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Tuesday, June 7, 2005

  • Board will view performance indicators
  • Students value spirituality, course finds
  • Alumni offered learning discounts
Chris Redmond

Sun Awareness Week

[Masses show shape of complex]

An architect's model shows how the pharmacy and health sciences building may stand at the corner of Victoria and King Streets in downtown Kitchener. The "conceptual design", coming to UW's board of governors for approval today, includes a first phase (shown in brown) with a tower, "up to ten storeys", and a four-storey block. The whitish wing at front would come later.

Board will view performance indicators

Some 70 pages of graphs and tables are being presented to UW's board of governors today as "the first annual report of the University of Waterloo's performance indicators". The board will hold its summer meeting starting at 2:30 in Needles Hall room 3001.

Produced by staff in a dozen departments under the guidance of a task force that includes three deans, the "Performance Indicators 2005" document is still "a work in progress", an introductory page stresses. "Time constraints prevented the Task Force from including some important indicators in this report. We will continue to develop these measures for possible inclusion in future reports."

But it does include data under the headings of undergraduate studies, graduate studies, research, faculty, staff, co-op, resources, fundraising and library.

Charts, mostly in the familiar blue and red of popular graphing programs, show the number of students in each faculty, their entrance averages, the number of offers made in each faculty to fill the first-year class, the percentage of students who get financial assistance from OSAP, the length of time it takes graduate students to finish their theses, research dollars received per faculty member, faculty hiring by gender, age distribution of professors, co-op employment rates, the ratio of space in UW's buildings to what a formula says it should be, the allocation of Campaign Waterloo gifts, the percentage of the budget that's spent on the library . . . the figures go on and on.

Today's highlights

  • Grand opening for addition to the Hallman Institute wing, Matthews Hall, 11 a.m.

  • Health Behaviour Research Group, 25th anniversary event, 1:30, Clarica Auditorium: Allan Best, "The Next 25 Years for Population Health Research".

  • Renison College: Principal's Ceilidh and groundbreaking for new academic building, 7:30.

  • Commuter Challenge continues all week (registration online).

  • University Avenue eastbound lanes closed, Westmount to Seagram; most traffic detoured by Columbia Street.
  • "By choosing a basket of indicators in each of the nine major areas of activity," says the report, "we have painted a reasonably complete picture of the institution in 2005. . . . We plan to include in subsequent reports further comparison of Waterloo's performance relative to its peer institutions across Canada." UW is a member of the "Group of 10 Data Exchange", representing ten major universities across the country, which are trying to collect data in comparable ways.


    New chair: Richard Nutbrown becomes chair of the department of political science on July 1, taking over that role from Ashok Kapur. He is a specialist in 20th century political philosophy and Canadian thought, cross-appointed to the philosophy department, and was a Distinguished Teacher Award winner in 2002.

    "The indicators reported here," says the document, "are meant to serve the dual purpose of accountability and of facilitating institutional strategic planning."

    A section of particular interest in the "Performance Indicators" report deals with "student engagement", an attempt to measure "interaction" between students and faculty members (as well as other people on the campus). "On the supportive campus environment measure," it says, "Waterloo performs quite well, presenting the highest value for year-one students in our peer group. This performance drops slightly with upper-year students. . . . With the enriching educational experience benchmark, Waterloo has the highest value for first-year students. For upper-year students, we fare better than the other Ontario universities and the G10, but fall a bit short of the US doctoral institutions. Our students give us significantly higher results because co-op experiences are part of this benchmark."

    Students value spirituality, course finds -- by Patricia Bow

    Religion and spirituality are deeply important to students of all backgrounds, but often they find it hard to develop these aspects of themselves at university. That's one of the findings in a recent study conducted by Diana Denton, drama and speech communication professor, and funded by UW and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. She also established that specific skills can be taught to help people learn about and appreciate each other's faith differences.

    Denton is based in the Canadian Centre of Arts and Technology in the faculty of arts, and is also a member of the Forge Institute, a United States-based non-profit organization concerned with "trans-traditional spirituality," encouraging spiritual development, and promoting dialogue between people of different religious backgrounds. She is co-editor of Holistic Learning and Spirituality in Education (2005) and Spirituality, Action and Pedagogy: Teaching From the Heart (2004).

    The study attempted to establish how students' spiritual development can be fostered through the curriculum. Instead of textbook-and-lecture format, Denton explored an experiential approach, with students and instructor participating together.

    Senate undergraduate council 12:00, Humanities room 373.

