Friday, December 12, 2008

  • Survey tells how teens view UW
  • She said, he said, about online system
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[spacer][Exam hall]

Fall term final exams continue, mostly in the Physical Activities Complex, with the last ones scheduled for December 19. Unofficial fall term grades begin appearing on Quest December 22, and grades become official January 26.

Back to top

Survey tells how teens view UW

The largest share of young students who apply for admission to UW can be labelled “enthusiasts”, meaning they are “engaged participants” who expect “a high return on investment” for the time and money they put into their education.

That nutshell description suits 42 per cent of the first-choice applicants who answered a survey last February, according to a report from the marketing and undergraduate recruitment office. The rest of the applicants were divided among three other groups. “Conformists”, who “pursue university primarily due to societal pressures and parental and peer expectations”, made up 21 per cent of the total, “Humanists” who seek to “improve the world” made up 18 per cent, and “Drifters” who “don’t know why they are attending university” were also 18 per cent.

“Although all applicants share some aspect of careerist, altruistic, personal development, and expectation-driven motivations, statistical analysis allows clustering into four categories,” the report notes.

The results come from the University College Applicant Survey, which this year was offered to about 160,000 applicants to more than 40 institutions. The marketing office says about 5,000 UW applicants completed the survey, though it’s not clear how many of them were the same young people who actually were accepted to UW and started their studies here in September.

Some demographic findings about the 5,000 applicants: 41 per cent “self-identified as a visible minority”; 59 per cent “speak English as a first language”; 42 per cent live in Toronto or the Greater Toronto Area, and 9 per cent in Waterloo Region.

“UW stands apart,” says the report, “as our first-choice applicants are more likely to be male” than those at other Ontario universities. (The UW figures: 58 per cent male, 42 per cent female.) “Compared to UW applicants overall, those from K-W and Cambridge are considerably more likely to be female and have lower grade averages.”

The survey asked several questions aimed at finding out what kind of university the applicants think they are coming to. Says the report: “UW is first and foremost identified with a handful of key programs — Engineering, Mathematics, Co-op, Computer Science/technology, and Science. For some, UW is strongly associated with ‘Bill Gates’ and ‘RIM’.

“Respondents are divided as to whether the social experience at UW is ‘fun’ or ‘boring’, but UW is seldom associated with athletics or extracurricular, as are many key competitors.”

In a separate survey, also available this week, the marketing office asked applicants who turned down admissions offers from UW why they had chosen not to come to Waterloo. The top three reasons, in order: “UW was not 1st choice; Better career preparation at chosen university; UW is known only for technology-oriented programs.” Some 35 per cent of applicants said they might have changed their mind, though, if Waterloo had offered them a larger scholarship.

Back to top

She said, he said, about online system

One of the presentations at last week’s WatITis conference described the development of the Online Faculty Information System that’s emerging in the faculty of engineering. The speakers were Marlon Griffith of engineering computing and Paul McKone, now of the faculty of environment but formerly also of engineering.

It turns out that the real begetters of the project are Beth Jewkes of the management sciences department and Peter Douglas, associate dean (computing) in engineering. Invited to give the background, they ended up in what can best be presented as a dialogue. . . .

[Jewkes]She said: “OFIS development came together as a result of two separate, but related streams of thought that Peter and I were having about 2-plus years ago. I wanted an automated tool to help chairs and faculty members gather (and maintain) data pertaining to the reports for annual merit reviews, OCGS, CEAB, and other purposes where we had to report about faculty members’ activity.

“We collect the same information from the Graduate Studies Office, Office of Research, Institutional Analysis and Planning and the faculty level offices for different purposes over and over again, resulting in unnecessary work, errors and frustration. I wanted an approach whereby if we collected the base information once, had a mechanism to update it, that we could use the information for multiple purposes. It would require a substantial up-front investment, but the reduction in later work hopefully would be worth it.

“Management Sciences had recently implemented an online faculty application system whereby people interested in applying for a faculty position would apply and submit their paperwork online. Members of the hiring committee could then access all the application materials, and we could do our reviewing without masses and masses of paper, lost files, delays due to a sequential review of files (rather than concurrent). The experience we had gained in developing that system made me think about what other administrative processes we could streamline.”

[Douglas]He said: “When I first took on the job of Associate Dean, I thought that we could do a better job of supporting administrative computing functions. In particular, I thought about providing faculty with a summary of their teaching data (courses taught, student course critiques) over the past year. This is something that all faculty members must submit as part of the annual performance review. This info is not particularly difficult for faculty members to reproduce, but Engineering Computing had already created a database for the Dean that contained all this data and it could easily be converted into a report for each professor.

