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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

  • Snow and freezing rain shut campus
  • Student identifies savings of note
  • Jobs, Norwegians, and a priest
Chris Redmond

Family Literacy Day

Snow and freezing rain shut campus

The university is closed today because of a winter storm that's making life miserable from Oklahoma to Québec -- "major-league stuff", as the Globe and Mail puts it on today's front page.

With snow blowing hard out of the east yesterday afternoon, people went home guessing that today might be a snow day. The official word came about 6 a.m., when the Waterloo Region District School Board announced that all its schools would be closed. By longstanding arrangement, UW closes when the schools close, and stays open when they're open.

Overnight news

Kitchener approves downtown campus for WLU school of social work

Tony Blair's future depends on tuition fee vote

The closing means classes are cancelled, and staff members don't have to come to work, except a few in "essential services" such as policing and maintenance. Libraries, offices and stores will be closed, and so will a host of services and spinoffs, from day care centres to the optometry clinic.

Wilfrid Laurier University and Conestoga College are also closed, and so are schools and many other institutions from here eastward. McMaster University is closed, but Guelph, Western and the U of Toronto are all open.

There wasn't actually that much snow overnight, but the wind kept blowing it into drifts, and freezing rain hit in the early morning. Another load of snow is expected to land on Waterloo Region later today. Local roads are slippery this morning, with a number of accidents including a messy one at University Avenue and the Conestoga Parkway, and another on Bearinger Road at the edge of the north campus.

The grounds crew was working most of the night, and UW Police told me about 8:30 this morning that the ring road was clear and most of the parking lots "fairly well cleaned up".

I liked the comments that turned up on 'uwstudent.org' early today when it announced the snow closing. "Yes!" wrote one student succinctly. And another: "Isn't it funny that we all pray for a cancellation of a service that we pay for where we don't get any refund."

Student identifies savings of note -- by Rebecca Mallinson, from the UW Recruiter newsletter for co-op employers

[Stephens at hospital] Sarah Stephens (right) entered her second work term at University Health Network during a time of turbulence; only two months into its fiscal year, one of her new departments, Transcription Services, was headed towards being significantly over budget.

At UHN, the Transcription Services department is responsible for converting physicians' notes into electronic records at each of the Toronto General, Toronto Western, and Princess Margaret Hospitals. With the hospitals seeing more patients, the volume of notes being dictated into the central dictation system was skyrocketing, pushing the cost of transcribing all these notes to over $2 million per year.

This is where Sarah came in. As a Project Analyst, the 3B math and business major was charged with finding out exactly what was happening in Transcription Services and developing an overall strategy for bringing the department's costs back within budget.

To increase the efficiency of note transcription, Sarah investigated scenarios involving voice recognition software, electronic note automation, and expanding the accessibility of the current note capturing system. She also did a cost-benefit analysis, assessed how implementing her suggestions would impact UHN, and - when all was said and done - produced a report proposing savings in upwards of $1.2 million.

Greg Lewis, Project Manager in Health Records Projects, says that as a complete analysis of the volume of activity in Transcription Services, Sarah's report was "actually more than we'd expected." Lewis was particularly impressed by Sarah's ability to produce results with very little supervision. "She really took her work and ran with it and made a lot of progress in a very short period of time," he says. "She was completely independent."

For her part, Sarah appreciated being given as much responsibility as a full-time employee. She describes her contribution to the network as "transferring information into knowledge," adding that UHN, like many large organizations, has a lot of information that may not be stored in a form that is meaningful to the company's decision makers. "Through my report," she says, "I was able to provide them with knowledge about their internal operations."

Working at UHN made Sarah feel like she was making a difference, a sentiment that is supported by her manager, Greg Lewis. "She's definitely, in terms of her contribution, made an impact," he says. "We've moved forward with many of her recommendations and we'll continue to move forward with many more of them."

Federation of Students nominations for 2004-05 positions close today. Media forum with candidates, Wednesday 2 p.m., Bombshelter pub.

