Friday, January 11, 2008

  • University choice 'a family decision'
  • Awards honour students who teach
  • Days of our lives, and other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs


Biology professor David Spafford is featured (as "the man of calcium channels and neurons") in a profile by fourth-year student Kate Gardiner that appears in the latest issue of SciBus, magazine of UW's science-and-business program.

Housing for the fall term

Application forms for fall 2008 housing in UW residences are now available online, with a deadline of January 28. Students can choose UW Place or Columbia Lake Village South, and can apply on their own or with roommates.

Upper-year housing information sessions about living both on and off campus next year will be offered at multiple times and locations in the UW residences January 15 through 23; a schedule is online.

Link of the day

Birthday of the first prime minister

When and where

Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference continues through Saturday, Hilton Hotel, Toronto, details online.

Return-to-campus interviews for co-op students continue in the Tatham Centre; work reports in most programs due Monday.

Class enrolment for winter term ends today for distance education, January 18 for on-campus courses.

Leadership workshop on "creative activism" sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, 1:30 to 3:30, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Philosophy colloquium: Iris Oved, Rutgers University, "The Mental Coining of Terms", 3:30, Humanities room 373.

Warrior sports: Women's volleyball vs. Lakehead, tonight 6:00, PAC. • Men's hockey vs. Toronto, tonight 7:30, vs. Ryerson Sunday 7:30, both at Icefield. • Men's volleyball vs. York, tonight 8:00; vs. Toronto, Saturday 6:00, both at PAC. • Track and field at Windsor CanAm Meet, today and Saturday. • Swimming at Guelph, Saturday from 9 a.m. • Basketball (men and women) at Western Saturday afternoon. • Women's hockey at Laurier, Saturday 7 p.m., RIM Park; vs. Laurier Sunday 2 p.m., Icefield.

Graduate House Welcome Week pub night from 6:00, featuring Genevieve Marchesseau.

FASS 2008 auditions, last day, 6:00 to 9:00 p.m., Humanities room 334; Faculty, Alumni, Students and Staff welcome; this year's show, "Global Warming: Kiss Your FASS Goodbye", hits stage February 7-9.

Internet outage tonight between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. resulting from upgrades on Orion, UW's main off-campus connection; interruption to communications to and from campus.

Needles Hall shutdown of electrical power to most receptacles Saturday 7:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.; computer equipment should be shut down in advance.

Waterloo Region rapid transit open meetings to discuss ranking of routes and technologies, beginning today at locations around the Region, including January 12 and 15 in Kitchener, January 13 in Cambridge, January 17 and 19 in Waterloo, details online.

IST server upgrade resulting in shutdown of 'admmail' e-mail services, Saturday 10:00 to 2:30.

Blood donor clinic January 14-15 and 23-25, Student Life Centre, make appointments now at turnkey desk.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Christopher Sands, Hudson Institute, "Preventing Al Qaedastan: Canada, the United States, and NATO in South Asia", Monday 11:45 a.m., 57 Erb Street West.

Career services workshop: "Networking 101" Monday 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

Banff Festival of Mountain Films Monday 7 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel University College, morning workshop on "Changing Lanes without a Major Collision", afternoon workshop on "Enhance Your Role as a Most Trusted Advisor", both January 16 in ST. Jacobs, details online.

Fall term marks for undergraduate courses now appearing on Quest; marks become official January 28.

Montréal alumni networking event January 30, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Ecomusée du fier monde, register online by January 25.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 21-24; submissions welcome now for oral or poster presentations, deadline for abstracts February 8, details online.

University choice 'a family decision'

Marking the deadline day for Ontario high school students to apply for university entrance, here are excerpts from an article by Beth Gallagher in the most recent issue of the UW Magazine.

This academic year is the peak of millennial presence on campuses in Canada: the largest number of births within the 20-year span of the millennial generation happened in 1989-90 with 403,280 births. These babies are now 17 and 18 years old, and at the age to begin post-secondary education.

Millennial research coming from the United States suggests these students are very different from their baby boomer and generation X parents. In a 2004 paper titled "Millennials Coming to College," Professor Robert DeBard of Bowling Green State University says millennial students are a conventional, high-achieving group, raised in families who sheltered them. This generation, born between 1982 and 2002, were educated in a system that promoted teamwork, rather than the individualistic pursuits of generation Xers.

