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Wednesday, July 7, 2004

  • Leaders set four priorities this year
  • Delay in 'sixth decade' planning
  • 'Aspire to go to the next level'
Chris Redmond

National Fishing Week

  • Student groups exploring dental plans
  • New appeal for public help in Ardeth Wood murder
  • Student is third in national essay competition
  • Alumni start company to market 'kid-proof' labels
  • UW researchers' study of spam
  • 'Commercialization strategy': Ontario funding for technology transfer
  • 96 per cent of students intended to vote
  • U of T president rumoured to head Berkeley
  • New sponsorship deal for Ontario university athletics
  • 'Is the MBA degree a sham?' (Roseman, Star)
  • U of T readers' favourite books
  • Leaders set four priorities this year

    Ten "priorities" were too many to tackle at once, so UW's top managers have cut the number down to four for the coming year.

    That was the decision following the "K-Bay" retreat for members of executive council in May, provost Amit Chakma has reported. He briefed the board of governors and senate at their June meetings, and amplified his comments in a recent interview.

    For the record, here were the ten priorities for 2003-04:

  • Pursuit of excellence
  • Students
  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Research intensity
  • Enhancing co-op education
  • Strategic academic programs
  • Resources
  • Administrative efficiency
  • Workload management
  • The two dozen vice-presidents, deans and other officials made this list of priorities for the coming year. The provost emphasizes that not everything will be achieved in one year, but these are the directions:

    Resources. "Invest time and resources in development [fund-raising] activities. . . . Guarantee financial aid to needy students, with the operating budget covering any potential shortfall. . . . Differential resource allocation based on program quality. . . . Explore additional full cost recovery programs."

    And, Chakma adds, "resource" issues include staff issues, including workload. He said the total number of staff at UW, or the ratio of staff to faculty members and students, actually isn't bad, but the distribution of staff may not be ideal, with some areas thinly staffed for the work they're expected to do.

    Faculty. "Recruitment and retention of top faculty from Canada and abroad. . . . Establish targets for Graduate Student/Faculty Ratio. . . . Establish targets for percentage of Faculty receiving external research support. . . . Target 25% of the faculty openings to be filled by senior faculty to be recruited from other institutions." [That's something of a departure from UW's past emphasis on hiring talented younger -- and less expensive -- professors when there are positions to fill.]

    Research intensity. "Introduce mentor groups and grant facilitators in faculties. . . . Allocation of 1% of the academic base budget based on research intensity measures starting with the 2005-06 budget. . . . Undertake benchmarking plus gap analysis in all units. . . . Devise contingent reward system to reinforce achievements that lead directly to increased research intensity."

    Students. "Recruitment and retention of top students from across Canada. . . . Offer greater number of entrance scholarships of higher value. . .. Reduce Student/Faculty ratio from 25:1 to 20:1. . . . Offer guarantee for a minimum level of support for graduate students. . . . Promote student-oriented service culture across the campus and among faculty and staff. . . . Recruitment and retention of top students from overseas."

    On this week's list from the human resources department:

  • Centre assistant, Centre for Behaviour Research and Program Evaluation, USG 4
  • Senior demonstrator, kinesiology, USG 9
  • Student liaison, Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, USG 4
  • Department secretary, religious studies, USG 4

    Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

  • Delay in 'sixth decade' planning

    The priorities set by UW's president, vice-presidents and other leaders for the coming year are a step towards the plan for the university's "sixth decade" that will be developed during 2004-05 and put in place by the time that decade starts in 2007, says provost Amit Chakma.

    [Chakma] Work on the plan was supposed to be starting this summer, but "we decided to slow down," Chakma (right) said in a recent interview.

    A framework for the planning process was approved by the long-range planning committee and the UW senate last winter, and the next step was to be a letter from Chakma to departments across campus, asking them to start discussing, and then writing, their plans for the 2007-2017 decade. Now that letter isn't expected to go out until September. Chakma told the senate late in June that "it has become clear that there needs to be further discussion" about the planning process, perhaps with "external input". Responses from departments will likely be due next spring.

    Meanwhile, Chakma acknowledges, planning is going on, and decisions are being made -- based, in part, on the Fifth Decade plan, "Building on Accomplishment", that was adopted in 1997. "It's always a continuum," Chakma said, as one plan shades into the next and issues have to be dealt with.

    "I think this institution is already in good shape with the Fifth Decade document," he said, pointing to some of its major themes: excellence, uniqueness, innovation. The plan for the next decade will be "not too much different form those basic points," he predicted. "Perhaps it will bring a little more focus."

    A key example would be the emphasis in the Fifth Decade report on expanding and emphasizing graduate study at UW. "Now we are executing it," said the provost, noting the Sedra report on graduate study and the appointment of a new dean of graduate studies with an explicit mandate to oversee an increase in the number of grad students and programs.

    Similar, an interest in research intensity is not new, and "our professors did what they could," Chakma says, but now senior management is putting some resources into making changes possible.

    Sandford Fleming Foundation debates, faculty of engineering, semi-finals wind up today, 11:30 to 1 p.m., Engineering II room 3324. Finals Friday noon, POETS pub, Carl Pollock Hall.

    'Adapting to Student Diversity'. Workshop sponsored by teaching resource office, 12 noon, Math and Computer room 5158, details online.

    Job search strategies career workshop, 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208.

    'The August 2003 Northeast Blackout', electrical and computer engineering seminar, Claudio Canizares, Thursday 12 noon, CEIT room 3142.

    Warrior movie night, "50 First Dates" and "Eurotrip", Friday from 9 p.m., Student Life Centre.

    Elora Festival musical performances, July 9 through August 1, details online.

    'Aspire to go to the next level'

    Change is coming at high speed at UW -- a Cambridge campus, a proposed Kitchener campus, Canada Research Chairs, several new buildings, new or much bigger programs in quantum science, nanotechnology, mechatronics, possibly pharmacy, and (it seems) something else new every day.

    In part, says Chakma, the pace of change results from the difficulties of the 1990s, when a prolonged funding squeeze, and the massive retirements of 1996, meant that effort went into survival rather than new departures. Now, he says, "Waterloo is responding in a more proactive fashion than we did in the recent past."

    And, he says, the impetus isn't just coming from him and president David Johnston. "I think any leadership inheriting an institution at this stage would aspire to go to the next level," he said.

    So what's the next level? In his recent presentation to the board and the senate, he talked about UW as "a focused institution . . . we define ourselves in a narrower and more substantive way which uses our expertise and technological background and avoid trying to be everything to everyone. I would like to see UW focused and known for excellence internationally in selected programs."

    The phrase "the MIT of the North" is sometimes used, suggesting that Waterloo should emulate the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a specialized university with a technological focus, though with strong programs in fields as diverse as linguistics and philosophy too. On the other hand, Chakma acknowledges, Waterloo -- a publicly supported university -- will never have the resources, or perhaps the freedom, that MIT enjoys, so the parallels are limited.

    Waterloo needs to be "innovative", the provost suggests, and "quality", and "international", and "welcoming" in the sense of diversity, with room for different kinds of excellence. And just perhaps, Chakma also mentions, UW should be "10% smaller" than it is just now.

    He adds this reassurance for students who might feel that their concerns will be lost as UW adds high-powered graduate programs and expands its research: both good graduate programs and good research are essential for a good undergraduate atmosphere. "If we cannot maintain a good research reputation, our undergraduate reputation will suffer. . . . Waterloo will continue to have strong undergraduate programs."


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