Monday, March 9, 2009

  • Optometry students change lives in Mexico
  • Report on search for a provost
  • GSA chooses leaders; other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Optometry students change lives in Mexico

“I have never in my life laughed and cried as much,” says Heather Cowie. “It's been an emotional rollercoaster.”

Cowie, a third-year optometry student and president of the optometry Class of 2010, is talking about a trip that she and 12 other optometry students took during reading week under the aegis of I Care International. With them as supervisor came the charitable organization’s founder, Dr. Sanjay Agarwal, a Waterloo grad (OD ’00).

The eight third-year and five second-year students arrived in Ixtapa, Mexico, on February 14, with 10,000 pairs of glasses, 1,000 pairs of new sunglasses, medicines, and medical equipment in their luggage. The group was hosted by Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF), the Mexican national agency for family development.

Duen Wong (green shirt), optometry studentFor five days they worked in a newly renovated women's shelter, doing free eye examinations, dispensing eyeglasses and helping to administer care. “We cared for 1,100 patients in five days, and changed many lives,” Cowie says. (In the photo, third-year student Duen Wong is using an auto-refractor to get an idea of the patient's prescription.)

The medical experience was intense. The first clinical day was 15 hours; the next was 18 hours. “I saw dozens of botched cataract surgeries, and then had to tell patients who’d lost their vision from cataract surgery in their one eye that they needed it now in their other eye,” Cowie says.

Once, when she was dispensing glasses, she observed a baby with one empty eye socket and the other eye destroyed by glaucoma. “This baby had no chance of vision ever. I excused myself, walked to the bathroom and bawled. I cried for the mother and her baby, but also for the injustice of people not having any care here.”

But there were tears of joy, too. One student was testing the eyes of a young man with “a really high refractive error” — extreme myopia. “He started to shake as she was refracting him because he was seeing better and better. She worked her butt off to find him glasses, since we don't really bring glasses that high, and she found some for him. He put them on and started to cry uncontrollably and soon the two of them were just crying together.”

Cowie tested a woman with high myopia, “and when she had the correct prescription she asked for her son to come in so she could see what he looked like. Beautiful!”

The mission convinced Cowie that she is definitely in the right profession. In fact, “I've arranged it with DIF that I will be running my own trip in May. I will be bringing a group of 15 optometry students and hope to get one or two ODs to come with me.” The group will go under Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity (VOSH); Cowie and others set up a UW chapter of the organization last year.

For information or to help fund the mission, email or see the group’s website.

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Report on search for a provost

From the Vice-President, Academic and Provost Nominating Committee

March 9, 2009: At its first meeting on February 20, the Vice-President, Academic & Provost Nominating Committee determined it would report to the campus on the search process.

The Committee, chaired by President Johnston, has been constituted according to the terms of Policy 48 ( Its membership is at:

Janet Wright and Gerri Woodford of Janet Wright and Associates have been engaged as consultants to assist the Committee. Both Wright and Woodford have extensive experience and contacts in university recruitment and have served as consultants to many UW search committees over the past decade.

Advertisements for the position of Vice-President, Academic & Provost have been / will be placed locally in the Daily Bulletin and nationally in University Affairs, the CAUT Bulletin and The Globe & Mail. Nominations and applications can be made to President David Johnston, Chair of the Nominating Committee, c/o Lois Claxton, Secretary of the University, Needles Hall, Room 3060 (; fax 519-888-6337) or to Janet Wright & Associates Inc., 174 Bedford Road, Suite 200, Toronto ON M5R 2K9 (; fax 416-923-8311). Documentation should include a curriculum vita and a brief statement of the qualifications and specific achievements on the basis of which the individual merits consideration for the position. Nominations, applications and expressions of interest will be treated in strict confidence.

Policy 48 charges the committee with responsibility for "soliciting the views of those affected, including the Deans, regular and non-regular faculty members, the President of the Faculty Association, the Federated & Affiliated Colleges [sic], staff and students." Consistent with this charge, the Committee will consult broadly with the community, a process which will be set out in tomorrow's communiqué.

