Friday, March 12, 2010

  • High schoolers check out Waterloo Tuesday
  • National teaching award for retired prof
  • Staff appraisal forms are due Monday
  • The beginning of a spring weekend
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

[Between city flag and university banner]

At Stratford's City Hall on Wednesday night, Ian Wilson, "strategic advisor" for the university's Stratford campus, took part in a community update session. Speaking along with UW dean of arts Ken Coates, Wilson announced that the branch campus will occupy temporary quarters at 6 Wellington Street, a former bank building that's most recently been occupied by a boutique hotel, while a permanent campus building on St. Patrick Street is planned.

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High schoolers check out Waterloo Tuesday

The March break for Ontario schools is beginning, and that means preparations for the annual open house for future students are just about finished. Parents and friends are welcome at Tuesday's event along with the high schoolers who are considering offers of admission to Waterloo for next September.

"The open house will take place as the decision on where to attend university in the fall looms over high school students across the province," a news release from the university's media relations office explains.

Says Kim McKee, manager of the visitors centre and a key figure in organizing the day: "The March break open house is an opportunity for interested students to explore all the University of Waterloo has to offer. The information sessions and activities offered throughout the day will allow for prospective students and their parents to ask questions and gain a more detailed understanding of university life at Waterloo."

The open house will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday Throughout the day, visitors will be involved in tours of Waterloo's main campus, including residences and the affiliated university colleges. The 45-minute campus tours will start from the Student Life Centre.

Future students and their parents are also invited to attend in-depth information sessions relating to co-operative education, residence life and financing their education. Information booths focused on academics, housing services and athletics will be set up in the SLC and open all day.

For a more detailed perspective on academic opportunities available at Waterloo, prospective students are also encouraged to attend academic presentations focused on individual faculties.

In a new development this year, the March break open house will highlight the diverse international opportunities available to students at Waterloo. An International Experience Lounge will connect prospective students with international advisers, as well as current Waterloo students who have experienced an international exchange, co-op work term, internship or volunteer project abroad.

An open house will also be held at the school of architecture in Cambridge and at the school of pharmacy in downtown Kitchener.

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[Morgan speaking among the trees]
National teaching award for retired prof

by Patricia Bow

Alan Morgan’s textbook is the Earth. His lecture hall is all outdoors. And his class is anyone with ears, eyes, and mind open to his message about our home planet – the marvels of its structure, the fearsome power of its underlying workings, and the fragility of its ecosystems.

Known as an enthusiastic teacher who loves his subject, Morgan, an earth and environmental sciences professor, has received a 3M National Teaching Fellowship, considered Canada’s most prestigious award for excellence in teaching.

Names of eight winners of the award for 2010 were announced yesterday, and the eight are profiled in the issue of Maclean’s magazine that will be on sale Monday. The award is given by the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education in partnership with 3M Canada.

“It’s a great honour,” Morgan says. “It’s an affirmation of what I’ve been trying to do for many years, to promote ease of communication with students, to try to interest them in the world in which they live, help them better understand what’s happening around them.”

Morgan is the third person at Waterloo to have won the 3M award since it was established in 1986. The others were Ralph Krueger, professor and chair of geography, in 1986 and Howard Armitage, director of the Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, in 2004.

He came to Waterloo in 1971 as a young professor specializing in the ecology and geology of the quaternary era: that is, the last 2 million years. In 1973, his spectacular documentary of the Eldfell volcanic eruption in Iceland, made for CBC’s Nature of Things, pushed him into the spotlight. He became known as an innovative user of audio-visual materials in the classroom.

As well as teaching regular students, he has taught in the Centre for Extended Learning (formerly known as distance education) longer than anyone else, from 1972 to the present. Officially retired in May 2009, he still teaches an undergrad course as well as CEL courses.

What makes his teaching so engaging? He draws on personal experience. “I’ve stood on the lip of active volcanoes, I’ve watched red-hot rock coming out, I know how the sulphur smells,” he says. “Same thing with hot spring areas, or being out in storms, or swimming around coral reefs – these are all personal experiences that help to amplify what the students are learning. I’m not reading it out of a textbook.”

Over nearly 40 years, he has also been energetically promoting public awareness of science, especially geology, outside the university, explaining the complexities of climate change, volcanoes, earthquakes, and ice ages in language his audience can grasp. “So many people involved in science use language that is almost incomprehensible to the general public,” he says.

His audiences cross the age spectrum, from kindergarten to older adults. He has led geological excursions to the Alberta Badlands and elsewhere, given lectures on cruise ships around Iceland and through the Falkland Islands, addressed educational conferences, and spoken to community groups. In all, he estimates he has given 850 public talks. He also communicates through film footage, through articles and photos for textbooks, magazines, and websites, and by co-editing the earth sciences newsletter Wat on Earth.

Even absent, he continues to teach. Walkers on the City of Waterloo’s West Side Trails can, at the touch of a button on an interpretive sign, hear Morgan’s disembodied voice explaining the geological history and groundwater systems of the Waterloo Moraine. (He’s pictured, above, at the 2007 opening of that “Geotime Trail”.) Morgan also provided interpretive signage for the RIM Park trail system.

Morgan has received Waterloo’s Distinguished Teacher Award in 1991; the Royal Society of Canada’s Bancroft Medal in 1994 for promoting public awareness of science; the National Association of Geology Teachers’ 1995 John H. Moss Award for Excellence in Geology Teaching; and the RSC’s McNeil Medal in 2008, recognizing his outstanding ability to communicate science to students and the public.

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Staff appraisal forms are due Monday

The official deadline for staff members' annual performance appraisals is Monday, so managers and department heads who haven't done the paperwork and held the interviews yet need to get busy, says Freddie Swainston, manager of salary administration in the human resources department.

The appraisal procedure has been running at this time of year for decades, and leads to "mutually agreed upon goals and objectives" for the coming year's work but also to ratings that are a factor in determining annual salary increases. A round of increases — based on a salary range adjustment (cost of living increase) that hasn't been announced yet — is due on May 1.

Swainston said yesterday that although some departments have been expecting a slightly revised version of the appraisal form to be ready for them to use, there won't be any change before this year's process is complete. A small planned change, clarifying what it means when a staff member signs the form to indicate that he or she has read it, will be implemented for 2011, she said.

The staff appraisals are being carried out in a time of much change at UW, as well as financial stringency. Just how much stringency? We may know a little more after the year's first meeting of the senate finance committee this afternoon. It will begin discussion of the university's 2010-11 budget, which will go to the senate and board of governors for approval in April.

Meanwhile, staff members are being encouraged to sign up for part or all of the annual Staff Conference, scheduled for April 6 and 7. "Continuous learning and development is essential as we work together every day to provide excellence in our work," said a memo sent to all staff by president David Johnston on March 1. "As part of the Sixth Decade plan, it is important that we continue to Connect, Communicate and Collaborate, and to support and provide our UW staff every opportunity to learn and develop. As we go forward with our mission it is vital that we all continue to be fully engaged and equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to achieve on-going success.

"Staff Conference 2010 has been scheduled during exams so that as many staff as possible will be able to attend at least one of the two-day conference. Departments that can spare their staff for two days are encouraged to do so. The conference promises to be interesting, exciting, and informative with sessions on diversity, motivation, leadership, stress management, and technology."

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The beginning of a spring weekend

There's a noontime event today that's a little hard to explain, so why don't I basically quote the flyer: "Attention, all runners, walkers and physical fitness enthusiasts. Please join President David Johnston and Richard Ennis (UW department of psychology) for an inspirational brownbag lunch presentation entitled 'Hitting the Wall and Moving Through It: Using Community Relationships and Resilience for Success'. Prizes and give-aways too. Sponsored by President David Johnston Run for Mental Health (May 18, 2010) and Employee Assistance Program Campus Walk (May 10, 2010)." Today's session starts at 12 noon in CEIT building room 1015.

It's looking like a good weekend on UW stages. Tonight, first of all, the Music Club holds its first big concert, an extravaganza in the Humanities Theatre that will include everything from Chopin to Latin rock and [Actor, with fingers pointing]the popular a cappella group The Water Boys. (Tickets are $5; the show starts at 7:30). Tonight and tomorrow at 8:00, in the Theatre of the Arts, the drama department's production of Tom Stoppard's "Arcadia" continues. There will be more performances Thursday through Saturday next week; the stars include Paul Carere (right). Finally, Sunday afternoon brings a single performance of Puccini's "Madama Butterfly", said to be the most-performed opera of all time. Opera Kitchener is staging it at 3 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre.

