UBC’s famous alumni

Seven grads who are making their mark on the world.

UBC’s famous alumni

Commerce alum Brian Wong speaks at the Silicon Valley Venture Summit. | Image: JD Lasica

Check out these notable names to see where your UBC degree could take you

UBC alumni go on to do incredible, world-changing things, and we’ve got the list to prove it. Graduating with a degree from one of the top 40 universities in the world carries a certain cachet that opens doors and tells people what you’re capable of.

These are just seven of UBC’s amazing alumni, working in areas as diverse as film, space exploration, politics, and non-profits.

Brian Wong
Founder and CEO | Kiip

Whip-smart UBC Sauder School of Business alumnus Brian Wong got his Bachelor of Commerce degree in 2009, at the tender age of 18. His professional career has followed the same explosive trajectory as his accelerated education – in 2010, after founding three other tech companies, Wong launched his mobile-advertising company, Kiip. The company allows brands to advertise in mobile games and apps by providing rewards to the user for levelling up and reaching milestones or goals.

After founding Kiip, Wong quickly made headlines in the tech community and was lauded as the youngest entrepreneur to ever raise venture capital when he secured hundreds of thousands in funding from investors. Take that, Mark Zuckerberg! Wong helms the company from its San Francisco headquarters, and oversees its five global offices.

Rick Hansen
CEO | Rick Hansen Foundation

Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion world tour shone a spotlight on the young philanthropist and athlete in 1985, when he ventured on a 40,000-km wheelchair journey, travelling across 34 countries and raising $26 million for spinal cord research and quality-of-life initiatives. He earned his Bachelor of Education from UBC in 1986, and was the first person with a physical disability to graduate with a degree in physical education from the university.

Since then he’s been a famous advocate for inclusivity and for people with disabilities. The Rick Hansen Foundation, established in 1988, has raised millions and touched the lives of people with disabilities through special programs, grants, research, online tools, and inspirational speaking events. UBC graduate students with a physical disability can apply for the $16,000 Rick Hansen Man in Motion Fellowship.

Belinda Wong
President | Starbucks China

For students chasing big corporate dreams, Starbucks is a white whale. The coffee giant is in over 60 countries and has annual revenues soaring in the billions. UBC alumna Belinda Wong joined Starbucks China in 2000 and worked her way up through senior leadership roles to be named president in May 2011.

She graduated from UBC’s Vancouver campus with a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1992, and has used her business savvy to grow Starbucks’ presence in China. For the past four years, she has ranked in the top 25 in Fortune China’s annual list of China’s most influential businesswomen.

Evangeline Lilly
Actress

You probably know her as Kate Austen from the TV series Lost, or maybe as the elf Tauriel from The Hobbit movies – but before she was a world-famous actress, she was a UBC student. Lilly got her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from UBC, a degree that may come in handy for her globetrotting, movie-star lifestyle.

In 2013 she put her Arts education to good use when she wrote her first book, titled The Squickerwonkers, the first in a graphic book series for children. Despite her foray into publishing, she’s still making time for her acting career, and will reprise her role as Hope van Dyne in the 2018 release of superhero movie Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada

Justin Trudeau followed in his father’s footsteps when he entered politics, and again when he became the 23rd Prime Minister of Canada, in 2015. Trudeau earned his Bachelor of Education from UBC in 1998, and worked as a teacher in Vancouver, BC, in the ensuing years, teaching French and math. He became more politically involved in the early 2000s, and in 2008, he won a spot as an MP for the Liberal Party, and went on to become the party’s leader in 2013.

Bjarni Tryggvason
Astronaut | Canadian Space Agency

Bjarni Tryggvason is the only UBC alum to travel into outer space – he did so in 1997, when he joined the crew on the Discovery space shuttle for mission STS-85. The 12-day mission explored changes in the earth’s atmosphere, and onboard the shuttle Tryggvason performed fluid dynamics experiments to examine sensitivity to spacecraft vibrations.

Tryggvason graduated from UBC in 1972 with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering Physics. In addition to his 21-year career with the Canadian Space Agency, he’s been an adjunct professor at the University of Western Ontario, a research associate with the National Research Council Canada, and an instructor with the International Test Pilots School.

In 2008 he started his own company, QDAC Systems, which produces electronic hardware products, provides supporting engineering design services, licenses its technology, as well as “designs and supplies intelligent data acquisition solutions for sensing of physical phenomena such as electromagnetism.”

Bing Thom
Architect | Bing Thom Architects

World-renowned architect Bing Thom has designed buildings all over the globe, including the remarkable Chan Centre for the Performing Arts on UBC’s Vancouver campus. Thom graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from UBC in 1966 and – after working for a year in Tokyo, Japan, and on various projects within Canada – set up his own firm, Bing Thom Architects, in Vancouver, in 1981. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in architecture, such as Arthur Erickson, and over the years rose to all-star status himself.

Latest Stories

Previous
Lily Takeuchi, UBC medical laboratory science

The diversity of a science degree

How one program fuses research, multiple interests, and career prep.
alumni

The diversity of a science degree

Find out how Medical Laboratory Science made this alum "adaptable for a variety of careers."
Elliot Bellis, Urban Forestry

The urban side of forestry

The student life and career prospects of a UBC forestry student.
student

The urban side of forestry

Urban Forestry student Elliot Bellis busts the stereotypes as he shares what his program is really like, and where his degree can take him.
Sara Amadi, UBC alumni

The global graduate

How a Land and Food Systems alum is wielding her degree around the world.
alumni

The global graduate

Find out how a UBC degree propelled this Bachelor of Science alumna on global adventures and a quest to join the fight against climate change.
Katherine Tourigny, UBC Psychology, UBC Track and Field

Carving a path to UBC Medicine

How research and campus involvement round out your degree.
alumni

Carving a path to UBC Medicine

Find out how this UBC Science undergrad reached her goal of entering Medicine – and travelled to Peru and Antarctica along the way.
peter higgins, purdys, ubc

Becoming a Chocolate Scientist

How a UBC degree was the pathway to Purdy's.
alumni

Becoming a Chocolate Scientist

Discovering his niche within the Faculty of Land and Food Systems led this alum to an exciting career with Purdy's Chocolates.
angela sunario, indonesia, ubc

Finding your university path

How societies, co-ops, and scholarships enrich your degree.
student

Finding your university path

"I promised myself to maximize the different opportunities available at UBC so I can pave my own road."
emmy chahal, ubc

UBC experiences: Travel and research

From New Zealand to Spain to the local community.
student

UBC experiences: Travel and research

"Initially I was planning to major in International Relations, but after a trip to New Zealand with Go Global, I switched to Cultural Studies."
joses akampurira, ubc engineering, ubc okanagan

Life in the School of Engineering

Transitioning to UBC and finding a community on the Okanagan campus.
student

Life in the School of Engineering

"I am proud to belong to UBC – the institution and the community. UBC is like family." – Joses Akampurira, 3rd year, Civil Engineering
next