Monday, December 4, 2006

  • Refugee program to ask for $1 fee
  • Brazil's honour for computer scientist
  • Artist's flames, and pre-exam notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

UW's closing procedure for winter storms

The return of snow over the weekend mean it's time to brush up on the policy about UW closing during winter storms and other weather emergencies. For simplicity, the rule is that UW closes for the day if the local public school board (Waterloo Region District School Board) closes all its schools (but not if it just cancels the buses).

On a winter storm morning, listen to a local radio station, such as AM 570, for an announcement about the schools, or check the UW web home page for a university announcement.

If UW closes, there will be no classes or exams, libraries are closed, and everybody gets a 24-hour extension on assignments due that day. (Exams are then postponed to the next free day, usually the ensuing Sunday.) A few essential services, including policing and residence cafeterias, will continue regardless of an emergency closing.

Link of the day

Canada's Deanna Durbin is 85

When and where

Language Learning and Teaching colloquium, presentations by students in graduate course on "Applied Language Didactics", 1:30 to 6:00, Humanities room 373, details online.

Computational mathematics colloquium: William Stein, University of Washington, "SAGE: Software for Algebra and Geometry Experimentation", 1:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

Architecture students working outside Canada in the winter term: US visa orientation 1:30, orientation for students going to third countries 3:00, Architecture lecture hall.

Instrumental chamber ensembles end-of-tern concert 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College chapel, free.

BarCamp Waterloo for discussion of web and technology issues, Tuesday 5:30 p.m., Accelerator Centre, details online.

WatITis one-day conference for information technology professionals Wednesday, Rod Coutts Hall, details online.

Perimeter Institute presents David Archer, University of Chicago, "From Here to Eternity: Global Warming in Geologic Time", Wednesday 7 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, ticket information 519-883-4480.

Christmas concert by Chamber Choir and Chapel Choir in the Davis Centre great hall, Thursday, December 7, 12 noon.

English Language Proficiency Examination Thursday, three sittings available: 4:00, 5:30, 7:00, Physical Activities Complex.

Carousel Dance Company Christmas performance "The Polar Express" and "The Nightingale", Friday 7 p.m., Humanities Theatre, tickets $9 from Humanities box office.

Annual carol sing in the Modern Languages lobby, led by Jake Willms, Thursday, December 14, 12:15 p.m., all welcome.

Refugee program to ask for $1 fee

Students will likely be asked to vote this winter on paying a new fee to support a refugee program that’s being organized by a local group of World University Service of Canada.

Lisa ter Woort of the co-op and career services department, who works with the WUSC committee, says enthusiasm was boosted by the annual general assembly of WUSC, held in Ottawa in early November. Six Waterloo delegates were on hand in addition to ter Woort and a student whom WUSC is already sponsoring in Waterloo.

She writes: UW WUSC is a new local committee that was initiated in late 2005. This group is sponsoring one student through the Student Refugee Program, and has already had many international development/refugee related educational activities on campus. However the SRP is a one-off project at present, and the UW WUSC would like to have the SRP become an ongoing program at UW as it is in many other universities across Canada.

“The goal of the group was to network and find out how other universities were financing their SRP programs, how they had implemented successful student levy referendums, and what models of cooperation exist between the university body and student bodies, so that the local committee could be informed as they develop their own model.” Nationally, WUSC is now 60 years old “and hopes to achieve the milestone of sponsoring 1,000 students in 2007”.

She says the delegates came home with a plan: “UW WUSC envisions a partnership between the university administration and the student body and are currently discussing potential long term commitments with various university administrative bodies for the following: developing a management system of the SRP funds within the university administration for continuity, and accountability should the SRP referendum be successful (potential for $40K year), continued tuition waivers, accommodation and meal plan subsidies, etc.

“The plan is to have a referendum at UW in February 2007 during student elections, and UW WUSC will be asking each student for 99 cents, each time they pay tuition, with an option for a refund.

“Oh no, not another fee! UW WUSC believes that an educated student at UW will still vote yes to the modest request for this humanitarian cause. However, the referendum team recognizes that there are other obstacles to obtaining a successful referendum at UW,” such as the traditional poor turnout in student votes (at least 10 per cent of eligible students have to vote to make a fee referendum valid) and the turnover of co-op terms, meaning that many of the students who saw refugee publicity this term will be away on jobs by the time the vote happens.

Beyond those practical difficulties, “In general UW programs do not attract humanitarian focused students, with the exception of some of the programming available in the colleges (Peace and Conflict etc.),” ter Woort speculates.

She says the long weekend in Ottawa “was an opportunity for the UW WUSC group to work together without the constraints of class and other of life’s distractions, namely working on a SRP Constitution as requested by the Federation of Students, to draft a SRP Referendum Action Plan, meet others and exchange success stories.”

Potential supporters of the UW group can get in touch by e-mail:

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Brazil's honour for computer scientist

A founding member of the Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research, computer science pioneer Donald Cowan, is the recipient of an international scientific honour from the government of Brazil. A UW distinguished professor emeritus, Cowan was admitted to the Grand Cross, National Order of Scientific Merit, for his contributions to science and technology.

He will receive the award from the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, at a ceremony in Brasília early in the new year. The award is the highest recognition provided to a foreign scientist by the Brazilian government.

Cowan, a faculty member at UW since 1960, is the director of the Computer Systems Group. He was the founding chair of the computer science department at UW, providing the foundation for what now is the David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science. During his career he has supervised more ethan 100 graduate students including a substantial number from Brazil. Many of his former students are providing leadership in the Brazilian computer science research community.

"Donald Cowan has made significant contributions to computer science and software engineering internationally," said Carlos Lucena, one of Cowan's former students and now a professional colleague. "He has had particular influence on the development of computer science in Brazilian universities where many of his former students are now making noteworthy contributions. He helped many Brazilian computer science departments reach the international standard they have now achieved."

Cowan was introduced to the Brazilian computer science community in the 1960s through exchanges arranged by the IBM Corp. and the National Research Council of Canada. During the 1970s and early 1980s, he and professor Kelly Gotlieb of the University of Toronto led a Canadian International Development Agency project that sent computer science faculty from Waterloo and Toronto to Brazil to teach and support research. The resulting strong relationship between Brazilian computer science departments and UW is still very active.

Cowan's current interest in software engineering focuses on design and implementation of systems for the web, particularly making it easier for individuals and organizations to build, maintain and sustain web software. He has worked on the design and underlying technology for community information systems for more than 30 community organizations, many of which are in Waterloo Region.

He is one of the founders of Watcom, UW's first spin-off company and now iAnywhere Solutions (part of Sybase), and of LivePage, which has become part of Oracle Corp.

Brazil's National Order of Scientific Merit was established in 1993 and has two levels: the Grand Cross (the higher level) and Commander. Membership in the Order is achieved through a screening process conducted by a panel of distinguished scientists nominated by the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. The number of living individuals who receive the Grand Cross is limited to 200. There are currently 59 foreign members among them. Cowan is the first foreign computer scientist to receive this honour.

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Artist's flames, and pre-exam notes

Event postponed

[Flame from match]Something unusual will be happening in the UW art gallery in East Campus Hall, starting at noon today and running to the same hour tomorrow. Third-year student and artist Scott Ireland explains his performance art piece: "Every day, 30,000 children die due to hunger and poverty. With the help of many fine arts students, each child will be memorialized through a single match that will be struck and blown out, every three seconds." While the flames rise and fall, Ireland himself will use the burnt matches "to write on the gallery walls as a tally to further visualize this vast amount of deaths each day. The ashes from each match, as well as the discarded matches that will lie on the floor of the gallery, will hopefully leave a lasting impression. Even the smell of each match will evoke further sensory impressions for those who experience this performance." Visitors are, of course, welcome at no charge, any time during the performance.

From the university secretariat: "The election of one graduate student to Senate closed on Wednesday, November 29, at 4:00 p.m. The results were as follows: Jonathan Fishbein (Systems Design Engineering), 89 votes; Rashid Rehan (Civil and Environmental Engineering), 111 votes. The candidate declared elected is Rashid Rehan, term to April 30, 2008. Of the 3,046 graduate students eligible to vote, 200 voted (a return rate of 6.5 percent)."

Municipal officials who were elected in last month's voting across Ontario take office today for a four-year term (the first time city and region leaders will serve for that long). Ken Seiling returns as chair of Waterloo Region, and Carl Zehr as mayor of Kitchener; both of them serve as ex officio members of the UW board of governors. So does Waterloo's mayor, and that position passes today from Herb Epp to the newly elected Brenda Halloran.

A four-page glossy "update" issued by UW's library reports that "The Parents in Partnership program provides the parents of UW students with the opportunity to support their child's academic experience by contributing to important fundraising initiatives. This year, parents and student fundraisers rallied behind the Library's Kresge Challenge campaign. Funds raised will provide students with updated library facilities designed to best serve their study needs. The partnership between the parents, the student fundraisers, and UW has contributed significantly to the campaign's success. Student fundraisers, such as second year Biotechnology/ Chartered Accountancy student Wen Liao, are enthusiastic when it comes to having the opportunity to connect with the UW parent community. 'Talking with the UW parents is great,' explains Liao. 'I really enjoy raising money for the Kresge Challenge because I know it will benefit every student on campus, including myself. We can all appreciate having access to newer library facilities that offer us the support we need for our studies.' This gear, over $300,000 in parent contributions were designated to the Challenge, making it the most popular initiative in Parents in Partnership history."

The recipient of this year's Ram and Lekha Tumkur Memorial Graduate Scholarship is Lynne Richardson, an MSc student in biology supervised by Matthew Smith. The scholarship is a memorial to the two children of Nag Raj Tumkur, who was a faculty member in biology at the time they died in the June 1985 Air India crash off the coast of Ireland. It is awarded annually to a master's student in biology, on the basis of academic achievement, research potential, experience and financial need. The scholarship will be presented at a ceremony tomorrow morning (10:00) in the biology reading room. Also to be presented at that time are the Biology Teaching Assistant of the Year awards, to Matthew Ramer at the graduate level and Lee Siertsema at the undergraduate level.

Support for students during exam season comes from many directions, including Food Services, which will keep Mudie's cafeteria in Village I open 24 hours a day from breakfast time tomorrow until December 16. Round-the-clock hours continue in the Davis Centre Library, while the Dana Porter Library is open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Classes for the fall term end tomorrow, with the first exams being written on Friday and the last ones scheduled for December 22.


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