When these young people start considering university, their choices are made using the same approach they used for other "purchases," says Julie Hummel, UW's associate director of marketing and undergraduate recruitment. They do the research, find out who has the best "product" for them, and go after it with a single-minded focus. Also, millennial students are supported by parents and other adults in their lives who are intimately involved in their university choices, adds Hummel.

Parental involvement is a phenomenon that the UW recruiting department began noticing in the 1990s. At that time, however, Tina Roberts, director of marketing and undergraduate recruitment, says students still cringed at their parents' presence and involvement.

"But now what we're seeing is, basically, it's a family decision and it's rare that you see students come without their parents, if not with both parents and siblings," says Roberts. "Depending upon their cultural background, sometimes their grandparents come as well. The kids really want their parents to be there. They wouldn't question whether their parents should be there or not."

Tapping into the marketing language of the business world, this parental involvement has become known in university circles as the "co-purchase," says Hummel. While universities across North America are struggling with what have become known as "helicopter parents," Roberts and Hummel believe parents can be a valuable resource. While they admit boundaries have to be set for those parents who, for example, want to attend the annual orientation week toga party, the recruiting department wants to find creative outlets for this phenomenon. "As a university, we need to look at how do we engage parents in this process because engaging them in an appropriate way is only going to make the campus life richer," says Hummel. . . .

Ask students arriving for their first day at Waterloo in September where they found their information on Waterloo, and they'll tell you they listened to their parents, or guidance counsellors, or looked up information in the annual Maclean's magazine university survey. In fact, person-to-person advice and contact is a vital factor in how students choose universities: a 2006 applicant survey conducted by Academic Impressions for the University of Waterloo found that, while students did research on the web and by reading university recruitment materials, personal recommendations, particularly from family and friends, were also influential.

To tap into this phenomenon, the university's recruitment offices for both undergraduate and graduate studies have teamed up with the university's alumni office to create the "refer-a-student campaign." In this program launched a year ago, alumni are encouraged to refer a promising student by entering that person's contact information. This triggers an email to the potential student about how to get more information on studying at UW, optionally accompanied by a note from the alumnus.

In the program's inaugural year, alumni referred 225 people. "For the first year, we were really happy with the results," says Jason Coolman, director of alumni affairs, who predicts the numbers will increase as the program gets better known among alumni. But what is it about Waterloo that attracts these high achievers to study here?

The same survey that investigated where students got their information also determined what qualities about Waterloo rank most highly with students who enroll at UW. They are, in order of importance, academic reputation of the university, reputation of the program, graduate employment outcomes, co-op opportunities, safe environment on campus, reputation for student experience. Academic excellence is clearly top of mind, but students also want to have a meaningful living experience while at Waterloo.

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Awards honour students who teach

Nominations are open now for a UW award that honours students who are also teachers — such as graduate student teaching assistants (TAs) and undergraduate lab demonstrators. The Award for Exceptional Teaching by a Student has been given annually since 1999, though the current name was just introduced last year.

“The awards,” say the terms of reference, “are open to all students who have a formal teaching role at the University of Waterloo. The Selection Committee will look for intellectual vigour and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter. Concern for and sensitivity to the academic need of the students is an important criterion.”

Winners are honoured during the convocation ceremony when they graduate — sometimes shortly after the award is made, sometimes long afterwards. A cheque and a certificate are also part of the deal.

There were four winners of the award last year, three from engineering and one from mathematics. As they were announced in March 2007, the selection committee provided some excerpts of what students said about each of the winners. For example:

Mubarak Al-Mutairi, systems design engineering: “Mubarak is always available and willing to help students and other TAs. He was said to go ‘beyond the call of duty’. He answers emails in a timely fashion and created a very positive atmosphere in the class. He never told anyone that their answer was wrong but merely steered them in the right direction.”

Stefan Buettcher, computer science: “Stefan is said to be one of the best lectures in Computer Science because he makes learning enjoyable. He is concise and knowledgeable and could answer all questions. He laid the groundwork for changes to be made in the course. Stefan is a very committed teacher who explains abstract concepts so that everyone understood. He made time for students outside the classroom.”

