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Monday, February 10, 2003

  • Another $1 million raised by call centre
  • Productivity report touts universities
  • Pixels in the big picture
  • The week before reading week
Chris Redmond

Two million pilgrims at Mount Arafat

[Three good friends]

Warrior cheerleaders -- seen posing at the national cheerleading championships last fall -- will host high school teams in the Ontario Cheerleading Federation regional championships in the Physical Activities Complex next Sunday.

Another $1 million raised by call centre

Student callers are reaching about half of UW's alumni and other potential givers by phone each year, with the result that pledges to the university are going up steadily, according to Bob Copeland, manager of the annual fund.

About 35,000 alumni, parents, graduating students, retirees, and friends of the university are reached annually, he said -- about 47 per cent of the 78,000 names on the contact list. With new software that has now been installed, the rate is expected to go up, and callers will reach as many as 46,000 people annually.

During the fall term, students at the "call centre" in South Campus Hall reached 11,280 "prospects" and got gifts and pledges from 3,478 of them, or 31 per cent. The average pledge: $292 -- which meant a total of $1,016,044 raised.

And that happened following what Copeland calls "a meltdown" of the old software system, which just wasn't coping with UW's needs. As a result, most of the fall term work was done using paper records rather than a computer system to help with efficient calling.

Copeland says it takes an average of seven calls to reach an individual alumnus. Typically there are 15 students at work in the call centre five nights a week, reaching alumni and other potential UW donors. Among them is anthropology student Sarah Swingler, who reached a milestone recently: she's collected $250,000 in alumni pledges.

For May through December 2002 -- the first eight months of the current fiscal year -- UW raised $3.6 million in "new cash and pledges" under the umbrella of the annual fund, which is part of the larger Campaign Waterloo along with larger one-time gifts. "This represents an increase of 24% year-over-year," says Copeland. "A significant part of this gain can be attributed to new cash and pledges raised from the highly successful UWAlumni@Microsoft campaign." The faculty-staff Keystone Campaign also helped.

Copeland said there may be a drop in what's received during the winter term, as the new computer system is put into use, "but we remain optimistic that our annual goals will be reached." Winter activities include continued calling to alumni from optometry, engineering, applied health sciences, math and St. Jerome's, and an appeal to parents of students that will begin with a mailing this month.

A grand opening and open house event for the call centre will likely be held sometime this term.

Productivity report touts universities -- a news release from the University of Toronto

Increasing investment in higher education and recognizing the importance of cities are two of the key recommendations in the first annual report of the Ontario Task Force on Competitiveness, Productivity and Economic Progress, chaired by dean Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

The task force, a group of industry and academic leaders appointed by the premier, also warns that Ontario's economic development is at a crossroads. While Ontario's economic performance compares well with most other regions of the world, the task force found a "prosperity gap" of nearly $6,000 per capita compared with our peer group of U.S. states.

"We can't be satisfied with that performance when we know that these states draw on essentially the same resources as we have and achieve much higher per capita GDP -- which translates into higher wages and a higher standard of living," said Martin. Ontarians must raise their aspirations, he added, and seek a place among the leading economic regions of the world.

To achieve this, Martin and colleagues recommend investing in education at all levels. Business benefits from the availability of skilled workers, researchers and managers, Martin said, and the ideas that spill out of universities and colleges improve and create products, services and processes and lead to whole new companies and industries.

"Post-secondary education is a key predictor of productivity and prosperity. However, overall capital spending, especially in universities, in select U.S. states is double that in Ontario," Martin added. "Our research also notes that the U.S. confers significantly more master's degrees than Ontario does, including a striking number of business degrees."

Sheldon Levy, vice-president (government and institutional relations) at U of T, said he is extremely pleased with the task force recommendations related to education. "What I like most about this report is that the strength of the advocacy is not so much about giving universities more resources but about the importance of a strong university system for the overall economic health of the province," Levy said.

"The whole report reinforces that theme and explains why strengthening the university system is good for everyone in the province. It's gratifying to see that universities have such an important role to play and that the innovation and generation of ideas that come from universities is so high up in terms of our economic health."

Another key component of the report revolved around the importance of healthy, vibrant cities to Ontario's economic progress. "We continue to be struck by how powerful cities are in driving productivity and prosperity for Ontarians," Martin said. The report also recommended reforming the provincial tax system to encourage more entrepreneurialism and innovation as well as capital expenditures on machinery and equipment.


Mik Pintar, who retired from UW's physics department last September, died February 2. "He will be missed in particular by his students, who loved his enthusiasm for NMR," an obituary notice remarked. "He was the loving father of Richard, Katarina and Andrej and the devoted husband of Sandra. There will be a private family memorial service."

