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Great Trek 50th Anniversary Time Capsule
2023 Academic Experience Survey Results

2023 Academic Experience Survey Results

You spoke up, and we listened! The results are in from the 2023 Academic Experience Survey (AES), our annual survey about how students are feeling about aspects of student life. The AES results guides our advocacy for the year and this year some key areas we’re going to focus on are:

  • Affordability
  • Student well being, health and wellness

We were able to move the needle forward in some areas, but there is more work to be done. Download the report and find out more.

Shaping the Campus – War Memorial Gym

By Sheldon Goldfarb

After the Great Trek when students won the victory and convinced the government to pay the money needed to resume construction of the Point Grey campus, they realized the victory was not complete. There were academic buildings and a library, but virtually nothing for athletics.

So in the early years at Point Grey the students took the initiative and raised money for playing fields, a stadium, and also the first gymnasium, so the basketball team and others could play some home games and not always have to be trekking downtown to play in gymnasiums there.

To build the first gym, the students incorporated themselves for the first time, and in 1928 the Alma Mater Society became an officially registered society under the BC Societies Act. By 1929 there was a new gym, where the Buchanan complex is now, and it served the students well for two decades.

But after the Second World War it was thought that something larger and more modern was needed. There was also a push to create a memorial for those students who had given their lives in the war and in the First World War too: 169 in the Second, 78 in the First. These two aims came together in 1945 as the plan to build a War Memorial Gym took shape.

Mostly the students led the way. One of the new student clubs, a quirky one called the Jokers, held offbeat fundraising events: buy an egg and throw it at us, that sort of thing. Also a roller skating marathon, for which the slogan was “Break a Limb! Support the Gym!”

But one letter-writer to the Ubyssey said, Why is it up to the students to do this? Why is there no public money? And eventually the government came through with $200,000, but the students still ended up paying about half the cost, not just through quirky fundraising events, but by agreeing to an increase in their AMS fees. The Ubyssey editorialized that eventually the students would tire of funding the University’s athletic facilities, but in fact the students approved funding for the first Aquatic Centre in the 1970s, and as recently as 2017 approved a fee to help pay for the new Recreation Centre.

Fundraising and construction delays slowed completion of the gymnasium project, but eventually, on February 23, 1951 it opened with a basketball game, at which AMS President Nonie Donaldson threw in the first ball.

The War Memorial Gym continues in existence to this day, though it has been supplemented by other facilities on campus. Over the years, besides being the venue for basketball games and other sports, it has been used for student registration (before that all went online), for graduation ceremonies and of course Remembrance Day ceremonies. It has also hosted concerts by the likes of Frank Zappa, Burton Cummings, and the Spirit of the West. Notable speakers have drawn audiences there, including Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry and the preacher Billy Graham, and the comedy basketball team, the Harlem Globetrotters, used to make regular appearances.

The University has been talking about replacing WMG, since after all it is more than 70 years old, but still it soldiers on as the oldest remaining athletic facility funded by the students and as an example of how students helped build the campus.

Media Volunteers for Welcome Back BBQ

AMS Events is looking for photo and video volunteers to capture the excitement of Welcome Back BBQ 2022. If you are interested in volunteering apply for an AMS Events Media Pass. Looking forward to seeing your stuff!

Celebrating Black Excellence: Tshenolo Mmono

Tshenolo (he/him; they/them) is a driven International Relations and Economics student by day and talented make-up artist by night. Hailing from Gaborone Botswana, Tshenolo has grown up an avid learner and creative, navigating mediums like photography, painting, and makeup all while remaining a keen UBC student. 


Yet Tshenolo shared that their self-expression was not always what it is today, stating “being assigned male at birth I was not expected to want to play with makeup.” Despite various social norms and expectations Tshenolo remember a time at age 14 stating “I wanted to wear lipstick, do my eyebrows, and apply eyeshadow, so I just did.” They recalled the baby steps taken on their early makeup journey, first starting out with tinted lip balm and working their way up to the full-blown LOOKS we can see on their instagram today.


