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Monday, September 8, 2003

  • Grit in the co-op 'oyster'
  • Arts offers first-year seminars
  • Notes on the first day of the term
Chris Redmond

International Literacy Day

[Cables on the floor]

Carbon Copy is open: Iris Strickler of UW Graphics plugs in the cables to get equipment connected in the new outlet that's replacing the former engineering copy centre. It opened for business Friday in room 2022 of the brand-new Centre for Environmental and Information Technology.

Grit in the co-op 'oyster'

While thousands of Waterloo students are doing their degrees through co-operative education, co-op itself is the subject of study by some of UW's most senior people.

Special day for CECS staff

As usual on the first day of the term, staff in the co-op education and career services department will hold a professional development day -- this time including a briefing on WatCACE by its director, James Downey.

Staff will also have a workshop by counselling staff about "demystifying and defusing distress", hear about the new mechatronics program in the engineering faculty, receive a "UW report card" by provost Amit Chakma, and wind up the day with a talk and workshop on "humour in the workplace" by radio personality Neil Aitchison.

"A university like Waterloo that has pioneered co-operative education and has so much invested in the reputation of that modality of education has a particular responsibility to study it and provide not just anecdotal but empirical evidence," says James Downey, former president of UW and now director of the Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education.

WatCACE, which was established in 2002, is spotlighted in the recently published summer issue of the UW Magazine for Waterloo alumni. The centre is noted in a sidebar to the magazine's lead article, about the opening of the William M. Tatham Centre, where the co-op and career services department is housed.

It quotes Downey: "Note that not everyone has the same warm feelings about co-op. It's been an overwhelming success, but not for everyone. We do it well, but how can we do it better? If we (WatCACE) can provide a bit of grit in the oyster, we will serve a useful purpose."

WatCACE participants have already completed one major research project. Last October Downey, Jim Kalbfleisch (retired as UW's provost), and Bob Truman (UW director of institutional analysis and planning) completed a study called "Cooperative Education: Greater Benefits, Greater Costs". Written for Ontario's ministry of training, colleges, and universities, the report sets out a factual case for funding supplements for co-op programs.

More recent research projects include a study by Downey and Maureen Drysdale of the psychology department, on the connection between academic learning and the work term, and how that connection can be made to work better; and a national study of graduate-level co-op education to be led by Patricia Rowe, psychology, former dean of graduate studies. This project was prompted by the demand for more graduate co-op programs to supply future academic, research, industrial, and business brainpower.

The main article about the new building, focusing on the experiences of co-op political science student Grace Lee, quotes UW's director of co-op and career services, Bruce Lumsden: "When you drive on campus, the first thing you see is the Tatham Centre.

[Lamb on the ground]

Another feature in the summer issue of the UW Magazine introduces Larry Lamb, lecturer in environment and resource studies, and his "one-man crusade to promote alternatives to the traditional water-guzzling lawn". Grass is a bigger allergy problem than goldenrod, the article reveals.

"The building makes a tremendous statement, not just to the community on campus but to the regional community and the larger business community. It says something when you have a whole building devoted to co-op. And it also now allows us to do business in a professional manner. Just because we're the biggest and we've done this for a number of years, doesn't mean we shouldn't be competitive."

UW has the largest co-op program in the world, and -- as the article stresses -- for the past three decades its administration, and thousands of interviews, have been shoehorned into the first floor of Needles Hall, which is now being converted for other purposes. There are now more than 100 co-op programs, "and I don't see that growth stopping or slowing a lot," says Lumsden.

Arts offers first-year seminars -- from the UW media relations office

An experimental first-year course in UW's faculty of arts -- which, according to one student, "made me think about things in a new way" -- is entering its fourth season today.

It's Arts 199, a series of small seminars designed exclusively for incoming arts students and limited to 20 participants in each section. The demanding course is meant to introduce new students to a wide range of learning opportunities well before they would usually encounter them. (Seminars are usually offered only to students in upper years.)

Each of the eight sections running this fall, plus two more in the winter, offers an unrivalled way for first-year students to start their university career on the right foot, said Brian Hendley, philosophy professor, former dean of arts, and Arts 199 director. "Our student evaluations (of past offerings of the course) are high and our faculty members are uniformly enthusiastic."

Arts 199, he says, brings together students and professors to share the excitement of exploring issues of current or perennial interest. Topics are as diverse as biotechnology's impact on society, film treatments of the Holocaust, the psychology of humour, environmental controversies, and the inter-relationships of crowds and individuals.

The intriguing course is being offered in the face of today's double-cohort-inspired trends that seem destined to produce ever-larger classes -- and a less personal approach to education. "We do seem to be swimming against the tide," Hendley said. "We're offering something new yet something quite traditional -- the chance to interact personally with a professor on a challenging topic, and in a small class. I'm very pleased that dean of arts Bob Kerton is supporting these seminars again this year."