“I asked Paul McKone (because he created and maintained the database) if it was possible to generate such a report; Paul made the crucial mistake of saying ‘yes, that shouldn't be a problem’.

“It was probably around this time when we were talking seriously about the possibility of getting access to the central data that I began talking with Beth about what we were doing and she told me about her initiative in MSci to develop a database.”

She said: “We realized that we were talking about basically the same type of thing. I offered a faculty member to help — she is an expert in database design — and our computer technician.”

He said: “We began thinking of the other data that profs needed to complete their annual performance reports (teaching, research and service). Research data consisted of graduate supervision (the GSO had all this data), contracts and grants (the office of research had all this data) and finally names, ranks, etc. (human resources had all this info). A big vote of thanks has to go to Alan George, the associate provost, for making it easy for us to get access to this data from the central databases.”

She said: “With the support of Alan and the dean of engineering, Adel Sedra, we've made some pretty good progress, and it’s clear that it has very large potential for use campus-wide. This has been a labour of love in many ways, as I think the team knows it is the right thing to do.”

He said: “Beth and I have always been close colleagues, probably starting when she was Associate Dean, and so it was easy for us to work together. Beth brought Professor Olga Vechtomova (an expert in databases and data retrieval) into the group as well as Vu Huynh (MSci systems administrator and programmer of the MSci faculty application system). We continue to meet weekly for about two hours.”

She said: “To move the project ahead, Peter needed to interface with numerous university-wide folks to ask for data, and to clarify why we were asking for it. If it were not for his congenial persistence, things would not have moved along so well.

“I've more or less been behind the scenes making sure that what the team does is practical and useful from an academic standpoint, testing, and cracking silly jokes at our meetings.”


Back to top

[More of the exam hall]

Photo by Simon Wilson.

Link of the day

Santa Lucia

When and where

Libraries extended hours through December 19: Davis Centre Library open 24 hours a day except Sundays 2 to 8 a.m.; Dana Porter Library open 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Libraries open December 20-23, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed December 24 through January 4.

Paul Snyder, information systems and technology, “40 Years in Review” as he nears retirement, 9 a.m., Math and Computer room 2009.

Jay Black, school of computer science, farewell reception as he moves to Simon Fraser University, 4:00 to 6:00, Davis Centre lounge.

Architecture 443/646 student films on the theme of “madness in architecture”, 8:00 p.m., Architecture lecture hall, Cambridge.

Graduate Student Association semi-formal scheduled for Saturday has been cancelled.

Classical Dance Conservatory Christmas show Sunday 2:00 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

UW Senate Monday, December 15, cancelled.

Ontario Ballet Theatre presents “The Nutcracker”, Monday 7:00 p.m., and school performances Tuesday, 10:00 and 12:30, Humanities Theatre.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Finding Nemo: Advanced Techniques for Finding Web Resources” Tuesday 3:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library.

Fee payment deadline for the winter term: December 17 (cheque, money order or fee arrangements), December 30 (bank transfer).

Barry Levely, mapping, analysis and design, Faculty of Environment, retirement reception Wednesday 2:00 to 4:30, Environment II room 1008A.

Pension and benefits committee Friday, December 19, 8:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Christmas and New Year’s holidays: Tuesday, December 23, last working day at UW for 2008. First working day of 2009 is Monday, January 5. Winter term classes begin Monday, January 5.

‘Language as a Complex Dynamic System’ at Renison University College, Thursday, January 8, 7:00 p.m.; guest speaker Diane Larsen-Freeman, University of Michigan; details e-mail jpwillia@

Social Innovation Generation project presents “Studio Earth”, with remarks by environmentalist Severn Suzuki, sessions on social finance, social technology, political advocacy, Sunday, January 11, 12:30 to 5:00, Kitchener City Hall, registration $10, call ext. 38680.

Application deadline for September 2009 undergraduate admission is January 14 for Ontario secondary school students. General deadline, March 31. Exceptions include social work, December 15; pharmacy (for January 2010), January 30; accounting and architecture, February 13; engineering and software March 2. Details.

Engineering alumni ski day at Osler Bluff Ski Club, Collingwood, January 16. Details.

United Arab Emirates campus information session with director Magdy Salama, Monday, January 19, 3:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Student drama production February 5-14 in Studio 180, Humanities building, details to be announced.

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin