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Thursday, April 7, 2011

  • 'Index of wellbeing' comes to Waterloo
  • Board hears need for building renovations
  • Also today: energy leaders, critical media
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

'Index of wellbeing' comes to Waterloo

by Michelle Douglas-Mills, faculty of applied health sciences

The University of Waterloo, known as an international leader in health promotion, has been selected as the new home of a comprehensive index that measures the wellbeing of Canadians.

Former political leader and health innovator Roy J. Romanow will be on campus this morning to officially launch the Canadian Index of Wellbeing Network at Waterloo. The by-invitation event will take place at 11:30 a.m. in Lyle Hallman Institute’s Sun Life Financial Auditorium (and there will be a live webcast). Romanow will also present a new CIW report on Canada’s environmental path and its effect on long-term quality of life.

“Most Canadians realize that our wellbeing cannot be measured by just narrow economic measures like the GDP,” says Romanow, chair of the network’s advisory board and former commissioner on the Future of Health Care in Canada. “The Canadian Index of Wellbeing is a single national instrument for tracking and reporting on our overall wellbeing, on the things that matter to Canadians. The Index provides a snapshot of our country’s progress — or lack of it.”

The CIW offers unique insights into the quality of life of Canadians both overall and in specific areas such as health, standard of living, environment, education, time use, community vitality, democratic engagement, and the state of leisure and culture.

[Smale]Its development is led by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing Network, an independent, non-partisan group of national and international leaders, researchers, organizations and grass-roots Canadians committed to improving and protecting quality of life across the country. Bryan Smale (left), professor of recreation and leisure studies at Waterloo and principal investigator of the CIW’s leisure and culture domain, takes the helm as the network’s director.

The network is guided by an advisory board of Canadian and international experts. Monique Bégin, Canada’s former Commissioner to the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health, serves as deputy chair.

The search for a permanent home for the network began last year. So did preparations for the publication of Canada’s first ever composite index of wellbeing, scheduled for release later this fall.

 “Waterloo’s faculty of applied health sciences has been an international leader for over 40 years in research related to promoting health and optimizing quality of life,” says Romanow. “They have a proven track record in delivering and translating research to drive behaviour and policy change. It was a natural fit.”

"The factors affecting wellbeing are complex," says Susan Elliott, dean of the faculty of applied health sciences. "Having the CIW at Waterloo provides an opportunity to bring together experts in all aspects of wellbeing, including health, to contribute to this leading-edge research."

The CIW is at the forefront of a global movement. Around the world, a consensus is growing about the need for a more comprehensive and transparent way to measure societal progress — one that accounts for more than just economic indicators such as the Gross Domestic Product and takes into account the full range of social, health, environmental and economic concerns of citizens.

As part of today’s celebrations, Waterloo faculty, staff, and students are invited to a public talk entitled, “Canada's Environmental Path — Jeopardizing Our Country's Long-term Quality of Life?” by Alexis Morgan, author of the CIW’s environment report. It takes place from 9:30 to 10:30 in the Sun Life Financial Auditorium; no RSVP is required.

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Board hears need for building renovations

There were no dramatic conflicts or extended debates at Tuesday’s meeting of the university board of governors — just a mass of information, on topics from asbestos removal to student applications, and a few words of concern about green space.

The grass in question would be the parcel around the Graduate House, between the Dana Porter Library and South Campus Hall. Plans are to sacrifice “maybe 20 per cent of that green space” as the site for a proposed new student services building, said vice-president (administration and finance) Dennis Huber.

One faculty representative on the board, Keith Hipel of systems design engineering, said any loss of green space was a cause for concern, and Huber agreed that the Grad House site, at the centre of the historic campus, is a “very important” one. The board voted approval in principle for that site if the student services building should go ahead.

At this point the building is mostly a gleam in a few eyes, including those of Federation of Students president Brad Moggach, who told the board the project is less ambitious than the one turned down in a student referendum in late 2009. This building would be about one-third space for the new student success office, one-third study space, and one-third “multipurpose”, Moggach said, adding that discussions between student leaders and the administration, over who would pay how much, are still going on.

In other building projects, the board approved the design for an expansion of the Health Services building, as well as a $15 million budget for gutting and renovating the Doug Wright Engineering Building, which dates from 1958. Currently the home of chemical engineering, it’s set to be be fitted out as civil engineering laboratories. Among the needed work: removal of asbestos insulation, which was commonly used in the 1950s but is now considered a major health hazard.

About $2 million of the $15 million is on hand so far, but the engineering faculty is confident it can raise the rest, dean Adel Sedra told the board. In answer to a question, he agreed that the other original engineering buildings, which date from 1961 to 1971, are due for attention too. “E2 and E3 and E4 [Carl Pollock Hall] are in desperate need of renovation,” said the dean, “but we’ll do them one at a time.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board approved the 2011-12 operating budget with almost no debate; heard a briefing on the state of co-op employment; looked at figures on applications for September admission; and looked at photos of the university’s Stratford and Huntsville outposts.

