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Wednesday, April 24, 2002

  • Praise for environment department
  • High schoolers compete in French
  • This week's staff positions
Chris Redmond

It's now called Administrative Professionals Day

Praise for environment department

The department of environment and resource studies survived a crisis six years ago, when half its professors retired at once, and is now offering "high quality" programs with overworked faculty.

So says a report on its activity, presented to UW's senate this month as one of four academic program reviews. (The other three will be reported in the Daily Bulletin in the coming days.)

[Full-colour cover]

The winter issue of Alternatives, based in the environmental studies faculty and particularly the ERS department, deals with children's health.

ERS at Waterloo "was the first, and for many years the only, undergraduate environmental studies program in Canada", the report notes. "The ERS program has two goals: (1) seeking sustainability and equity, by analyses of environmental problems and design of a world in which faculty and students would want to live, and (2) learning how to learn, by emphasizing group work and self-directed projects. ERS markets itself as using a transdisciplinary approach to reflect a belief that environmental issues require many perspectives and approaches."

The program review -- done by a team of two people from another university and one from inside UW -- notes some of the department's distinctive features, including the WatGreen program, the journal Alternatives, its environmentalist-in-residence, an exchange program with Australia, and combined programs with Niagara College in St. Catharines.

The report says faculty research "concentrates on three themes: integrated analysis of human and ecological systems, theoretical and applied perspectives; issues of adaptive management, environmental planning and governance; and, ethical and conceptual concerns related to the pursuit of sustainability, ranging from community to international scales. . . .

"A survey of alumni in 1999 indicated a positive assessment of the program, with the most positive characteristics being the co-op experience, flexibility in the program, critical thinking, and independent work. Students also cited the following as the most valuable aspects of the program: multidisciplinary approach, environmental assessment courses and certificate, the independent projects in third and fourth year, presentation skills, and role playing."

The review team reported that ERS has "a national and international reputation" and that "it is not an exaggeration to place the ERS Department . . . in the top category of Environmental Studies programs across the nation. Furthermore, many university educators in environmental studies look to this department for leadership." The review commended the ERS faculty for their "consultative approach in course development" and said, "It is this this type of attention to students' needs and concerns that has allowed the high quality of the courses to be maintained."

The normal teaching load is 4 term courses each academic year. ERS faculty also are involved in advising upper-year students on their project work and supervising graduate students. Says the report: "In 1996, under the early retirement program, 5 of 11 ERS faculty retired. By fall 2000, the number of faculty was 10, representing a variety of disciplines and professions. The review team concluded that the ERS faculty are heavily overloaded, and that the load is too much to sustain over the long run. It recommended that ERS hire two additional faculty, and that current faculty re-organize their teaching schedules to allow more time for research.

"The review team expressed concern about a substantial number of courses not offered for several consecutive years and not scheduled to be offered in the foreseeable future. This situation was a source of frustration and disillusionment for students who were attracted to the program because of an interesting array of courses which they assumed would be available. The undergraduate students identified this situation as a major concern."

The review also suggested more strength in the department in "the more humanity-oriented social science disciplines and in disciplines that focus on pedagogy", more cooperation with the biology department in the teaching of ecology, and better lab and computer facilities for students. It said there is a particular need for an updated ecology and field studies laboratory.

Responding to these comments, department chair Susan Wismer said, according to the final report, that "the non-offering of courses has been one impact of the 5 retirements under SERP. With new faculty hired since SERP, it has taken awhile to determine which mix of existing and new courses would be taught by them. ERS expects to complete the process of eliminating courses unlikely to be offered by 2002-2003. As part of a Faculty-wide initiative to reduce the number of courses with low enrolment, ERS will examine its program to ensure that faculty teaching resources are concentrated in areas of high student demand. . . .

"ERS reached a critical point in 1996, when 5 of 11 faculty retired under the early retirement program. Five new faculty have since been hired, and the programs are being modified to allow available resources to be concentrated in a way in which they can best support both the undergraduate and Masters programs. Action to be taken in light of the review process has the potential to enhance the quality of a program judged by the review team to be of very high quality with both a national and international reputation."

