughout my career, I’ve always sought the support and guidance of mentors. Some taught me to be inspirational, some taught me to spark the imagination of others, and some taught me how to carry myself and treat others in my community. One piece of advice I remember often is the importance of being gentle – to oneself and to others. We live complex lives which naturally affect our personal and professional interactions, and sometimes we cannot project our best selves. I have found this helpful to remember when dealing with challenging situations.
Q8. What do you value in your colleagues?
NP: Intellectual curiosity, ambition, community impact, and collaboration.
It’s invigorating to be in a room full of smart curious and ambitious people – they make you want to be a better person; they make you want to read what they are reading, and they push you to be more intellectually curious.
I appreciate colleagues who are ambitious and want to develop their ideas, teach others, and have a meaningful impact. I want to work with colleagues who are thoughtful about their audience when carrying out their work, and I try to surround myself with colleagues who believe that collaboration not only means working together, but also a willingness to provide assistance.
Q9. What do you hope will be your lasting impact at UBC?
NP: In a word, ‘community.’ I want to strengthen relationships and build a more cohesive law school community. I also want to be remembered as someone who helped the law school rediscover its community roots.
In the past five years, we’ve welcomed over 30 new faculty whom I’d like to see integrated into our community in a way that allows their personal experiences and viewpoints to shine. I want the law school to feel enriched by these new voices, ways of teaching and research pursuits. I’m enjoying the challenges of integrating the law school’s many voices and perspectives.
Q10. If you could have a super power, what would it be?
NP: Teleportation. As a Dean, my availability is limited and I would love to meet all of the people in both our Law School community, or UBC in general.
Outside of work, I’m keen to visit far-off places like Iceland, the Arctic Circle, and other northern parts of the globe. I’d love to teleport somewhere up north to see Aurora Borealis.
Q11. What is your vision for the Peter A. Allard School of Law for the next five years?
NP: I want to continue enhancing recognition and leadership, I want to rekindle in-person engagement, and I want to build our community.
Our faculty are already recognized both nationally and internationally as leaders in their unique fields of scholarship, but I would like to see more recognition as a unified law school – especially in collective fields like international law, business law, and human rights work.
I also want us to refamiliarize the ways we interacted in-person both socially and professionally pre-pandemic. I want us to reunite and re-engage in conferences, community engagement, and connections with other law schools.
Q12. As someone who is deeply committed to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), how can UBC benefit from your unique experience?
NP: My experience comes from my time living and working in the Unites States (US). British Columbia (and Canada, more broadly) has a different history than the US, so I’m still learning the local culture. While the type of conflicts in this part of the world are familiar, what is different and must be acknowledged is the unique contexts in which they arise.
In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve appreciated the concerted effort to better develop and communicate the story of race and indigeneity in British Columbia. It is important to work in an institution that not only values the contributions of diverse voices, but also fosters an environment where people are curious to learn from the diverse experiences of others. I am also mindful that while there are areas of intersection between EDI and decolonization, it is important to appreciate their different contexts and goals.
My hope is that I can build on the tremendous effort and experience of those who have been working in these areas for a long time. Being relatively new to the university, it’s my job to bring these important conversations to the surface fueled by a renewed sense of energy and imagination.
Interviewed by: Rivka Parris, UBC Internal Communications