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GSA chooses leaders; other notes

The GSA/GSEF are choosing their 2009-2010 executive. Three have already been acclaimed: Jonathan Aycan, management sciences, is president; Hassan Nasir, civil and environmental engineering, is V-P, operations and finance; Graeme Turner, pure math, is V-P, communications and organization. Still open are the positions of director at-large (6 spots), who perform various duties for the GSA Board of Directors; and V-P, student affairs, who deals with social events, including orientation, and student advocacy. Nomination forms can be downloaded; nominations must be dropped off at the Grad House by 6 p.m., March 18. Elections, if needed, will take place at the annual general meeting, 6 p.m., March 19, in Rod Coutts Hall room 301. All graduate students are invited and are eligible to vote. Agenda and other documents are online.

The library's photo contest closed in late February, after bringing in 20 "fun and interesting submissions from students that highlight the connection they feel with the library's spaces." The entries are here. Winners of the random draw for four $25 gift cards from UW BookStore are Bounmy Inthavong, biology; Jacob Han Shu, biotechnology/CA; Hao Wu, mechanical engineering; and Magdalena Surma, drama. Photos by staff are here.

Work on the sliding doors on the east (ring road) side of the Davis Centre great hall is to begin on Friday, March 13, to be completed on Friday, April 10 if all goes as planned, says Gary Kosar of plant operations. A hoarding will be set up while the work goes on. The existing swing door will be moved along by three panels so that people can still go in and out of the building on that side.

CPA staff

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When and where

Survey research workshop sponsored by Centre for Teaching Excellence, Monday, 1:00, Flex lab, Dana Porter Library. Details ext. 33153.

K-W Little Theatre auditions for May one-act play weekend, March 9-11, 7:00 to 10:00, room to be announced. Details.

‘Interactive Teaching and Learning Strategies’ three-day workshop sponsored by Centre for Teaching Excellence, continues Tuesday. Details.

Career workshop: “Business Etiquette and Professionalism” Tuesday, 10:30 a.m., Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Exchange program information session for 1B engineering students, Tuesday, 11:30 a.m., Rod Coutts Hall room 112.

Live and Learn Lecture: Randy Harris, UW department of English, “Mr. Plow Meets the Beatles”, Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., Waterloo Public Library main branch.

Heritage Resources Centre lunch-and-learn series: Anne Fitzpatrick, graduate student, school of planning, “Parks and Heritage”, Wednesday, noon, Environment I room 354.

Career workshops Wednesday: “Academic Interviews” noon, Tatham Centre room 2218 (details); “Success on the Job” 3:30, TC room 1208 (details).

Employee Assistance Program presents Abigail Dancey, Community Care Access Centre, “Finding Support: Government-Funded Home Care Services and Long-Term Care Facilities” Wednesday, noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

Workshop on academic interviews for all grad students and instructors, Wednesday, noon - 1:30 p.m. in Tatham Centre room 2218. Enrolment is limited. Register by Monday March 9.

WIHIR Research Seminar. Computer science Prof. Chrysanne DiMarco: "Where Computer Science, Linguistics, and Biology Meet: Using Lexical Chaining to Analyze Biomedical Text." Wednesday, 1 – 2 p.m., Davis Centre room 1304. Details.

Poet David McFadden reads from his work, and launch of new book Be Calm, Honey, Wednesday, 4 - 7 p.m., St. Jerome’s University room 3027 and art gallery.

Digital Design and User Experience Forum Wednesday, 5 – 8 p.m., Tatham Centre, room 2218. Event is free; RSVP at

Career workshop: “Exploring Your Personality Type” March 12 and March 19, 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1112. Details.

Senate finance committee Thursday, March 12, 11 a.m. Details.

Chemical engineering seminar: Chelsey Baertsch, Purdue University, “Catalyst and Microsystem Design for Highly Selective Gas Sensors” Thursday, 3:30, Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Arriscraft Lecture: Mark Smout, Smout Allen Architectural Design Research, London, “Augmented Landscapes”, Thursday, 6:30 p.m., Architecture lecture hall, Cambridge.

Schneider Haus Fellows Lecture. History grad Bryan Lovasz, Edna Staebler Research Fellow for 2009, on "Animosity, Ambivalence and Co-operation: Heterogeneous German Identities in the Kitchener-Waterloo Area," Thursday, 7:30 p.m., Schneider Haus, 466 Queen St. S., Kitchener. Seating limited; 519-742-7752 to reserve.

Blood donor clinic March 13, 9 to 3, and March 19, 10 to 4, Student Life Centre, book appointments at turnkey desk or call 1-888-236-6283.

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