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5 things to know about new University of Michigan President Santa Ono

Santa Ono
Santa Ono will be the next president of the University of Michigan. (Courtesy of the University of Michigan)

ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan has selected Santa Ono to be its next president

His first day at the helm will be October 13, according to a university news release. He is currently the president and vice chancellor at The University of British Columbia. 

Related: New University of Michigan President Santa Ono hailed for engaging students

Here are five to know about the university’s next leader:  

1. He says engaging with students keeps him young

At UBC, Ono, 59, was seen crowd surfing the student section during a football game. When he was the president at the University of Cincinnati, he would get social media messages from students when a vending machine was out of Cheez-Its.  

He has a large social media following including 22,000 followers on his Twitter account at UBC and over 60,000 followers on his University of Cincinnati account. He hasn’t tried TikTok yet. 

Ono said he knows the importance of a strong athletic program. He said he has even given athletes pep talks at halftime before.

“I mean, these are difficult roles to be a scholar athlete, you're taking classes and you're training and you're traveling, they deserve the community and the president's support.”

2. He wants to make college more affordable. 

Ono said he wants to increase college affordability and student access to higher education. He said he will also get to know lawmakers’ concerns, aspirations and dreams so that the university can “serve Michiganders.” 

Lawmakers recently passed a state budget that will invest about $55 million more in university operations funding than before.

Ono said during a question-and-answer session with the media that he will be deeply engaged with student concerns, saying student activists often move universities forward at a faster pace and “usually, they’re on the mark.”

3. He cares about student mental health.

Ono has spoken publicly about his own struggles with mental health and advocates for more support for those experiencing mental health challenges.

Ono has shared practical tips on how parents can support their college students’ mental health by writing an op-ed for the Vancouver Sun in September 2020. He said he knows that students have experienced a “sense of isolation” at times during the pandemic. 

“I will pledge to you today that as president, I will make certain that this university is always there for you on good days and bad, so that you can succeed and thrive to maximum potential that you’ve demonstrated to us from the moment you expressed an interest in coming to Michigan,” he said Wednesday. 

4. He wants to address climate change.

An article from the UBC student newspaper, The Ubyssey, reported that Ono had an “open door” policy to those who were concerned about climate change issues. 

In his remarks Wednesday, Ono said U-M has the resources to make a difference on climate change,

“We are and we should be more cognizant than ever of the irreparable damage that we are doing to our planet with this climate emergency,” Ono said. 

5. He will be paid close to $1 million. 

Ono will receive a base salary of $975,000, subject to annual increases at the board’s discretion, a U-M news release said. 

He will also receive $350,000 in deferred compensation starting after the first year. His benefits will also include housing in the President’s House on campus, an expense allowance and a car and driver.

The other candidates for the job are not publicly known. The Board of Regents hired a firm and had a search committee made up of 18 members. 

Ono said he has listened to every one of the listening sessions the university had with the community during the selection process and watched two years worth of Board meetings including public comment. 

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