Monday, July 6, 2009

  • UW 'priorities' for the year ahead
  • Mennonites meet with Shiite scholars
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

UW 'priorities' for the year ahead

Two sets of “priorities” will lie behind most of what’s done by the UW leadership in the coming year, according to statements by President David Johnston and outgoing provost Amit Chakma.

One set of seven points is the “executive council priorities” agreed on at the Kempenfelt Bay retreat held in May by the university’s top executives. Chakma listed those at the June meetings of the UW Board of Governors and Senate:

  • Income diversification (bolstering the university’s revenue through fund-raising, increased enrolment of international students, responsiveness to special government funding programs, and other kinds of partnerships).
  • International undergraduate student recruitment and increasing the international experiences available to Canadian students.
  • Support for “major research initiatives” in key areas, mainly interdisciplinary, such as water, climate change, the automotive industry, and quantum information.
  • Career-focused master’s degree programs, such as the existing ones in taxation and public health, and new ones in fields such as public service, actuarial science and health informatics.
  • Generation of jobs for co-op students — a challenge in current economic conditions.
  • Implementing a faculty merit review system that will be consistent across all parts of the university.
  • Responding to government initiatives, such as the recent Knowledge Infrastructure grant program for construction.

The Kempenfelt retreat “is also an opportunity for me to reflect on my specific priorities as president for the forthcoming year,” Johnston said in a memo sent to faculty and staff across the university last week.

“The first priority is of course excellence in everything we do at Waterloo. The vision is to continue to build out the Sixth Decade Plan through faculty-based plans and regular benchmarking.”

He spoke of “systematically raising admissions standards in every Faculty. We will diversify our base with out-of-province and out-of-country enrolment increases. Internationalization will continue to be a major focus. I will support the development of new academic plans, and modifications to existing academic plans, that respond to new opportunities and new core strengths at Waterloo. I support initiatives that enhance academic integrity and will work to provide new and broader opportunities for the student research experience.

“Most importantly, we will nurture the culture of excellence in both teaching and learning.

“I hope to ensure a greater recognition of the presence of post-doctoral fellows at this institution as well as their importance.

“Promoting excellence in research means broadening its base and increasing its intensity across this university. I will support efforts to strengthen research clusters around five core themes — technology, health, environment, materials and systems, and society and culture.

“We will ensure strategic resource allocation with an emphasis on core quality areas. We do face constraints on our budget, both on the operating side and the capital side, but we also face opportunities that will require us to employ differing innovative strategies to prudently manage our resources.

“The second overarching priority for me for the coming years is income diversification. I support the continuation of Campaign Waterloo beyond the $500 million mark. We will work towards our Sixth Decade goal of sustaining annual private support at $100 million a year. We have had wonderful examples of successful partnerships that could not have come about without the participation of government at all levels. We will continue to strengthen this kind of innovative government support for these initiatives as well as other projects such as our campus in the United Arab Emirates.

“We will enhance direct and indirect research income by at least 15 per cent per year for the next five years and broaden our grant, contract, license, and royalty sources. We will seek innovative ways to manage revenues and expenditures to achieve the ambitions that have been laid out in our Sixth Decade Plan.”

And then: “My third priority is the strengthening of our community in every sense of the word. Externally, I will continue to make the case for public support for post-secondary education and research and development. We must work together to strengthen our community relations and our alumni relationships. I will endeavour to communicate regularly with external communities as well as internal ones to ensure the flow of information and the exchange of ideas.

“Internally, I will work to identify and respond to stress points in the areas of academic and administrative support. We will strengthen staff development opportunities. We will provide stable, competitive salaries and benefits along with the capacity to reward extraordinary merit.

“I will support the focus of IT and e-learning initiatives on opportunities to improve the quality of our services and most importantly to help reinforce the culture of innovation upon which Waterloo relies.

“Strengthening community also means ensuring that the living space we supply to our students is of the highest quality. Student housing, both on and off campus, will be expanded, and we will continue to implement the recommendations of the Living Learning Report as we prepare for an increase from 2,600 to 8,000 graduate students within the next decade.

“Lastly, I will do my best to strengthen the openness and effectiveness of our collegial culture at Waterloo. Reinforcing our culture of civility will help us transition through the uncertain times that still lie ahead.”

The full text of Johnston’s letter will be available shortly on his web site.

Back to top

[Western and Islamic dress at seminar table]
Mennonites meet with Shiite scholars

by Jeremy Bergen, Conrad Grebel University College (longer version online)

Seventeen Mennonite Christian and Shiite Muslim scholars of religion met together for four days in Qom, Iran, May 24-27 to discuss the theme of peace and justice. The dialogue conference (photo above) was planned and hosted by the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute, and the Mennonite Central Committee organized the conference from the Mennonite side.

The event was a forum for Shiite and Mennonite scholars to learn from each other, develop mutual understanding, and establish friendships. Participants presented papers rooted in their own tradition’s theological understanding of the nature, mandate and implications of peace and justice. Formal and informal discussions provided opportunities to find commonalities, clarify differences, and respectfully engage each other.

The Mennonites presented papers on biblical perspectives, the centrality of Jesus for peace and justice, pacifism, church, martyrdom, advocacy, and the history of Mennonite practices of peace and justice. Shiite presentations examined the relationship between justice and peace in the Qur’an, war and jihad, eschatology, divine mercy, and the nature of the international political order.

