Monday, September 25, 2006

  • 'Long way to go' in attracting grads
  • HR offers help for parents-to-be
  • Notes that'll surely bring a smile
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Food before dawn, after dusk for Ramadan

The holy month of Ramadan is under way, with its requirement that devout Muslims abstain from eating between sunrise and sunset. To serve the Muslim population on campus, food services will open Mudie's cafeteria in Village I at 5:15 a.m. daily during this period. For the evening meal, Bon Appetit in the Davis Centre will stay open until 8 p.m. nightly, with "halal-safe" food being served after 7 p.m.

Link of the day

Jews begin the year 5767

When and where

Volunteer Fair showing opportunities in the K-W area, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

Engineers Without Borders co-founder Parker Mitchell speaks on the state of international development, 11:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 309.

Weight Watchers at Work 12-week program begins 12 noon, Math and Computer room 5136, for details e-mail

Philosophy professor Andrew Stumpf, "Is Man More than Matter?" 12 noon, Kitchener Public Library main branch.

Engineers Without Borders third annual wine-and-cheese gala, 7 p.m., University Club, tickets $35, details online.

Computer Science Exposed, part 3: "How to be successful in computer science," student panel, 7:00, Math and Computer room 2066.

On-campus part-time job fair Tuesday 11:00 to 3:00, great hall, Student Life Centre.

Accountancy distinguished speaker series: Ian Clarke, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, "Making Your Own Luck", Tuesday 4 p.m., Humanities Theatre, reception follows. distinguished speaker series: Ian Clarke, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, "Making Your Own Luck", Tuesday 4 p.m., Humanities Theatre, reception follows.

Federation of Students president Michelle Zakrison "town hall meeting" Tuesday 4:30, Student Life Centre great hall. Featured subjects: Bombshelter renovations, health and dental plan.

Bookstore presents Tony Penikett, former premier of Yukon, speaking on his new book, Reconciliation, Tuesday 7 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, free admission.

University-College Career Fair sponsored by UW and other institutions, Wednesday at RIM Park, Waterloo, details online.

Retirees Association annual wine and cheese Wednesday 3 to 5 p.m., University Club.

UW-ACE workshop: "The Spirit of Why Not in Course Design," James Skidmore, Germanic and Slavic studies, Thursday 12:15, Flex lab, Dana Porter Library, registration online.

Computational mathematics pizza welcome event Thursday 4 p.m., Davis Centre room 1301; visit with classmates, ask questions; RSVP

Ontario Universities Fair Friday 9 to 7, Saturday and Sunday 10 to 5, Metro Toronto Convention Centre, more information online.

Diversity Campaign concert with iLLScarlett, the Pocket Dwellers, Joel Plaskett and the Emergency, Friday, Federation Hall, doors open 9 p.m., free with WatCard.

Homecoming Saturday, reunions for alumni, "Blue's Clues" for kids, barbecue, Warrior football, fun run; keynote lecture by Stephen Lewis is sold out; details online.

Go Eng Girl engineering open house for girls in grades 7-10 and their parents, offered at UW and 14 other schools of engineering, Saturday, October 14, details online.

'Long way to go' in attracting grads

UW has set ambitious goals to expand the size of its graduate programs and needs to move quickly to take advantage of a one-time funding opportunity being provided by the provincial government, provost Amit Chakma told the university senate at its monthly meeting last Monday.

For a two-year window, every new graduate student space filled by a Canadian student comes with not only operating grants, but capital money attached — an extra $46,000 in capital funding. It's part of a provincial initiative to provide more graduate education opportunities, in response to Canadian employers’ calls for a better-educated work force.

Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty last week repeated an announcement about the special funding, which was first promised in the May 2005 provincial budget. "We're creating an environment in which bright young minds choose to build their future in Ontario,” said the premier, saying that the funds will increase the number of grad students in the province by 55 per cent over 2002-03 levels. The growth comes as the "double cohort" who entered universities in the fall of 2003 are looking ahead to finishing their undergraduate programs, and in some case starting graduate study.

“Over the next two years,” a provincial news release says, “the government will add 12,000 graduate student spaces, rising to 14,000 by 2009-10. To support the new graduate students, the government is providing an additional $240 million in operating funding over the next two years. The government is also providing additional capital funding of $550 million over the next five years for the construction of new and renovated facilities.”

Waterloo has set out to grow its Canadian graduate student complement by 777 students in the next two years, Chakma explained at senate. For the current fall term, the university is at 74 per cent of its target for a boost in offers at the master’s level, and 60 per cent for additional offers at the PhD level. “We’re not doing as well as we had hoped,” the provost said. “It is getting better, but we have a long way to go.”

Waterloo also admits graduate students in the winter and spring terms, so the fall numbers are just an early indicator of progress, he said.

Only the Faculty of Arts met its specific target; Chakma acknowledged that some of the other faculties, which draw more heavily on international students at the graduate level, have a harder task ahead to bring in more Canadian students. He appealed to all faculty to focus on this initiative, which has the unusual, and needed, benefit of the capital dollars attached to student growth. “We really need all your help.”

In one effort to attract more graduate students, UW will be represented at some 16 “graduate fairs” in various parts of Canada this term. “I will be representing all University of Waterloo graduate programs at various grad fairs,” writes Tracey Sinclair, recruitment manager in the graduate studies office. Her first stop: Queen’s University this Wednesday. “I will be attending fairs at the University of Alberta, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Ryerson University, and the University of Windsor for the first time,” Sinclair notes. She’ll also be making a trip to a recruitment fair in Mexico City in March.

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HR offers help for parents-to-be

Glenda Rutledge’s face lights up when she talks about all the babies she gets to meet. It’s a unique advantage of her job in UW’s human resources department, which includes administering the maternity and parental leave benefit for staff and faculty members — a benefit that was expanded through a policy change that went into effect last winter.

