Tuesday, August 18, 2009

  • Grad studies head lists priorities
  • For hundreds, Labour Day's no holiday
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

Grad studies head lists priorities

Sue Horton uses words like “exciting” to describe the job she’s just taken on at UW, and that’s even before a shower of debris rattles past her window.

The noise outside the window is just a temporary feature of her office on the second floor of Needles Hall — the result of brickwork on the building’s front facade — but she expects the excitement to last even after Horton gets her mountain of boxes unpacked and settles into the job.

She arrived July 1 as the university’s first associate provost (graduate studies), an executive post that used to be called “dean of graduate studies” and has been renamed to emphasize the “facilitative” role of the graduate studies office that she heads. She was offered the job just in time to attend the May retreat for UW’s executive council, and she will also be a member of deans’ council, the smaller group of the university’s top leaders.

The GSO doesn’t offer graduate programs and degrees itself; that’s done by academic departments and faculties, headed by deans. The GSO administers regulations and finances, interprets graduate programs to accreditors, promotes graduate study at Waterloo and helps those academic units carry on their work.

[Horton]“I’ve been a vice-president, so I have an integrated view,” says Horton (right), explaining how a faculty member — in her case an economics professor, specializing in health and development issues — can provide leadership from the centre in a time of major expansion for graduate programs.

She served for five years as vice-president (academic) at Wilfrid Laurier University, and was finishing up a sabbatical leave when the chance came to move up University Avenue and take the new position at UW. She becomes the first full-time head of the GSO since dean Ranjana Bird left in 2007. Alan George, associate provost (information systems and technology), was interim dean for two years.

“I am interested in trying to make things better,” she said in a conversation last week about her plans. “There are big directives in the Sixth Decade Plan,” the 2006 document that’s supposed to guide Waterloo from here to 2017 and that has much to say about graduate study.

The first one? “Obviously, expansion, which will be met with mixed enthusiasm because it’s hard work.” The plan calls for increasing graduate enrolment to 8,000 by 2017, double the present number. That will include 5,000 students in research programs at the PhD and master’s levels, and 3,000 in professional and course-based master's programs.

Second? “Internationalization of graduate programs. The goal is 30 per cent of enrolment, which is pretty ambitious.” But besides bringing more students from outside Canada into graduate work at UW, the Plan calls for giving international experience to Canadian students wherever possible. “I do international work myself, so I’m a big believer,” says Horton, whose faculty post in the UW economics department is complemented by her role as Centre for Global Innovation Chair in Global Health Economics in the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

And third? “Continuing to improve the graduate student experience.” Under that heading, Horton says, “the first priority is finance,” particularly UW’s gradually advancing commitment to a guaranteed annual income for all full-time students in research-based graduate programs. Standards are in place now for PhD students, and she looks forward to offering a minimum level of support to all master’s level students as well.

Looking ahead, she intends to set up a task force to design UW’s internal process for appraisal of graduate programs, something that will be needed as the provincial agency that’s been doing such work until now, the Ontario Council on Graduate Studies, narrows its focus. Another issue for her attention, somewhere down the road, will be the status of post-doctoral fellows, often the forgotten souls on campus despite the key role they play in some research projects.

Horton doesn’t have any of her own graduate students — yet — but will have a graduate course this year, teaching Economics of Public Health in the all-distance-education Master of Public Health professional program. Her professional work also continues: for example, she’s scheduled to give a keynote address at the International Congress of Nutrition in Bangkok in October.

Horton received her Master of Arts degree from the University of Cambridge and her doctoral degree from Harvard University. In international health circles, she is a key advocate of micronutrients — vitamin A, zinc, iron, iodine and folic acid — to combat global malnutrition. The Ottawa-based Micronutrient Initiative, with which she is involved, aims to tackle "hidden hunger", which stunts children's growth and sharply shortens the lives of young people and pregnant women in Africa and southeast Asia. She has has been concerned about nutrition issues since a graduate-student stint at Bangladesh's International Centre for Diarrheal Disease Research three decades ago.

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For hundreds, Labour Day's no holiday

The Daily Bulletin has been saying, under the When and Where heading at right, that “offices and most services” at UW will be closed on Labour Day — Monday, September 7 — but that’s not exactly true, a senior official is pointing out.

Bud Walker, UW’s director of business services, is responsible for housing and residences, retail services, food services and other activities across the campus, and he ought to know. Here’s what he had to say in an e-mail message about the Labour Day holiday:

“Actually, there are a number of units that will be in full operation that day. The Housing office, the WatCard office and Retail Services will have all their offices and facilities open.

“Also, the Student Life Office will be operating as will the Federation of Students offices, and UW Police will have a bolstered contingent on to help with the traffic related to residence move-in. The Parking Services office will also be open and Food Services will have a full complement on duty at all residence outlets.

“And, of course, there are services in the SLC such as the turnkey desk, Used Book Store, Federation Express and Tim Hortons that will be open — as will the Tim Hortons in South Campus Hall. IST will have staff on call to to support the Housing Technology group in hooking up the 5,000 or so computers brought to campus by the incoming first year cohort. There will be Health Services staff on duty to screen students for H1N1 symptoms. And there will be a corresponding contingent of staff on duty to handle move-in at the Colleges.

“Additionally, a number of other stakeholders from Plant Operations to Needles Hall come in to help things run smoothly, greet parents and students, and generally lend a hand to support staff. In all, there will be close to 400 hundred full and part time employees and hundreds of student volunteers working that day. So it might be good to mention all this as a tribute to all these staffers who give up their long weekend to ensure that our first-year recruits and their parents are well looked after. Many of these services are also in operation on the Sunday preceding Labour Day as well.”

Consider it mentioned. (There will be details in the Daily Bulletins that appear just before the long weekend, which is now less than three weeks away.)


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Link of the day

Cambridge at 800

When and where

Hot water, heating and steam shut off in all buildings within the Ring Road, plus Village I, today at 12 a.m. to Thursday, August 20 at 4 p.m., for maintenance of steam mains.

UW Book Club. Unfeeling by Ian Holding, Wednesday 12:05 p.m., Dana Porter Library room 407. Details.

Tennis Canada 2009 Rogers Cup alumni night Thursday, Rexall Centre, Toronto. Discount tickets for students and alumni available; tournament runs August 15-23. Details.

Alzheimer Society barbecue Thursday 5-8 p.m., 831 Frederick Street, Kitchener. Details (RSVP required).

Warrior men’s soccer exhibition games vs. Seton Hill University, Friday 6:30, Saturday 2:00, Columbia fields.

‘Miss Saigon’ presented by The Singers Theatre, Friday-Saturday 8:00, Saturday-Sunday 2:00, Humanities Theatre, tickets $18. Details.

Alumni lunch and theatre event at Niagara-on-the-Lake, with “Play, Orchestra, Play” at Shaw Festival, Saturday. Details.

Alumni event in Calgary: Garden tour at historic Lougheed House, August 25, 5:30 p.m. Details.

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