Director farewell letter from Professor Alix Ohlin

In June, Professor Alix Ohlin completed her service as Director of UBC Creative Writing. She will continue to teach and write within the School. Ohlin provided a farewell message for the Creative Writing community that we have shared below.

Dear UBC Creative Writing community:

It has been my great privilege to serve as the inaugural Director of the School of Creative Writing.

Through the hard work of our generous and talented faculty and our wonderful staff and students, Creative Writing has evolved remarkably over the past five years. We’ve engaged in substantial and invigorating conversations about the climate of our School, and challenged ourselves to find the most innovative and inclusive ways to teach creative writing.

We’ve built new courses and hired new faculty in Indigenous writing, speculative fiction, graphic forms, and writing for video games. Assistant Professor Billy-Ray Belcourt has led our efforts towards Indigenous engagement. With the hiring of Nalo Hopkinson and the incipient founding of the Centre for the Black Speculative Imagination, the School looks forward to increased prominence in the field of speculative fiction. Currently we’re engaged in an undergraduate curriculum renewal project, seeking to improve the experience of all our undergraduate students.

We’ve advanced a number of initiatives related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. Faculty, staff, and students have participated in workshops with the office of Equity & Inclusion, creative facilitator Jackson Wai Chung Tse, anti-racist educator Felicia Rose Chavez, and poet and critic Paisley Rekdal. Our newly formed EDI committee has been active in programming events and spaces to support marginalized students. We’re working to lower barriers to access, offering fee waivers to the MFA program for Indigenous applicants, and professional development fellowships for IBPOC students.

We continually seek to build bridges for students from the academic world to their future as writers, offering opportunities for artistic and professional development. In addition to long-established programs such as New Shoots and Brave New Play Rites, recent innovations include Young Adulting magazine and the Scripted Media Career Accelerator project.

Of course, in 2020, the Program evolved into an independent unit within the Faculty of Arts, becoming the UBC School of Creative Writing. This new identity showcases our past achievements and our expansive future: new media, narrative medicine, and climate writing are just some of the possibilities to explore.

Despite all these thrilling changes, I’m most proud of how our community of faculty, students, and staff came together to support one another throughout the experience of the pandemic, centering the practice of writing as a space to build connection and resilience during challenging times.

I’ll always be grateful for the support I received when I arrived at UBC, and for the warmth and dedication of my colleagues. I’m inspired by everything that’s happening here at the School, and I look forward to seeing the next chapter unfold under Annabel’s brilliant leadership.

Best wishes,

Alix Ohlin
UBC School of Creative Writing