Maybe you think you're used to the newly constructed buildings all around — but then you see something from a different angle. I had that experience as I was walking across campus on Wednesday, heading along the service road toward the Davis Centre underpass, and suddenly the vista in front of me was entirely filled with the gigantic fritted glass wall of Engineering 5. Umm, isn't E5 on the other side of the ring road from here? It is, but approaching it head-on from the west suddenly makes it seem much more part of an integrated campus, even if the direct route into it would take you up a ziggurat of stairs. The experience made me inquire how construction is coming along and when the building will be ready for folks to move in. "We are hoping for an early June completion date," says Sue Gooding in the dean of engineering office. "We have yet to establish an order in which departments will move in. It will need to be well orchestrated!" The six-storey building will house a student design centre on its first two levels to showcase award-winning projects such as the solar and hydrogen fuel cell cars. The upper floors will provide office and teaching space for mechanical and mechatronics engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and systems design engineering.


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Links of the day

Paralympics Daylight saving

When and where

Senate finance committee 1:30, Needles Hall room 3004.

Knowledge Integration seminar: “A Consideration of a Complex Health Care System” 1:30, Environment II room 2002.

International treats at Renison Ministry Centre, Renison UC, 2:00 to 3:00.

Graduate Conference in Philosophy (17th annual) continues. Keynote speaker Mark Wilson, University of Pittsburgh, “how Wave Front Found Its Truth-Values” 3:30, Student Life Centre multipurpose room. Details.

Club That Really Likes Anime final show of the term, Friday 4:30 to 10:30, CEIT room 1015, and Saturday 2:30 to 10:30, Arts Lecture Hall room 116. Details.

Waterloo Space Society unveils its new telescope 7:30 to 11 p.m., Waterloo Park bandshell.

Warrior Weekend events Friday and Saturday evenings, with 28 straight hours of International Celebration Weekend, Student Life Centre, including Tamil dances, crafts, food, UW Breakers, jazz band, movies. Details.

Lights play at Federation Hall tonight, doors open 9 p.m., advance tickets $10 at Federation of Students office.

Niagara Falls and winery trip organized by International Student Connection, Saturday, bus tickets $20 at Federation of Students office.

Management consulting case competition with presentations to judges, spectators welcome, Saturday 11:30 to 5:30, CEIT room 1015. Details.

Nature walk at Huron Natural Area, Kitchener, hosted by Natural Landscaping Team, Saturday, free, bus leaves Davis Centre 1 p.m., information and reservations e-mail nlt.uwsp@

‘Confronting the Darkness: Canadian Complicity in Torture in Afghanistan” panel discussion Saturday 2:00, Conrad Grebel UC great hall.

Waterloo Unlimited design program for students in grade 11, March 14-19. Details.

Architecture student co-op job interviews for spring term, March 15-18 in Cambridge, March 19 in Toronto; rankings March 22-23. Details.

Senate graduate and research council Monday 10:30 a.m., Needles Hall room 3004.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Academic Interview” Monday12:00, Tatham Centre room 2218. Details.

African Awareness Day (“The Struggle Continues”) sponsored by African Students Association, Monday 12:00 to 9:00, Student Life Centre.

‘Better searching, better marks’ workshop on doing research in the UW library, Monday 1:30, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Sociology lecture: Ron Melchers, University of Ottawa, “Social Science Evidence in the Courts” Monday 2:45, Hagey Hall room 1104.

Cultural Encounters, Encountering Cultures series: Ken Coates, dean of arts, “The Other Side of the Frontier: Indigenous Encounters with Newcomers” Monday 4:30, Arts Lecture Hall room 113.

Explorations 2010 visit to faculty of engineering for students in grades 6, 7 and 8 and their parents, Monday 4:30 to 8:00 p.m. Details.

Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research presents Shawky Fahel, The JG Group, and Robert Rosehart, WLU, “Intelligent Senior Independent Living Spaces” Tuesday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1304.

St. Patrick’s Day luncheon at University Club (lamb and barley broth, pork chop, North Sea perch, Bailey’s cheesecake) Wednesday 11:30 to 2:00, reservations ext. 33801.

Rainbow Reels Queer Film Festival sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, March 18-21, Princess Twin Cinemas. Details.

First Robotics Competition Waterloo regionals, competition for high school students, March 25-27 (note corrected date), Physical Activities Complex. Details.

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