Club for Undergraduate BioEngineers seminar by Janis Swan, University of Waikato, New Zealand, today 4:30, Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall room 309 -- probably cancelled because of snow closing.

Discussion group on issues in technology and development, organizational meeting, 5:30, PAS (Psychology) room 1056. Could be postponed; those interested can e-mail aecaplan@artsmail.

Students for Palestinian Rights present MP Carolyn Parrish with analysis of the Israel-Palestine conflict, 7 p.m., Rod Coutts Hall room 101 -- probably cancelled.

Vancouver Enterprise Forum panel today including UW president David Johnston and combinatorics and optimization professor Scott Vanstone, details online. (Vancouver weather: high today 7 Celsius, chance of rain.)

Tenor saxophone concert, Wednesday 12:30, Conrad Grebel University College chapel, free.

Poet and novelist Barry Dempster reads, Wednesday 4 p.m., Sweeney Hall, St. Jerome's University.

Canadian Student Summit on Aerospace takes place at UW Friday through Sunday, details online.

Programming contest Saturday, January 31, details online.

Jobs, Norwegians, and a priest

Co-op employment: A total of 3,899 co-op students -- which looks to me like a record -- had jobs for this term when it began, according to a chart sent over by the co-op and career services department. However, there were 733 students who should have had jobs and didn't, as of January 7, which works out to an 84.18 per cent employment rate. (This term a year ago, the rate was 88.40 per cent, with 3,840 students holding jobs and 504 still looking.) Most of the unemployed students were in engineering and math -- 309 and 246 respectively; or, looking at it another way, they were in first and second year, 408 and 277 respectively. Placement in year 1 engineering, which would mean students with just four months of university experience, was about 71 per cent: 598 students in jobs, 240 unemployed. More jobs do come along during the early weeks of a term, and there will be final employment figures some time next month.

Off to Norway: A couple of people from Needles Hall are escaping the snow this week in, of all places, Norway. (Weather yesterday in Oslo: partly cloudy, minus-1 Celsius.) Virginia McLellan of the undergraduate recruitment office reports that she and Gail Cuthbert Brand, associate vice-president (academic), are off to "build awareness of the University of Waterloo and the excellent programs that we have to offer Norwegian students. While in Norway Gail and I will be participating in 2 university fairs, visiting 5 of top high schools in Oslo, and meeting with 3 of the top universities in Norway -- University of Bergen, University of Oslo, and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. Currently, UW has an exchange agreement in place at the University of Bergen, and Gail and I will be continuing discussions with the University of Oslo during our visit. Gail will also be visiting the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim to discuss possible collaborations between our two institutions. This is the third year that UW has participated in education fairs and high school outreach in Norway. Norway provides UW with an excellent opportunity to attract high-quality students who have strong English language skills, and may be more sympathetic to our cold Canadian winters! Continuing to promote UW and increase our profile amongst high school and university students in Norway will hopefully show a positive increase in the number of Norwegian students applying to our programs."

Priest remembered: Renison College has announced that it's creating a student award in memory of Rev. Florence Li Tim-Oi, whose name is already honoured at UW's Anglican college. Li was the first female priest anywhere in the world -- originally ordained in emergency conditions in Hong Kong in 1944, re-ordained in Canada in 1984. A service commemorating the 60th anniversary of her ordination will be held at Renison tomorrow at 3 p.m., with Rt. Rev. Ann Tottenham, a suffragan bishop of the Toronto diocese, officiating, and the choir of the Church of the Holy Saviour singing. The new award has been established by Li's sister, Rita K. Lee Chui, and her husband. "This award," says a note from Renison, "will be granted to a student graduating from the Social Development Studies plan with high academic achievement who has been admitted into the Bachelor of Social Work program. Candidates must have a record of community service, be involved with a faith community, and demonstrate financial need. Preference will be given to candidates who have shown an interest in working with the elderly. The recipient of this award will be known as the Florence Li Tim-Oi Scholar." The Li Tim-Oi name is also going to be attached to an archive and rare book facility that will be part of Renison's planned Academic Centre; construction there starts next year.


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