Most of the Muslim participants were professors at IKERI as well as clerics, although two professors travelled from other universities to give presentations. The Mennonite participants teach at universities and seminaries in Canada, the United States and Lebanon. The event was open to the public and advertised around Qom, a significant centre of religious scholarship in Iran. Some sessions drew several dozen observers.

This conference, the fourth in a series that began in 2002, grew out of an exchange program in which Iranian doctoral students study at the Toronto School of Theology, and Mennonite couples from North America live and study in Qom. The Mennonite delegation extended an invitation to a fifth dialogue to be held somewhere in North America in 2011.

David Shenk, a participant in all four dialogues, commented on the high degree of trust and candour in these conversations. Because of personal relationships developed over many years, each side was able to engage and even challenge the other on the assumptions and implications of their positions. Both Mennonites and Shiites are minority groups within Christianity and Islam, and have experienced persecution that shapes their perceptions of the world.

Gordon Zerbe, a first-time participant, noted how the Shiites have a religious imperative to dialogue because of what Islam holds in common with Christianity. At times, there was a remarkable similarity in theological language and concerns. Yet, some conversations made evident significant differences in culture, context, and patterns of thinking. “This dialogue required me to contemplate some foundational assumptions of my own faith. We often take the logic of our own convictions for granted until we explain it to someone who has a very different frame of reference,” he said.

The first of this series of conferences was held in Toronto, 2002, on the topic of “The Challenges of Modernity.” The second one was held in Qom two years later on “Revelation and Authority.” “Spirituality” was the theme of the third conference, held in Waterloo in 2007. Papers from the first two conferences were published in the Fall 2003 and Winter 2006 issues of the Conrad Grebel Review. Papers from the third and fourth conferences will be published in the future.

The Mennonites who presented papers included James Reimer and Jeremy Bergen of Grebel. Henry Paetkau and Nathan Funk of Grebel participated as official observers, and James Pankratz was among the organizers on behalf of MCC.

Back to top

Link of the day

Tynwald Day

When and where

Blood donor clinic at Student Life Centre, Monday-Thursday 10:00 to 3:00 and Friday 9:00 to 2:00. Details.

Career workshop: “Exploring Your Personality Type” today and July 13, 2:00, Tatham Centre room 1112. Details.

‘What Is Your Carbon Footprint?’ brown-bag seminar with Mike Greulich, plant operations, sponsored by Employee Assistance Program, Wednesday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Swing2Cure Charity Golf Tournament sponsored by Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, Wednesday 12:00, Rebel Creek Golf Club. Details.

Management Consulting Club presents “The CEO Factory”: consultants from McKinsey, BCG and Deloitte speak on careers in management consulting, Wednesday 6:30, CEIT room 1015.

Farm market operated by UW food services and volunteers, Thursday 9:00 to 1:00, Environment I courtyard.

‘Teaching Large Classes’ workshop organized by Centre for Teaching Excellence, Thursday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302. Details.

Career workshop: “Career Exploration and Decision Making” Thursday 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1112. Details.

Alumni networking workshop: “The Power of LinkedIn” Thursday 6 p.m., University of Toronto at Mississauga. Details.

Late Night at the Movies sponsored by WPIRG and Federation of Students: “Milk”, Thursday 9:00, Humanities building courtyard.

Festival International de Jazz de Montréal bus trip sponsored by International Student Connection, July 10-12, tickets starting at $149 from Federation of Students office.

Jhalak: A Glimpse of India semi-formal with traditional dancing, music, dinner, DJ music and bingo, sponsored by UW’s Indian Connection, Friday 7:00 p.m., RIM Park. Tickets $25 at Student Life Centre.

Warrior Weekends events in the Student Life Centre, Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m.: salsa lessons, Tea Club tea bar, karaoke, crafts, movies. Details.

Legendary Leader Conference for September 2009 orientation leaders, Saturday, Humanities Theatre and nearby buildings. Details.

Class enrolment for fall term courses: appointments July 13-26 for new students; open enrolment begins July 27.

LIF and PIF funding proposals (Learning Initiatives Fund and Program Initiative Fund) deadline: July 15. Information here (click on Grants.)

Job information sessions for graduating students, Tuesday, July 21, 10:30, and Thursday, July 23, 2:30, Arts Lecture Hall room 116. Attend if you are on a work term September-December, for information about on-campus recruitment and career services.

Student Life 101 open house for students coming to UW this fall, Saturday, July 25, 9:00 to 4:00. Details.

Spring term classes end Tuesday, July 28. Exams August 4-15; unofficial grades begin appearing on Quest August 17; grades become official September 21.

Civic Holiday Monday, August 3, UW offices and most services closed.

Tennis Canada 2009 Rogers Cup alumni night Thursday, August 20, Rexall Centre, Toronto. Discount tickets for students and alumni available; tournament runs August 15-23. Details.

One click away

VeloCity: 'university in the fast lane' (Iron Warrior)
Huntsville residents protest choice of site for UW facility
Laurier researcher studies challenges faced by young Muslims
Star's Geist comments on Digital Economy conference
K-W Art Gallery celebrates artists of the region
VeloCity student creates site to search eBay for typos
CIGI release: 'Potential uranium enrichment in Canada faces barriers'
Is this the Waterloo you know and love?
Former UW prof, founder of Dalsa, named to Order of CanadaComplete list

Editor's note

I'll be away from the university for the rest of July, returning to the Daily Bulletin after the August long weekend. For these weeks, the Daily Bulletin will appear as usual, thanks to Pat Bow, with other colleagues in Communications and Public Affairs. E-mail to the usual address, bulletin@, will be read and considered promptly.


Friday's Daily Bulletin