Inaugurated in 2015, the UBC Public Scholars Initiative (PSI) is designed to support UBC doctoral students as they strive for purposeful social contribution, produce new and creative forms of scholarship and dissertations, and explore diverse career pathways. With the PSI, UBC seeks to assist PhD students as they rise to address complex challenges in new, collaborative, and engaged ways.

The fundamental approach to doctoral education has not changed significantly since it was instituted in the early 19th century as a means to regenerate the professoriate, yet the world has changed immeasurably. Most of the problems facing the world now are often very difficult, if not impossible, to solve by a single lens or a single hand, and most PhD graduates now pursue multiple careers outside of the academy where they contribute to the public good in ways that far surpass their disciplinary training. Whether situated inside or outside the academy, 21st century PhD graduates are needed to help discover, integrate and mobilize new knowledge using collaborative approaches with partners in other academic disciplines, communities, and organizations outside the academic sector. The goal of the PSI is to highlight and address that need.

As a pan-university undertaking, the PSI may be the first of its kind in moving beyond both generic skills training and extracurricular experience, to an integrative approach to doctoral education that supports diverse forms of collaborative scholarship and new, innovative forms of scholarly products as components of the PhD qualification itself. In encouraging this approach, UBC is attesting that these forms of knowledge generation and mobilization should be rigorous, assessed, and valued as integral components of the work required for its highest degree.


Numbering 150 over four years, PSI Scholars are engaged with more than 100 distinct partnerships in over 30 countries with other scholars, think tanks, communities, corporations, civil and governmental agencies, and others. Hailing from 10 different Faculties, what unites PSI Scholars is their unbridled passion to contribute to the public good through rigorous scholarship.