Originally the brainchild of arts academic counsellor Betsy Zanna, Arts 199 is meant to provide an environment where students can develop confidence in expressing their views, learn how to use library resources effectively and refine their communication skills -- all valuable not only for their first year at university but for later years as well.

Why are students giving the course rave reviews? In a recent survey, "class discussion" topped the list (84 per cent of students said it was key), followed by "interaction with the professor" (67 per cent). Students said they deliberately chose Arts 199 because of its intimate format (81 per cent), though many felt that the theme of the particular section they selected was almost as important (77 per cent).

"The seminar format can be a demanding one for professors," Hendley said. "It really forces us to think about how we teach and what we're trying to achieve." He added that Arts 199 instructors meet regularly and share learning strategies. He hopes the results of these exchanges will spill over into other courses, so that even more UW students will benefit from an "increased focus on the dynamics of good teaching."

The Arts 199 schedule for 2003-04 comprises eight sections in the fall term and two in the winter. It will see return engagements by Carol Acton (English), Jim Diamond (Jewish studies), Peter Frick (religious studies), Brian Hendley (philosophy), Don Horton (history), Herb Lefcourt (psychology), Ken Westhues (sociology) and Robert Porter (classical studies).

Two new members have joined the team. Cheryl Patten, a UW science (biology) grad who is now a post-doctoral fellow at McMaster University, will discuss the impact of biotechnology on society. Environmental educator John Jackson will examine a range of environmental issues currently in the news.

Graduate student welcome week

It's "welcome week" at the Graduate House, as hundreds of new graduate students settle in at UW. Starting today, new grads can "stop by to look at campus service booths, enjoy complimentary coffee or tea, and check out your private club," says Angela Garabet, vice-president (student affairs) of the Graduate Student Association.

Tomorrow, the GSA will hold an afternoon dessert party; Wednesday is Burger Day with the dean of graduate studies, Ranjana Bird (herself new to UW as of September 1); and Thursday and Friday will bring the music of "Gradstock", from noon to past midnight.

The Graduate House is the oldest building on UW's main campus, and stands just north of South Campus Hall and west of the Doug Wright Engineering Building.

Notes on the first day of the term

"The first day of class sets the tone for the rest of the term," says a tip sheet on "Surviving Your First Day of Class", produced by UW's teaching resource office. Well, today's the day. From east and west and south and north, students are descending on the campus, ready to fill ten thousand new notebooks with truth and wisdom. (And here's a special hello to those students who will be sitting down for their first-ever Waterloo course today.)

They're also descending in hordes on the bookstore, which will have extended beginning-of-term hours and a record 16 cash registers in operation to help sell those thousands of textbooks. And something like 500 students showed up at the store last night to pick up armloads of texts they had ordered online through the Express Books service. The bookstore (as well as TechWorx and the UW Shop, its neighbours in South Campus Hall) will be open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today through Thursday, returning to the regular 5 p.m. closing time on Friday (and being open noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday). For more technological purchases, the CampusTechShop in the Student Life Centre will be open 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. today through Thursday. And for artistic purchases, ArtWorx in East Campus Hall begins its regular hours today: Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The key control office in the General Services Complex will have extended hours this week, 8:30 to 4:30. . . . Tony Cullen of UW's school of optometry is the noon-hour speaker today ("Sunshine, Skin and Eyes") as the Kitchener Public Library resumes its Monday series. . . . Return-to-campus interviews for co-op students start tomorrow. . . .

Library books that were signed out by faculty members, graduate students and staff before the beginning of August are due on September 10, which is this Wednesday, the library notes. They can now be renewed for another term, through January 7, 2004. Renewals can be done on-line through the Trellis computer system.

The annual used book sale sponsored by UW's mature student services office will be held today -- and tomorrow, if there's anything left -- in the lobby of the Modern Languages building. Opening time is 10 a.m. The mature student newsletter promises "used course texts for background reading (many from the shelves of your favourite profs)" plus "novels, paperbacks, hardbacks, books on health, women's issues, political events and a collection of Dick Francis stories that would have rivaled that of the late Queen Mum". Proceeds go to the mature student scholarship fund.

And . . . "Try It" week is starting for UW's campus recreation program. Tuesday through Thursday there are experimental sessions in everything from broomball to aquafitness, and tomorrow, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., campus rec will hold a general open house at the Physical Activities Complex -- in the small gymnasium and spilling out into the parking lot. "There will be information," the rec CR brochure promises, "on Intramurals, Aquatics, Fitness and Conditioning, Instructional courses, Clubs, Facilities and Jobs. There will be games and fun, and chances to win some great Campus Recreation prizes." More information, of course, can be found on the CR web site. tomorrow, campus rec open house


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