Tshenolo shared sincere gratitude for the ability to feel safe during experimentation with makeup at a young age stating that “I know that there are so many people around the world who would feel completely unsafe.” Such a reality inspired Tshenolo even more, to continue to push the rigid boundaries of gender and makeup that have long restricted people from expressing their true selves. 


When I asked Tshenolo thier favorite look they pointed me towards a breathtaking blended electric blue eye look on their Instagram page. However, the look was not only viewable stunning, but an expression of Tshenolo’s state of mind at the time.  They described that they were then experiencing a dark point in their life. Yet with the makeup, Tshenolo described “I could look in the mirror and see some brightness, even though I was at a low.”


Beyond makeup, Tshenolo advocates for unapologetically going for what you want. This was made apparent in making the difficult decision to switch from majoring in Economics to International Relations after being unhappy in their education. Tshenolo, shared difficult experiences navigating expectations of success as a university student, eager to find a balance between individual agency and finding your place in society.


Despite anxieties over what the future may hold, Tshenolo emphasized the importance of “taking inventory on past achievements,” and always remembering to “trust the process.” In giving advice to those pursuing new crafts, they stated “underestimating yourself is one of the biggest barriers to growth” emphasizing the importance of believing in yourself and your individual craft.


In the future, Tshenolo has an aspiration of creating a youtube channel to share their makeup journey with a wider audience. In the meantime, Tshenolo will continue to express their creativity through makeup and photography amongst friends and colleagues while inspiring many others to do the same.

– Lilly Callender


Celebrating Black Excellence: Njamba Koffi

Njamba Koffi, International Relations and Creative Writing student has long abided by the Mark Twain quotation, “ I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Njamba like many others, views education as a manifestation of life experience guided by self
reflection – not something that is obtained by a degree or diploma. Such an outlook for Njamba has been acquired through his lived experiences as a refugee, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo and raised in camps in Malawi and Swaziland.

Putting it lightly, Njamba has been deeply involved in the UBC community, being the Co-representative of the African Studies Minor Program as well as the President of the African Awareness Initiative. The work of himself and colleagues has been instrumental in bolstering representation of African scholars and influencing the discourse on Africa at UBC. Such accomplishments show the power of student advocacy and collaboration. Yet, Njamba emphasized the continued need for advocacy as African Studies remains “outright one of the
most underfunded programs at UBC.”

When I asked Njamba about why he chose International Relations, he told me that his experiences living in refugee camps as a child led him to see the world through “new lenses.” As a result, Njamba wanted to pursue a deeper understanding of the global forces at play which influenced his own personal displacement and that of others. He told me, “in addition to trying to learn my identity I am also trying to understand the world itself.” Yet such an understanding was influenced by the Western and Eurocentric nature of the International Relations program and UBC itself. Yet Njamba “takes it as it comes” as he shares his “intention was to learn not to be in school.”

When I asked Njamba what advice he would give to himself before he started his university journey, he laughed and humbly shared that he would simply congratulate himself. Njamba shared that he was proud that he did not allow himself to get wrapped up in the hysteria of grades and competition. In doing so, Njamba safeguarded his well being and mental health allowing him to do the things he loved such as poetry, writing, and music, all while navigating his identity of being a “refugee and Black man in North America.” Njamba never saw himself as a writer. In fact, he mentioned that the very first time he considered himself an author was when he was holding a hold of his book, “Refuge-e: The Journey Much Desired,” in his hands. Yet, influenced by the realities of the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015 and his own personal journey, Njamba has spent years creating a memoir which details his lived realities as a refugee.

Njamba’s book details his journey of resilience, navigating relationships, school, and life in general while growing up in a refugee camp. He shared with me he hoped his book would contribute to the discourse on forced migration and refugees, as well as educate people on the present lived realities of forcefully displaced people around the world. Njamba’s book can be found at Indigo , Amazon , Barnes & Noble , Apple books and more. Keep an eye out for his poetry ontology, children’s book, and young adult fiction works coming out sometime within the next couple years.


– Lilly Callender