Pixels in the big picture

In Friday's Daily Bulletin I quoted someone's mention of "Ian VanderBurg" and said he was a computer science professor. That would actually be Ian VanderBurgh, a lecturer not in CS but in the dean of mathematics office.

And another follow-up from Friday, although this one wasn't my fault: the Friday night lecture at St. Jerome's University, to be given by Rev. Robert Schreiter ("Plurality and Difference in an Unstable World"), was cancelled as the result of illness.

Catherine Schryer, president of the faculty association, writes in the just-published January issue of the association's Forum newsletter that there is some interest in having "year-end reviews", or evaluations, of faculty members take place every two years instead of annually. "A two-year cycle would save faculty and administrative time," she notes, and "many of us work in larger cycles than the one-year time frame." But there are arguments on the other side as well, which she summarizes. And everyone on the faculty relations committee, where the idea is under discussion, agrees that young faculty, working towards tenure, need annual reviews to make sure they're on the right track. "What do you think?" Schryer concludes, inviting faculty members' comments.

A software note of interest from Colin Campbell in the information systems and technology department: "If your office PC is running Windows XP Pro, you can take control of its screen, mouse and keyboard from another PC, such as a Windows 95 PC at home. This lets you run programs on your office computer, and interact with them from your home PC. Even over 28.8kb/s it can be very responsive. This is a real boon to grad students especially, as they may run some software only on UW-owned, on-campus computers. Examples include Maple, MATLAB, and Scientific WorkPlace. Windows XP Pro is $0 for students/faculty. Students may get it in CHIP (MC 1052), and faculty may get it from Marj Kohli." There's more information on the web.

With the annual Hagey Bonspiel coming up, one of the organizers, Pat Cunningham of the faculty of mathematics, sends word that the two draws for the bonspiel (scheduled for February 22) are full. She says 64 members of the UW community of staff, faculty, alumni and retirees "will enjoy their day on the ice at the Ayr Curling Club that day. Paul Eagles was the lucky Early Bird registrant and will receive his prize at the bonspiel." Names can be added to the waiting list by contacting Cunningham at ext. 3638.

Two students have been acclaimed to seats on the UW senate, and three more are about to be elected, says a memo from the university secretariat (which was published in full in last Wednesday's Gazette and can be seen on the secretariat web site). Elected are Avi Caplan, representing environmental studies and independent studies, and Yolanda Dorrington, representing students in mathematics. Pending now are the election of a student from engineering, the election of an at-large student (for the usual two-year term), and a by-election of an at-large student for a one-year term.

Of making e-mail frauds there is no end, apparently, which is why we have this message supposedly from Microsoft: "Please call Microsoft Technical Support on 0871 750 1250 for your Microsoft Windows security update." There's no such thing, and that's the British equivalent of a pay-per-minute 900 number. "Please advise your users to beware of such frauds," Reg Quinton of information systems and technology suggests. "If people are falling for the Nigerian scam there may be users here who will fall for this one."

The week before reading week

Electronic polls remain open in the Federation of Students election, and this morning they will be joined by old-fashioned ballot boxes (open 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.) in eight buildings: Environmental Studies I, the Student Life Centre, the Davis Centre, Biology I, Math and Computer, Arts Lecture, Carl Pollock Hall and Matthews Hall. Those stations will be open again tomorrow and Wednesday, and online voting continues until 4:30 on Wednesday.

The pension and benefits committee is meeting this morning (8:30 a.m. to noon, Needles Hall room 3004) to discuss issues ranging from pension fund investments to generic drugs.

It's going to be Caribbean Week at Ground Zero restaurant in the Student Life Centre; menus start with fish fritters today. . . . A career services workshop titled "Are You Prepared to Work Outside Canada?" is scheduled for 3:30 today (register online). . . . A professional development workshop for people who teach, titled "Receiving and Giving Feedback", is scheduled for 12 noon in Math and Computer room 5158. . . .

A workshop on grant proposal writing will be held this afternoon at Wilfrid Laurier University, jointly sponsored by WLU and UW's research office. Last-minute details should be available at ext. 6005.

An "admission information night" for optometry will be held tonight starting at 7 p.m., in Optometry room 347: "Admission policies and private practice will be discussed," says administrative assistant Marie Amodeo in the optometry school. "Officers will be there to answer your admission questions."

Coming tomorrow: "Personal Tax Strategies", a workshop sponsored by the on-campus credit union, at 12:15 in Davis Centre room 1304 (preregister at ext. 3574). Also, "GI Cancers: Opportunities for Preventive Oncology", a talk by Richard Schabas of York Central Hospital, sponsored by the health studies and gerontology department (12:30, Clarica Auditorium).

And let us not forget "a funny, entertaining, informative look at being Suddenly Single, sponsored by the Employee Assistance program and scheduled for noontime on Wednesday. Since space is limited, audience members should preregister (ext. 6264).


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