Thursday, January 29, 2009

  • Scammers seek to 'pilfer' from UW
  • Actuarial science degree targets India
  • Staff member mourned; other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Room full of hands and balloons]

43 student leaders spent the middle weekend of January in intensive training, getting ready to be the key people in next fall's orientation program for first-year students. Becky Wroe of the Federation of Students, co-chairs the Federation Orientation Committee with Cora Dupuis of UW's student life office. She says the participants "talked with each other about their ideas and goals for orientation, experienced Personality Dimensions (presented by the office of organizational and human development), and learned skills including event planning, volunteer recruitment, and budgeting." Oh, and they floated some balloons.

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Scammers seek to 'pilfer' from UW

Not all the crooks are online, even in the Internet age, says Steve Cook of UW’s procurement and contract services, who has promised to introduce a public listing of ways people have tried to defraud the university lately.

He compares many of the scams to “phishing”, the online tactic of getting people to reveal passwords or credit card numbers. “There are similar ways in which dishonest people and phony companies attempt to take advantage of the university in order to pilfer money,” says Cook.

“These companies frequently solicit unsuspecting members of the campus community. They may send subscription invoices when no one has received a subscription. They may send advertisement invoices when we haven't placed an ad. They may aggressively seek payment for a service that you have not requested.

“Some will even do a little research on the university and quote the name of a senior university administrator hoping you will simply make the payment without question. They can be relentless.

“Please do not be coerced into approving a purchase over the phone because someone says, ‘This is a one-time deal,’ or ‘a special’, or that your subscription requires renewal. If it is a legitimate call, they will understand that there are procedures that must be followed.”

One victim late last year was a staff member in a UW research centre who got word of a three-day training session in Toronto dealing with techniques for writing grant applications. “I signed up for the 3-day course,” she reports. “I subsequently received a confirmation that my spot was being held, and an invoice ($597.00 USD) and payment instructions, which were processed through our normal accounting system at UW.”

But then came the date for the course itself: “I made my way into Toronto. On Monday morning at 8 a.m. a group of professionals gathered (approximately 34) from different parts of the province. No one was there greeting participants at the door, so people were just chatting. At 8:15, still the workshop had not yet started and no one seemed to know what was going on. Finally, someone inquired at the front desk of the hotel and it just so happens that the supposed instructor of the course had not checked in to the hotel on Sunday night, nor was the credit card valid that hotel was given to pay for the conference room and food.

“We did some research and discovered that the company had an exorbitant amount of complaints against them. It was the same M.O. over and over again — no one shows up for the course, the company has some lame excuse about the instructor having a family emergency and that they will reimburse everyone, yet no one gets reimbursed.

“We finally called the Toronto police and got the hotel management involved. The sergeant of the fraud squad actually got in touch with the president of the company who gave him the same story that they have used before: the instructor at the last minute could not make it and they would supply everyone with refund request form. The police could not charge them with fraud — however, we all know it is.”

Advice from Steve Cook: “If you receive a suspicious call, take their address and phone number and tell them you need to investigate further. If they persist, do not hesitate to contact Procurement & Contract Services (ext 84501) to help determine the validity of the company and the transaction. We will determine the authenticity of the caller and ensure legitimate transactions are handled accordingly. We will also try to collect information and maintain a central listing detailing current known scams to help the campus community be mindful of the ongoing challenge.”

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Actuarial science degree targets India

by Brandon Sweet

A new program with the aim of offering “the finest professional post-graduate education in actuarial science and practice in the world” was approved at the January meeting of the UW senate.

Located in the department of statistics and actuarial science, the new Master of Actuarial Science (MActSci) program is expected to be popular with students from India, China, Malaysia, and Singapore, aiming to provide an international perspective on the practice of actuarial science. The program is intended to be small, with a maximum enrolment of 30 students, and includes courses on financial mathematics, life insurance mathematics, statistics, stochastic processes, actuarial practice and professional communications.

Speaking in support of the motion to approve the new program at Senate, dean of mathematics Tom Coleman said there is "an extremely strong group in actuarial science” at Waterloo, “possibly the strongest in the world.” Two professors are honorary Fellows of the Institute of Actuaries, while four have authored or co-authored textbooks that are widely used in the teaching of the profession. “Waterloo is the leading actuarial university in the world, in terms of number of faculty and relevant research output,” reads the proposal document included in the meeting’s agenda package. Two faculty members, Robert L. Brown and Harry Panjer, are past Presidents of both the Canadian Institute of Actuaries and the Society of Actuaries.

According to the proposal document, Waterloo’s actuarial science program has connections with many employers in North America, including major insurers such as Manulife, Sun Life, Principal Group, CIGNA, major investment houses such as Goldman Sachs, and consulting firms including Mercer, Milliman, Watson Wyatt, Tillinghast, PWC, and Ernst and Young. Graduates of Waterloo’s programs are employed in insurance and consulting in Canada, the United States, Europe, China, the West Indies, Singapore, and Malaysia.

However, it is the increase in demand for “fast-track actuarial education” from India that has provided much of the incentive for the creation of this program. In 1972, India nationalized its insurance industry, refusing to allow private insurance companies or foreign investments, a policy that didn't change until deregulation in 1999. Actuarial training and education “was essentially moribund” during this period, which lead to a “dearth of credentialed actuaries in India and a serious skills gap in the essential risk management of modern life and non-life insurance.” It is this gap that UW aims to close with this new program.

The MActSci program is funded in part by Fairfax Financial Holdings Limited. Fairfax has made significant inroads into India, having partnered with ICICI Bank Limited to form the country’s largest private general insurance company. Fairfax Financial is based in Canada and its chairman, Prem Watsa, will succeed Research In Motion CEO Mike Lazaridis as the university’s Chancellor in May.

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Staff member mourned; other notes

[Laronde]A funeral service will be held this afternoon for Lori Laronde (right), a member of UW's staff who died Saturday at Victoria Hospital in London. Laronde, who had worked in the school of accounting and finance and more recently in the faculty association office, was 41. She is survived by her husband, Paul, as well as parents and many other family members. The service is scheduled for 1:00 today at the David MacLeod Funeral Home on King Street North, with a reception to follow. As expressions of sympathy, memorial donations to the Kidney Foundation of Canada are suggested.

A day after federal finance minister Jim Flaherty presented his budget, and on the day the Liberal Party gave its support and thus ensured that the Conservative budget proposals will pass, UW's Institute for Quantum Computing issued a proud news release about its $50 million earmarked grant. Said IQC director Raymond Laflamme: "IQC is proud of its achievements and the recognition both at the international research level and from the government of Canada. $25M will be put towards the completion of IQC's share of the Quantum-Nano Centre, and the other half will be used for overall operations and to attract researchers to IQC. We are determined to be standing at the forefront on the leading edge of research in a field of tremendous potential for the future of Canada. IQC wishes to thank all supporters who have contributed to its success." The Quantum-Nano Centre, at the centre of UW's main campus, is set for completion in December 2010 and will let IQC double in size in the next five to seven years. "However," says Laflamme, "we aim for quality, not quantity. It is imperative to acquire the best brains in the world in quantum information science and technology to advance with more groundbreaking developments. I am delighted that the government of Canada has recognized the importance of fundamental research which has the potential of impacting the economy and the technology of the future." His organization currently has 17 faculty members, 20 postdoctoral fellows and more than 73 students and research assistants, as well as a support staff of 10.

An American computer software pioneer, Richard Stallman, will discuss the global free software movement during a public lecture this afternoon. Stallman, founder of the GNU collaborative project, will talk about the campaign that gives computer users the freedom to co-operate and control their own computing activities. His talk, sponsored by the Computer Science Club, starts at 3:30 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre. The free software movement developed the GNU operating system, a free Unix-like system often erroneously referred to as Linux. It aims to promote a user's right to access and modify software. "Richard Stallman revolutionized the perception of software and information freedom through the establishment of the GNU Project in 1984," said Edgar Bering, vice-president of the CSC. "Worldwide the support for the free software movement is growing with practical applications being developed everyday." Stallman, who has received honorary doctorates from several universities, was the recipient of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) Grace Murray Hopper Award in 1990. The annual award is given to outstanding young computer professionals. In 1998, he won the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Pioneer Award for founding and developing the GNU Project. To hear about free software this afternoon, admission is free.

The UW School of Optometry held its inaugural White Coat Ceremony last night, formally presenting white clinic coats to 180 first and second year optometry students as a symbol of their transition to the profession of optometry and their commitment to, and respect for, their future patients. Similar ceremonies are held by a number of health sciences professional schools, including UW's pharmacy school. Organizers of yesterday's event noted that as the only English-language school of optometry in Canada, UW's school attracted some distinguished guests, including the president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists, as well as the presidents of eight provincial associations. They were invited to join the School’s Clinic Heads as they officially “coated” each of the students. "The ceremony," a statement explains, "marks the beginning of the students’ journey into the optometric profession and therefore it is fitting to have Canada’s optometric leaders present them with their white coats. The Canadian Association of Optometrists has also generously supported the White Coat Ceremony through the purchase of clinic coats for the students." It all took place in Federation Hall, in front of more than 200 family members and friends as well as faculty and staff from the School of Optometry.


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Link of the day

Social bookmarking site for academics

When and where

Employer interviews for spring co-op work term January 29 through February 27; rankings open February 27, 1 p.m.

Career workshops today: “Work Search Strategies” 10:30, “Professional School Interviews” 4:30, both in Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Emergency alert test involving voicemail, text messages, UW home page, 11 a.m. Details.

QPR suicide prevention training sessions today and February 23, 11:30 to 1:00, Math and Computer room 4068, register with counselling services, ext. 33528.

International Spouses Chinese cooking and new year celebration, 12:45 p.m., Columbia Lake Village community centre, fee $3. Preregister (e-mail by Monday. Details.

Engineering Research Office presents “Commercialization Success at Waterloo: How Your Office of Research Can Help” 1:30, Davis Centre room 1304, register ext. 32060.

Geography and environmental management seminar: Phil Graniero, University of Windsor, “It’s Not Really About the Numbers: Adaptive Environmental Monitoring with Intelligent Sensor Webs and GIS” 1:30 p.m., Environment I room 221.

Survey Research Centre presents “The Growing Role of Focus Groups in Market Research”, 2:30 p.m., PAS building room 2030.

Healthy weight, healthy eating group, first session of a 7-week program, 4:00, Student Life Centre room 3103, preregister at ext. 35599.

Infusion Angels Innovation Centre present “Independents Day”: “mingle with fellow gamers, industry leaders, and explore the gaming world,” information about entrepreneurship, prizes, food, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Federation Hall, register by e-mail: events@

Mathematics Faculty Awards Banquet recognizing student award winners, 5:30 p.m., Festival Room, South Campus Hall, by invitation.

‘Canada-India: Understanding a Turbulent Past’, history professor Ryan Touhey, 7:00 p.m., Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome’s University.

Fee arrangements for winter term: last day January 30.

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

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: “Securing Data Using TrueCrypt” Friday 9:00, IST seminar room.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Using UW-ACE to Help Students Prepare for Your Large Class” Friday 10:30 a.m., Dana Porter Library room 329. Details.

Federation of Students executive candidates public forum Friday 11:00 to 2:00, Student Life Centre great hall. Election takes place February 10-12.

Career workshop: “Interview Skills, Preparing for Questions” Friday 1:30, Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Fine Arts Film Society Malaysian cinema series: “Gubra” (2006), Friday 7:00, East Campus Hall room 1220.

‘Wellness and Health: Eating Mindfully for 2009’ sponsored by counselling services and health services, Monday 12:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

Montréal alumni reception Monday 6:00 p.m., Wienstein & Gavino’s, Crescent Street. Details.

UW board of governors meets Tuesday 2:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001. (Pre-meeting briefing on academic progress, 1:15 p.m.)

Ontario/Jiangsu student exchange information session Tuesday 3:00, Needles Hall room 1116. Information: ext. 33999.

'UpStart Women' festival presented by department of drama: three plays ("Cliques That Click", "Surface Tension", "Bittergirl") February 3, 5 and 7 at 7:00 p.m., three other plays ("The Hair Affair", "Clothture", "The Red Tent") February 4 and 6 at 7:00 and February 7 at 2:00. General admission $12 ($20 for both shows), students $10 ($16).

The Three Cantors benefit concert celebrating 10th anniversary of the School of Social Work, Renison University College, Tuesday 7:30 p.m., St. John the Evangelist church, Kitchener, tickets $25 (students $20), information ext. 28644.

Job Fair 2009 sponsored by UW and other post-secondary institutions, February 4, 10:00 to 3:30, RIM Park, Waterloo. Details.

Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology information session February 4, 4:00 p.m., 295 Hagey Boulevard (also February 11).

Guelph-Waterloo Physics Institute Distinguished Lecture: David Goodstein, California Institute of Technology, “Out of Gas: The End of the Age of Oil”, February 5, 4:00 p.m., Perimeter Institute lecture theatre.

Ottawa alumni event: Reception at Canadian Museum of Civilization marking “the early stages of UW’s Centre for Public Service”, February 5, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Details.

FASS 2009: ‘Live FASS, Die Tomorrow’, a “spy-themed musical comedy” performed by faculty, alumni, students and staff, February 5 (8:00), 6 (7:00 and 10:00) and 7 (8:00), Humanities Theatre, tickets $7 on Thursday, $10 other nights, at Humanities box office.

Class enrolment appointments on Quest for spring 2009 courses, February 9 to 14; open enrolment begins February 16.

Censorship in children’s literature: “The ‘Bare Naked’ Talk” open discussion with author Kathy Stinson, February 10, 5:00 p.m., Sweeney Hall, St. Jerome’s University, book signing follows.

Engineering alumni reception at Facebook headquarters, Palo Alto, California, February 11, 5:30 p.m., speaker Chamath Palihapitiya (BASc 1999), Facebook vice-president. Details.

Treat-a-gram delivery February 12; orders now being taken, $3 fee supports Keystone Campaign.

Keith Geddes, school of computer science, retirement reception February 12, 4:00 to 6:00, Davis Centre lounge.

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin