Marcia Buchholz was appointed UBC’s Vice-President, Human Resources in April 2020. Prior to that she was Managing Director, Human Resources Advisory Partnerships, Central Operational Services, and HR Professional Standards.

Prior to joining UBC, Marcia held various senior administrative roles including Associate Vice-President, Human Resources at the University of Calgary; Senior Managing Consultant — HR Strategy and Transformation at IBM Canada; Vice-President, Human Resources at Jayman; Human Resources Outsourcing — CIBC Global Client Delivery Executive at EDS (Hewlett Packard); Executive Director, Lifeworks EFAP & Wellness Programs and concurrently National Director, Human Resources at Ceridian.

In these roles, she provided strategic leadership for large companies and institutions, and led strategic planning processes, focused on increasing wellbeing initiatives, facilitating business transformation and process improvements.

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

MB: Courage. I respect those leaders who speak up for themselves and for others, and to say what needs to be said. Courage supports the need to lead others when you may not have the answers yourself; to make tough decisions and hold people accountable. Courage to action and lead change with a mindset of continuous improvement, rather than settling for the status quo. And, the courage to solicit feedback from others, and to actually hear what they are saying.

Q2. What makes you laugh?

MB: Lots of things make me laugh, however in the past year it’s really been my 3-year-old grandson, Beau. His take on the world is delightful. Conan O’Brien is my long-time favourite comedian. I will also add that Andrew Szeri (Provost and Vice-President, Academic, UBC Vancouver) has a wicked sense of humour and can always make me laugh.

Q3. Who inspires you, and why?

MB: Lots of different people inspire me for many different reasons. From business leaders to authors, from chefs to humanitarians, musicians to designers, I am inspired by their talents.

Q4. For you, what makes UBC different?

MB: Well, certainly UBC has the most beautiful campuses in Canada. I also feel the culture at UBC is very positive and inclusive. In particular, I see the authenticity and commitment of our leaders to make real and sustainable change. Examples would be the commitments to the Inclusion Action Plan, to anti-racism initiatives, the Indigenous Strategic Plan, and UBC's Climate Emergency Response. These are not just tick-box exercises. You can sense the passion and enthusiasm of those leading these strategies and their teams, as well as the UBC community.

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

MB: There are many important lessons I’ve learned over the years. I’m not sure that one is more important than another. They all have applications for different reasons. However, if I had to choose one, it would be to make one’s own decisions, and own them. People will always freely give you their opinions, however you alone need to decide what rings true for you. At the end of the day, you have to be accountable for, and own, your decisions – right or wrong.

Q6. How do you like to recharge?

MB: I like to cook and bake, and I find this activity very therapeutic in helping to redirect my state of mind. My husband and I like to take walks with our dog and get outdoors whenever possible. In Vancouver, the parks are absolutely breath-taking so it's not hard to find some great locations. My son also lives in Vancouver and often takes me to explore notable spots, neighbourhoods, and the city's food scene. Pre-COVID, retail therapy was also a “go-to” activity, however considerably different now. I am an avid reader and usually plow through a book a week – typically murder mysteries.

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

MB: The advice that most resonates throughout the years for me is “stick and stay, and make it pay.” While it’s a bit gimmicky, it speaks to perseverance, commitment, and dedication. There are many times over the years where a situation has seemed untenable, or the challenges felt insurmountable. It’s always easy to walk away when the going gets tough, however the rewards of giving it your all, even if you fail, outweigh those of walking away.

Q8. What do you value in your colleagues?

MB: I value the opportunity to share and discuss ideas. I value frank discussion and transparency. I value the opportunities to connect as people, and to support each other in these very challenging roles. I value the diversity of their opinions and ideas, and their unique personalities, and their perspectives about UBC.

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

MB: It is my hope to bring change over the next few years that help to transform the way that Human Resources provides support to the institution. It is also important to me to build a strong, cohesive HR community, whereby we have provided significant opportunities for professional development and elevate the practice at UBC.

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

MB: It would probably be shapeshifting for no other reason than to see what it would be like to be an animal, or bird, or plant.

Q11. UBC is going through significant change right now, with the impact of COVID-19. What opportunities do you think this brings, for how we work at the university?

MB: COVID-19 is propelling us to rethink and reset our traditional approaches to work. We are still considering what the future of work at UBC will look like, but I don’t expect that we’ll return entirely to how we’ve worked prior to COVID-19. As we develop these new approaches and harness new technologies at the university, I also think it’s important to acknowledge our faculty and staff for the way in which they have responded to the changes brought about by COVID-19. UBC has a community of faculty and staff who are truly dedicated to its academic mission. I feel privileged to work with them.

Interviewed by: Kate Hunter, UBC Internal Communications

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