High schoolers compete in French -- from the UW news bureau

High school students will be demonstrating their language skills in the 29th annual French Contest at the University of Waterloo today.

About 175 students registered in French courses at schools in southwestern Ontario will write the exam, sponsored by UW's department of French studies. The senior students will be tested on their ability to understand and speak French, as well as written expression.

Meanwhile, at WLU

More than 300 students from 40 Ontario high schools are writing the new Laurier Science Challenge, "Ontario's only comprehensive science exam", this morning. "The two-part examination tests the students' knowledge and problem-solving skills in biology, chemistry, kinesiology, mathematics, physics and psychology. The first part is multiple-choice and the second part consists of essay questions. The Laurier Science Challenge is designed to encourage teens to study mathematics and science, and to consider the possibility of a career in the sciences."
Advancing from preliminary tests, they are the top students of the 68 participating schools from 11 district school boards. Prizes will be awarded May 16 at an awards banquet on the UW campus.

The three-hour exam consists of an oral interview, a dictation, reading and listening comprehension, a cultural component and a written language test. The exam will take place in the Arts Lecture Hall and the Modern Languages building. Volunteer students, faculty and staff from French studies, along with many high school teachers, will conduct the interviews and mark the exam.

The top prize is a two-week course and home stay in France, donated by Red Leaf Student Programs/Tours Inc. of Toronto, and a return flight to France funded by donations. Second prize is a cash award of $1,000. Third prize is $500, donated by the Canadian Federation of University Women, Kitchener-Waterloo.

Contest organizers have expressed their gratitude to the Vari Foundation of Toronto for supporting most of the cash awards. As well, they are grateful for contributions from corporations, institutions and foundations that have donated $100 or more to fund cash prizes, plaques and dictionary prizes for individual winners placing in the contest's top one-third.

Also happening . . .

Spring term tuition fees are due today if paid by cheque. Pay by bank transfer, and you've got until April 29.

The theme tonight for the weekly gay and lesbian discussion group is "Gay and Lesbian Issues in the Educational System" (7 p.m., Humanities room 373).

"Come and help us celebrate the closing of one year and the beginning of a new one," says an invitation to the tastefully named "Federation of Students Kiss Up/Kiss Off Party", scheduled for tomorrow starting at 4:00 in the Bombshelter pub. It's a reception at which the past year's Fed executive can say farewell and the new executive can greet the people they'll be working with over the coming year. Information and RSVPs: ext. 5248.

Reminder: the bookstore, the UW Shop and Techworx in South Campus Hall will be closed for year-end inventory tomorrow and Friday. The computer store and Techworx in the Student Life Centre will be closed Friday only.

A webmasters' session about the new "gold standard" for UW web pages is scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. in Davis Centre room 1302. Jesse Rodgers in information and public affairs, ext. 3874, can provide more information.

This week's staff positions

"University Policy 18," says the human resources department, "provides maximum opportunity for promotion of regular, internal staff members. Those interested in applying for an available position are invited to call Human Resources at ext. 2524 for more information or are welcome to visit during regular working hours to view a detailed job description. Human Resources is located in the General Services Complex, Room 130. A current resume is required with your application.

"Due to the number of applications received, we regret that we can not respond to external applicants who apply to the vacancies listed below unless an interview is scheduled.

"If there are no qualified internal applications, a decision may be made, no earlier than seven working days from the job posting, to seek external candidates. All applications received after this decision will be treated on an equal basis, without consideration of the internal status of the candidate."

On this week's list:

Full job descriptions are available on the human resources web site.

And more from HR: "The university welcomes and encourages applications from the designated employment equity groups: visible minorities, women, persons with disabilities, and aboriginal people. For more information call ext. 2524."



April 24, 1996: The senate finance committee meets, and hears that for the first time the parking department will be expected to make a profit for UW.

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