About 80 employees take advantage of those benefits each year, Rutledge says, and she talks with most of them as they’re planning how long to be away from the job and doing the necessary paperwork. Usually that happens in her office in the General Services Complex, although just last week she made a special visit to one UW department and met with no fewer than four mothers-to-be at once.

Later, she encourages the new parents to stop by the HR department, show off their babies and check on details like return-to-work dates.

The expanded benefits that came into effect for faculty and staff members last February 15 have been well received, Rutledge says. In particular, a number of male employees have taken advantage of the parental leave benefit that was introduced for the first time. It allows new fathers to take as much as 17 weeks off work, combining Employment Insurance benefits with a top-up from UW so they’ll receive 95 per cent of their normal salary for that period. (Alternatively, a father who isn’t taking those weeks off can have 10 fully-paid days off work around the time of the birth.)

The new policy also allows adoptive parents to have 17 weeks of combining EI benefits with a top-up paid by UW. Under the previous version of UW’s Policy 14, which dated from 2003, the allocation was 12 weeks.

For mothers who give birth, 17 weeks has been standard for many years. In addition, under the newly introduced policy, they get 6 weeks of “birth leave” at 100 per cent of full pay, for a total of more than five months.

After that, EI benefits continue for 35 more weeks, but without the UW top-up. The total is a year, and Rutledge says many new mothers, but not all, do take that long before returning to work. Under Ontario law, the employer is required to hold a job open for that year.

While the majority of employees who go on maternity leave are staff members, the new policy has a section on “tenure considerations, sabbaticals, and faculty teaching duties”. It notes in part: “Pregnancy, adoption or parental leaves reduce the time available to prepare for tenure consideration. Therefore, the probationary period and the time to tenure decision will be extended by one year on request to the Dean.”

Rutledge is the expert on the details of Policy 14, including the new possibility of splitting the 17-week “top-up” benefit between the father and the mother if they’re both UW employees, the calculation of vacation and pension credits for people on maternity leave, and other subtleties. Details are available on the HR department’s “Family-Friendly Policies, Programs & Practices” web site, she notes, but she still likes to make sure she speaks personally to each employee about how the policies and calculations will affect them. She can be reached at ext. 3-6120.

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Notes that'll surely bring a smile

[Three suits and broad smiles]Pictured at left is UW president David Johnston flanked by John Milloy, MPP for Kitchener Centre, and Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty. They were partying last Thursday night at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, where McGuinty was receiving this year's "Global Personality of the Year" award as selected by fDi (Foreign Direct Investment) magazine. Johnston was master of ceremonies for the gala dinner. Photo by Stan Bioksic, Motiontek Productions.

On Friday morning, Jaymis Goertz of the marketing and undergraduate recruitment office was the speaker at an IST seminar, talking about the online "Prospective Students Forum" that was originally launched by his office in early 2005. In its second summer, he said, the forum drew participation from about a third of this year's first-year class, with just over 65,000 messages posted to date. That's double the participation rate of last year. With the newcomers now on campus, the forum is set to close down for 2006 at the end of the month, but it will be back for 2007 when the offers of admission start in December. The high participation rate by students supports the findings from a recent study, Jaymis said, that found the web to be the most important influence (over publications and e-mail) on what university a high school student chooses. By all accounts the forum has seen great success in engaging students in the UW experience before they get here.

Stephen Lewis, former politician and now United Nations delegate for the AIDS/HIV crisis in Africa, will speak Saturday night in the Humanities Theatre, and is being billed both as the featured speaker for Homecoming and as part of the annual Diversity Campaign kickoff. Presumably demand for tickets was doubled as a result — at any rate, tickets are all gone now, and the alumni office says arrangements have been made to show the talk by live video feed in a nearby auditorium, Arts Lecture Hall room 113. "Students can view the video feed for free with their WatCard. UW staff, faculty, retirees and alumni can purchase tickets for $2 each online until Tuesday at noon." (Later in the week, if tickets remain, they'll be available through the alumni office, ext. 3-6225.)

There was a crisis on the Brock University campus last Wednesday when "a suspicious piece of mail" turned up and several staff members feared they had been contaminated with something bad. The reality, says a memo from the Niagara Regional Police Service: "A postcard containing a reference to a website address that was perceived as a veiled threat." The card was traced to South Carolina, where authorities apparently are familiar with the sender. "The FBI does not consider these postcards to be a threat," says a memo to Canadian campuses, "and stated that the person responsible for them is merely seeking to raise awareness and solicit funds for an ongoing lawsuit pending against a former employer. These same postcards have been mailed to numerous US universities and the FBI anticipates that they have also been mass-mailed to all of the Canadian universities." The Niagara force says they're hoping to avoid "any further unnecessary large-scale emergency service responses".

St. Jerome's University, currently under the leadership of an acting president, has announced the names of two finalists being considered by the nominating committee for the presidential position. . . . Carolyn Holden, undergraduate program coordinator in the economics department, will retire from UW October 1, ending a UW career that began in December 1992. . . . Mudie's cafeteria in Village I is trying to build excitement for Homecoming week with a number of entrees that bear evocative names, including "Downey Made Lasagna" (James Downey being one of UW's presidents emeritus) today and "Iron Ring Roast Beef Dip" on Thursday. . . .

The radio station Classic Rock 103.9 features "McArthur in the Morning", and tomorrow the broadcast will originate from UW, a note from the faculty of science advises. "Look for the 32-foot Hawk RV in front of the Earth Sciences Museum, as McArthur will be broadcasting live from 'the rock' from 5 to 9 a.m. All faculty, staff and students are welcome to swing by for your chance to win prizes including tickets to see The Who live in concert."


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