Muhammed Ali Ulku, management sciences: “His supervisor states, ‘When the class size is 30-40, there is a certain camaraderie or esprit de corps that is possible, although not automatic. To achieve that feeling requires leadership on the part of the instructor. Leadership is not easy to define, but it is easy to see and feel when it is present. Ali has the personality and demeanor to make everyone comfortable that they belong to the group.’ He learned everyone’s name at the first lecture. He randomly asked students questions which made everyone prepare for the lectures. Students say that because of this they were well prepared for exams.”

Adam Arnold, civil and environmental engineering: “Adam has an innate sense of giving students what they need when he is teaching. He has great communication skills, was always prepared for tutorials and helped students understand complex theories.”

The nomination deadline each year is the second Friday in February. A nomination “must be endorsed by as least five individuals, including present and past students of the nominee, and present and past faculty supervisors of the nominee,” and there’s other fine print, explained on the web site.

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Days of our lives, and other notes

Ontario's new Family Day holiday is reflected in a new schedule of UW holidays that's published on the human resources department's web site. Family Day — coinciding with the longstanding, unofficial Heritage Day — was introduced by fiat of premier Dalton McGuinty the day after last fall's election returned his government to office, and will fall on the third Monday of February each year — this year, February 18. The holiday list also has something else new: details of the days UW will observe have been approved all the way through 2011. Thus we now know that Canada Day will bring a four-day weekend in 2010 (as well as 2008) and that the last working day of 2011 will be Friday, December 23.

UW’s staff association is a step closer to revised organization and a new three-step fee structure, after a draft of new bylaws, endorsed by the group’s executive, was posted on its website this week. Comments are invited by January 18, association president Jesse Rodgers says in a letter to members. Highlights of the changes include an end to the “president-elect” position and a longer term, two years instead of one, for the association president. Also proposed is a new full-time paid position of “executive manager”. “A fee increase will have to be voted on by members in order for this position to be paid for,” Rodgers writes. The proposal is for fees to depend on a staff member’s classification: $7 a month for those in USG levels 1-6, $11 for USG 7-10, and $15 for USG 11 and above. Currently, everybody pays $5 a month. “After feedback has been received from UWSA members,” Rodgers writes, “the Executive will call a General meeting to vote on both the changes to the constitution and a fee increase. A date for the General Meeting has been tentatively set for February 12, 8:30 a.m. until 10:00 a.m.” He also notes that the PowerPoint slides for his presentation to the association’s town hall meeting last month are now available online.

[Tataryn]St. Jerome's University dean Myroslaw Tataryn (right) gives the Waterloo Catholic District School Board Lecture tonight under the title "God Keep Our Land". "Post 9/11 North Americans," he writes, "have been saturated with talk of a Clash of Civilizations, ostensibly arguing that we are culturally and religiously under siege. This lecture will compare the early 20th century rhetoric of nation-building in Canada to the contemporary discussion and will demonstrate how little has changed. The myth of building a new and improved Britain in Canada , prior to World War I, targeted religious and ethnic minorities as 'strangers at our gates' — that is, strangers who lacked the 'correct' form of Christianity, reflected an 'inferior' culture, and clearly were 'uncivilized'. This same myopia is reflected in today's anti-Muslim rhetoric." The talk starts at 7:30 p.m. in Siegfried Hall at St. Jerome's.

[Strickland]Donna Strickland (left) of the UW physics department has been named a Fellow of the Optical Society of America "for pioneering contributions to ultrafast laser and optical science, in particular for chirped pulse amplification and ultrafast nonlinear optics". • This morning's professional development seminar in Information Systems and Technology consist of a showing of the John Cleese classic film "Meetings Bloody Meetings". • Brief training sessions (at "beginner" and "advanced" levels) in the use of Cognos Cubes, the online statistical tool provided by UW's institutional analysis and planning office, will be offered several times during January and February.

News from the retail services department, in the words of marketing coordinator Kathryn King: "As part of our continuing green campaign, UWShop is running a 'green' T-shirt logo design contest. We are asking people to show us what being 'green' means to them by designing a green logo — something that advocates environmental and/or socially conscious thinking. The winning entry will be printed on a T-shirt and will be available in UWShop. The contest is open to everyone, including students, staff, faculty, and community members. Details can be found online."

And . . . expect to hear much about UW president David Johnston in the national news in the next couple of days. Today is the due date for his report to the prime minister about the Schreiber-Mulroney political scandal; he was seen on television Wednesday night arriving at Ottawa's Centre Block to deliver it officially to the PM, who has promised to make it public promptly.


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