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Wednesday, July 2, 2003

  • What's new now that it's July
  • The issue of 'diplomas' and 'certificates'
  • New firm is 'preferred' travel agency
  • This week's positions; other notes
Chris Redmond

Smog advisory for today


What's new now that it's July

A new dean of engineering, to begin with: Adel Sedra (left) took office July 1 as the seventh dean of the faculty of engineering. Sedra is a former provost of the University of Toronto and a noted electrical engineer (and co-author of the textbook used in E&CE 231/332). His appointment was announced in October.

Alan George, dean of mathematics, adds a second major job to his burden -- as of July 1, he becomes interim associate provost (information systems and technology). "His mandate," says a memo from the provost, "will include conducting a campus-wide review of all computer supported services, with a view to identifying areas where improvements can be made to the use of information technology in UW's teaching, research and administrative activities, together with the authority to implement changes that are deemed to be desirable and affordable." George's appointment comes as Jay Black ends his term as associate provost.

And a third change in UW's top management: Bruce Mitchell, hitherto associate vice-president (academic), moves into the more senior position of associate provost (academic and student services). There he takes over from Gary Waller, who's edging back to the psychology department -- but who will continue as interim dean of graduate studies for another two months. Meanwhile, a successor for Mitchell as associate VP has not been announced; soon, I think.

A number of academic departments have new chairs as of July 1:

And so we move into high summer, or the second half of the spring term, whichever way you want to look at it. It occurred to me to ask: what ever happened to the "summer school" that used to start at the beginning of July, at this and other universities? Isobel Mackay, of the mature student services office, kindly provided the answer: "The old summer session courses (3 and 6 weeks) don't really exist any more. They were very much in vogue in the days when teachers, who had gone to teachers' college straight from Grade 13, had to upgrade. Since then, numbers have dwindled and so have the courses." There are just half a dozen intensive summer courses this year -- in social work at Renison College, in conflict resolution at Conrad Grebel College, and in English, specifically Shakespeare, in connection with the Stratford Festival.

[Handshake on stage]

Long and short: Vic DiCiccio, director of the Institute for Computer Research, has 25 years on his UW record; David Johnston, president of the university, just four. Johnston was handing out the long-service awards, and DiCiccio receiving one of them, at the 25-Year Club reception in the PAC late in June.

The issue of 'diplomas' and 'certificates'

Not every educational experience that says "University of Waterloo" is really a UW credit course -- and that's where things get complicated.

The result has been long discussions in the undergraduate council, a half-hour debate at the May meeting of UW's senate, and lots more paperwork to come, as officials and governing bodies try to get a handle on the range of "diplomas" and "certificates" offered in the university's name.

"Some of these things had been approved by senate, but a number of them had not," says Bruce Mitchell, who as associate vice-president (academic) found himself handling the issue and leading discussion at undergrad council.

In fact, he admits, there wasn't even a list of diplomas and certificates. Some of them are high-profile programs based on existing academic programs -- in fields such as actuarial science, peace and conflict studies, and economic development. Others involve non-credit courses that aren't necessarily taught by UW faculty or approved by the usual committees.

Mitchell says there's no suggestion that any of the existing programs have quality problems, but "somebody might, at some point, offer something" that did. The issue becomes more complicated because some diplomas or certificates reflect serious academic work, while others don't guarantee much more than "attendance". There are also issues of who's teaching courses in the university's name -- "the university should have some way of knowing."

Most of all, he said, "there's the concern that some students who were taking these diplomas thought they were University of Waterloo students. They weren't. And that left them unhappy," when it turned out that they couldn't, for instance, take advantage of appeal and grievance procedures designed for regular UW students.

"Under the University of Waterloo Act," Mitchell points out, "senate has the authority 'to confer degrees, diplomas and certificates or other awards in any and all branches of learning'." Now it's asserting its authority, as it voted at the end of the May discussion to require that all diploma and certificate programs have to get senate approval. Existing programs that haven't had a senate okay must be submitted for approval by this fall.

"The agreement by senate was that there would be a directive," says Mitchell, "and that will go out shortly," to departments across campus: get the documentation in by October. "At that time," he says, "there might be some grandfathering or grandmothering done," meaning that existing programs could likely continue, even if they don't exactly meet standards that senate sets for the future.

It will be important, he said, not to set up a slow bureaucratic system that would keep a department from responding quickly to a need for continuing education in, say, some technical field. "We're trying to get the right balance," he says, "protecting the UW name and yet not stifling innovation."

Undergrad council and senate are also eager to see a central listing -- in the registrar's office -- of the students who have taken diploma and certificate programs. That won't happen immediately, because of "a huge workload issue", but that's the ultimate objective, Mitchell said. In the meantime, departments will be reminded that at least they should be keeping careful records of their own.

[VIP logo]

New firm is 'preferred' travel agency

UW has a new travel agency as of July 1: VIP Travel, with local offices in the RIM and Open Text building at 175 Columbia Street West. VIP takes over from Thomas Cook Travel, which kept the UW account even after moving out of its former South Campus Hall offices last winter.

VIP calls itself "a local leader in the provision of corporate travel services and corporate travel account management, and they will be assisting the University with the management of its travel arrangements and expenditures."

Says its web site: "We strongly encourage all University travelers to utilize travel services from the University's Preferred Travel Agency. By doing so, the University and its departments will be able to manage travel dollars more effectively and leverage the full buying power of an organization our size. Over time, valuable travel data will be obtained and used to negotiate discount agreements. . . .

"As a result of the UofW's high travel volume, the University has been able to negotiate a preferred service fee for University travelers that is substantially lower than industry standards. The evaluation committee determined that it was prudent to have service fees as a separate line item, rather than unseen in the over-all cost. As such, VIP Travel will charge UofW travelers a service fee of $35 plus GST for each ticket issued, refunded and/or exchanged. This fee is considered a reimbursable travel expense."

A memo last week from UW's procurement services (purchasing department) explained how VIP got the contract:

"Procurement & Contract Services has embarked on a project to review and ensure that we are gaining maximum value for our travel related contracts and agreements. The review includes travel management consisting of airfare, accommodations, car rental, airport transport, train, bus, and parking. The University has a number of related contracts for these services and our relationship with a preferred travel agency reaches across many of these services.

"With this in mind, a user committee from across campus was formed to assist with the creation of a Request for Proposal document. The role of this committee was to consider the varied types of travel that the University encounters, current methods of securing those travel arrangements, possible future variations of those methods (i.e. Web bookings), pricing (included in the ticket price or listed separately). . . .

"Six different proposals were received in response to the University's very detailed call for bids. A short list of four was quickly formed. After on-site interviews, evaluation of business plans, case studies, and many questions by the user committee, VIP Travel was selected as the preferred supplier to the University of Waterloo. . . .

"Effective July 1, 2003, VIP Travel will be equipped to direct bill the University for our business travel arrangements. It will not be necessary to use personal funds to secure tickets when using a travel advance form."

A UW section of VIP's web site lists many of UW's travel and accommodation contracts, links to VIP Travel, various travel alerts and advisories, as well as general airport and travel guides.

This week's positions; other notes

It's Wednesday, even if it feels like Monday, and so there's a weekly Positions Available list from the human resources department. Jobs listed this week: More details are on the HR web site.

And a bonus item: Conrad Grebel University College is accepting applications for a part-time custodian, five mornings a week, eight months starting in September. Inquiries go to Paul Penner, operations manager at Grebel.

The World Youth Inline Hockey Championships are underway in Kitchener-Waterloo, and more than 200 participants will be staying at the Ron Eydt Village conference centre, today through July 13. Competition, for participants anywhere from 8 years old to their 20s, is being held at the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium.

Students who don't have fall term co-op jobs yet, but want to, should hand in some paperwork today at the Tatham Centre: "one copy of your resumé package along with competed Continuous Phase Registration form", the co-op and career services department says. And those may also be the students who should attend a career services workshop on "Selling Your Skills", today at 2:30.

Philosophy professor Christine Overall, who has been giving a lecture series this summer on human aging, winds it up today with a talk at 2 p.m. in Humanities room 373. Today's topic is "Ethics and Increasing Human Longevity: Life Stages, Personal Identity and Moral Decision-Making".

And tomorrow . . . several more students involved in the Certificate in University Teaching program will be presenting their research studies, from 9:30 to noon in Math and Computer room 5158. Scheduled are Jessica Cameron ("Strategies to Encourage Learning Communities"), Carolyn Goodridge ("Making the Grade: Assessment of Students' Written Work"), Martha Roberts ("Independent Studies"), and Julie-Ann Stodolny ("Speaking vs. Writing: Teaching the Academic Voice in University Composition").


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