Frank Laezza is UBC’s Vice-President, Finance and Operations (VPFO). He is responsible for leading the VPFO team in overseeing the stewardship of the university’s physical and financial assets, and the safety, risk and assurance functions across both campuses.

He serves as a member of UBC’s executive leadership team, and is a board member with both UBC Investment Management, which manages the endowment and staff pension plan, and UBC Properties Trust which develops and manages real estate assets for the benefit of the university.

Frank began his role with UBC in March 2023 after serving in leadership roles at a number of Australia’s post-secondary institutions, including Murdoch University, Technical and Further Education State Vocational College (NSW), the University of Technology in Sydney, and the University of New South Wales. 

He is a strong believer in connected leadership and is working to transform the VPFO into a strategic business partner to other faculties and departments. He aims to instill a culture where everyone embraces curiosity, possesses the financial knowledge to make informed choices, and takes ownership to drive positive, collective change.

Q1. What qualities do you most admire in a leader?

FL: I admire the ability to communicate a clear vision, and to inspire others to work towards a common goal. For me, effective leaders can articulate their ideas in a way that motivates and engages people, and they are able to build trust and cooperation among team members.  

I also admire connected leadership, which is a style I personally aspire to. A connected leader is someone with high levels of self-awareness – someone who authentically comes across as human, and who is not afraid to be vulnerable and to encourage collaboration and honest dialogue. A connected leader is someone who will elevate people to be the best version of themselves, and this is what I would like to develop and build in the VPFO at UBC.  

Q2. What makes you laugh?

FL: I’m a relatively happy person. Funny situations in everyday life can get me going—my family and friends are a constant source of joy and amusement. I like comedies, and I especially like sitcoms like Seinfeld or the Big Bang Theory.  

Q3. Who inspires you, and why?

FL: Jane Den Hollander, who served as Vice-Chancellor and President of Deakin University in Australia from 2010 to 2019 is a well-known and respected leader in higher education. During her tenure, she helped Deakin through a period of significant change and growth and oversaw transformation at the university. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Jane at Murdoch University, and I find her inspirational for her leadership skills, her innovation, and her focus on diversity and inclusion. 

Q4. For you, what makes UBC different?

FL: For me, coming from Australia, it’s impossible not to recognize the uniqueness of UBC’s location. With one campus sitting on the edge of the Pacific, surrounded by this rainforest and looking up at the Coast Mountains, and another within the incredible Okanagan region, this is a place to behold.

I also feel my team in the VPFO truly sets UBC apart. The scope, complexity and sophistication of this portfolio is quite unique. The university functions as its own municipality in many ways, with responsibilities for its own infrastructure, utilities, energy, etc. In the VPFO, we play a critical role in ensuring that UBC operates efficiently, safely and sustainably, which is essential for our long-term success. 

Q5. What is the most important lesson you’ve learned, in your career to date?

FL: No one achieves success alone – there is power in teamwork and collaboration. It’s so important to build strong relationships and work effectively with others if you want to achieve great things. Recognizing and being aware of what’s happening around me has also always been important. It allows me to stay informed, anticipate changes, identify opportunities, and adapt to various situations as they arise.

Q6. How do you like to recharge?

FL: One of my favourite ways to relax and rejuvenate is to indulge in baking sourdough bread or trying out new recipes in the kitchen, a hobby I've been passionate about long before it became trendy. 

I also enjoy watching YouTube cooking videos for inspiration and then putting my culinary skills to the test. 

At the weekend, I hit the gym with my partner. Once we've worked up a sweat, we love to explore a new café in the city, and undo the good work by sharing a few delicious pastries. 

I also just love traveling. It's such a fantastic way to unwind and recharge. Exploring new places always leaves me feeling refreshed and invigorated. Plus, it's a great opportunity to create wonderful memories and broaden my horizons.

Q7. What is the best advice you were ever given?

FL: I have been learning and developing professionally and personally for many decades now and four key pieces of advice that have resonated with me throughout this time:

First: be true to yourself. I believe it’s important to be authentic and honest in all aspects of life – in your personal relationships as well as professional settings.  

Second: focus on what you can control. So much of what we manage on a day-to-day basis is outside of our control, but we do have control over our thoughts, actions, and reactions. Focusing on these things can help us stay positive and resilient in the face of challenges.  

Third is that life-long learning is crucial for personal and professional growth. Life is so much richer when we stay curious, seek out new experiences, and constantly learn and improve.  

Lastly, and I think this is something many of us struggle with, is that self-care is essential. It’s so important to prioritize physical, mental, and emotional well-being—to exercise, eat healthily, rest, and maintain a balance in life.  

Q8. What do you value in your colleagues?

FL: Communication, collaboration, initiative, and a positive attitude. I love to work with people who can clearly and respectfully share their thoughts and ideas, and who can work together effectively towards common goals.

I also value those who are proactive, identifying areas for improvement and new opportunities, and those who are supportive of others and contribute to a positive work environment. 

Q9. What do you hope will be your lasting impact at UBC?

FL:I envision leaving a legacy of impactful leadership, fostering a culture of thoughtful decision-making and proactive change across the university. I believe that for anyone to succeed, it's crucial to make sound decisions or learn from the not-so-great ones. Therefore, I aim to collaborate across faculty and departments to instill a culture where everyone embraces curiosity, possesses the financial knowledge to make informed choices, and takes ownership to drive positive collective change.

Q10. If you could have a superpower, what would it be?

FL:My dream superpower would have to be the gift of enhanced cognitive abilities. I can see myself as a relentless learner, swiftly absorbing knowledge from various disciplines and realms of expertise. I’d be able to navigate life's challenges with ease, unraveling complexities, devising ingenious solutions, undertaking ground-breaking ideas and initiatives, and making meaningful contributions to shape a brighter future for society.

Q11. UBC has just projected a healthy financial position in Budget 2024/25, despite the many challenges facing universities right now. What is UBC doing to ensure its long-term financial stability?

FL: Having only been here for a year, I have to recognize my predecessors and the careful and conservative fiscal management that UBC has long practiced—it’s given us the room to manoeuvre that is the envy of many. It’s my duty now to use that elbow room to enable university-wide financial decision making that can best position us to continue to deliver balanced budgets while thriving as top-ranked university. 

Q12. What is your own vision for the VPFO portfolio and its role in supporting UBC’s academic mission?

FL: As I've had a chance to meet people across the university, I've come to realize just how deeply the culture of helping each other runs at UBC. In the VPFO we’re working hard to direct that enthusiasm for service into a collective transformation to working as strategic business partners—I want the VPFO to work closely alongside people across UBC to help guide, advise, and while ensuring we have the right services to support them. I can imagine a future where people come to UBC to see and learn from how we run our university.

Interviewed by: Meadhbh Monahan, UBC Internal Communications

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