    Environment Week events organized by UW Sustainability Project: recycled art 12:00 to 1:30 ("bring some junk"), showing of documentary "End of Suburbia" 2:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

    UW's computer science curriculum: Prabhakar Ragde, school of CS, speaks on "past, present and future", 4:00, Math and Computer room 4022; discussion follows.

    Career development seminars: "Interview Skills, the Basics" 3:30, "Preparing for Questions" 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208.

    Engineers Without Borders general meeting, including phone conference with volunteer Adam Kaufman in Cambodia, 5:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

    Impaired driving simulator available Wednesday, 11:30 to 2:00, Student Life Centre, sponsored by Waterloo Regional Police.

    'Ask a Gourmet Chef' seminar on barbecues and summer entertaining, Wednesday 12 noon, Arts Lecture Hall room 208, sponsored by Employee Assistance Program; door prizes to be won.

    Health informatics seminar: Paul Stolee, school of optometry, "The Challenge of Evidence-Based Practice in Geriatric Care", Wednesday 3:30, Davis Centre room 1304.

    Keystone Campaign "Happy U Year Masquerade" Thursday 11:30 to 1:30, Matthews Hall green; night staff event 10 p.m., South Campus Hall. Details online.

    Printmakers Fair Saturday, 10:00 to 4:30, Renison College, displays and demonstrations by printmakers and papermakers.

    In fall and winter 2003-04, she conducted 10 two-hour workshops with nine volunteers: undergraduate and graduate students from psychology, drama, and speech communication. They came from Baptist, Mennonite, Catholic, Native, Muslim, and non-denominational backgrounds. The sessions were videotaped in the CCAT lab in the Modern Languages building. Each session included meditation, writing in journals, pairing off to share thoughts and perceptions, and group discussion of everything from "the Eucharist to Drumming Circles and Vision Quests, to reflections on our own inner experience." Following the workshop series, Denton interviewed participants separately.

    The study demonstrated that "students are hungry for safe places where they can talk about their beliefs," including their doubts. Often they fail to find such safe places among their peers, where fear of ridicule keeps many silent, or in their own families or religious institutions.

    Denton also found that certain practices helped students to be more open to each others' approaches to spirituality, without abandoning their own. Ground rules that required confidentiality and a non-judgmental attitude established a sense of trust. Comparing experiences of meditation showed students how often they stood on common ground. They also found useful the practice of "deep listening," where two students would listen silently while a third spoke, saving questions and discussion for later. The participants reported that a strong sense of community developed in the group.

    A senior seminar course spun off from the workshops. Spiritual Development in a Diverse Society: Communicating Across Differences was offered as a speech communication course in fall 2004 and will be offered again next winter. Denton has also held five-day workshops at various locations in Canada and the United States for educators interested in teaching the course. The next session takes place at the University of Michigan June 27 to July 1.

    "Since 9/11 there has been much more awareness of the importance religion plays in people's lives -- that it can be so divisive," Denton says. "We need to work with the young, to help them learn how to cope with this conflict and how to be leaders in a diverse society."

    Alumni offered learning discounts

    The alumni affairs office wants to let Waterloo's 100,000 graduates know about lectures and similar events they can attend, and departments are being asked to let the office know what's scheduled.

    "We will post an on-campus speaker series calendar, listing all free and on-campus lectures open to the public," writes Jude Doble from alumni affairs. "If you have a lecture or series of lectures to add, please send Alison Boyd (arboyd@uwaterloo.ca) the details."

    Current CE courses

  • "Report and Proposal Writing", tomorrow.

  • "Getting More Life Out of Your Time", Thursday.

  • "Making Meetings Work", Friday.
  • Doble also reports that alumni who sign up for the online "e-community" are now entitled to savings on courses from UW's continuing education office. "Membership in the e-community gives alumni a 20% discount on all in-class and online UW Continuing Education non-credit courses. This is in addition to the great services already available such as the alumni directory, e-mail forwarding for life and online job search.

    "The courses offered range from project management to business administration, multimedia to software, and languages to professional development. When alumni register for courses, either online or by phone, they need to include the alumni promotional code on the registration form. This code can be accessed by logging onto the e-community, where they will be prompted for their user name and password.

    There's more information online. Members of the e-community, some 29,000 of them, were told about the new benefit in mid-May, and other alumni are getting e-mail this month with an invitation to join.

    Says Doble: "As part of the life-long learning opportunities for alumni (no e-community membership required), we are also working with the Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology to offer professional development courses to alumni."


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