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Also today: energy leaders, critical media

Senior energy executives from across the country will gather at Waterloo today for the inaugural meeting of an advisory council that will help develop innovative solutions to the challenges of the energy sector. The university recently created the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy to ensure effective transfer of knowledge from researchers to the private sector and to foster paths toward a sustainable energy future, and its advisory council has been formed with top executives from firms and agencies such as Ontario Power Generation, Siemens Canada, Suncor, Union  Gas and Hydro One. Today starting at 11:00, council members will receive briefings on nine research areas that relate to WISE’s work. Topics include energy policy research, the benefits and risks of financing renewable energy, how can the internet help smarten the grid, the challenges of integrating electric vehicles and distributed energy into the gird, greener process for upgrading oil sands bitumen and the possibilities of zero-emission fossil fuel powerplants. Over lunch, they will hear about student design teams at Waterloo. Later in the afternoon, the visitors will tour three research facilities: the Centre for Advanced Photovoltaic Devices and Systems, the Giga-to-Nanoelectronics Centre, which develops novel electronic materials, and the High Voltage Engineering Lab.

“Ever wonder,” writes Fraser Easton of Waterloo’s English department, “what happens when you mash-up the prehistory of museums,  electronic video games, and the latest research activity at the Critical Media Lab? Find out at the "Cabs of Curiosity" event tonight at the CML's new location at 158 King West in Kitchener, 7:00 to 11:00 p.m. For this exhibition, students from two of English professor Marcel O'Gorman's classes were guided to physically and electronically repurpose electronic game arcade cabinets. These physical constructions required game design, basic wiring, and microcontroller programming skills, as well as critical understanding of digital media. Don't expect to play hours of Ms. Pac Man or Street Fighter at this event. Expect instead to reconsider your concept of a ‘game’, and to feel very aware of your own embodiment in a situation that usually calls for us to leave our bodies behind and escape into a world of avatars. The CML's visiting artist/researcher, Nick Rombes, will also be on hand to discuss his new collaborative project with the CML. The original cabinets of curiosity were actually entire rooms full of curious objects collected by individuals with a flair for natural history. The cabinets were designed to be surprising, and to inspire wonder, reflection, and awe. Wunderkammer bring to mind several issues in contemporary critical theory and philosophy, including the waning of curiosity-driven research in academia, the recent rise of ‘object-oriented ontology’ and ‘thing studies’, and the questioning of scientific method.”


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Link of the day

World Health Day

When and where

t’art Tech Art Exhibition of work from “technology art studio” course, through Saturday at Artery Gallery, 156 King Street West, Kitchener.

Annual staff conference, final day, Humanities Theatre and nearby classrooms. Details.

Centre for Teaching Excellence instructional skills workshop, April 7, 8 and 11, all day. Details.

English Language Proficiency Exam today, Physical Activities Complex. Details.

Digital Media Series at Stratford campus: Katherine Acheson, department of English, “Digital Media and Historical Research” 7:00, 6 Wellington Street. Details.

Cinema Politica, sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, shows “Black Gold” 7:00, Café Pyrus, 14 Charles Street West.

Winter term examinations April 8-21; unofficial grades begin to appear in Quest, April 22; grades become official, May 24.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: Cheryl Skingley, “Office 2011 for the Macintosh” Friday 9:00, IST seminar room.

EcoCAR educational luncheon showcasing hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, Friday 12:00, Student Design Centre, Engineering 5.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Anatol Lieven, journalist, “Pakistan: A Hard Challenge for International Governance” Friday 7:30, 57 Erb Street West.

Explore the Hopewell Trail in Breslau, walk sponsored by UW Recreation Committee , Sunday 2:00.

Water Boys end-of-term a cappella concert Sunday 8:00, Theatre of the Arts, tickets $5 (students $2).

Town hall meeting for faculty and staff with president and vice-presidents, Monday 3:00, Humanities Theatre; submit questions by e-mail to townhall@

UW Recreation Committee presents Nancy Matthews, “Sabbaticals 101”, reading from her book , discussion follows, Tuesday 12:00, Dana Porter Library room 329.

Staff career seminar: “Get LinkedIn” Tuesday 7:00, Tatham Centre room 1112. Details.

E-waste green day dropoff for staff, faculty and the public, April 16, 8:00 to 4:00, East Campus Hall (off Phillip Street): computers, peripherals, TV sets, phones, microwave ovens, stereos, cellphones accepted for recycling.

Teaching Excellence Academy for faculty members April 19-21 and 25. Details.

Education Credit Union lunch-and-learn session: “Purchasing a Vehicle” April 21, 12:10, Davis Centre room 1302, RSVP by April 15 to janinew@

QPR suicide prevention training session April 21, 1 p.m., Math and Computer room 4068, registration required, information ext. 32797.

Good Friday, April 22, university closed.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 25-28; keynote speaker, cartoonist Jorge Cham, Monday 3:00, Davis Centre. Details.

Spring term fees due April 25 (cheque or promissory note), April 28 (bank transfer).

PhD oral defences

Electrical and computer engineering. Marcio Rogerio Juliato, “Fault Tolerant Cryptographic Primitives for Space Applications.” Supervisor, Catherine H. Gebotys. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, April 15, 2:30 p.m., Engineering 2 room 1307G.

Electrical and computer engineering. Arash Akhavan Fomani, “Advanced MEMS Microprobes for Neural Stimulation and Recording.” Supervisor, Raafat R. Mansour. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Tuesday, April 19, 1:30 p.m., Davis Centre room 1331.

Electrical and computer engineering. Mehdi Torbatian, “Communication over Asynchronous Networks, Signaling and Rate-Reliability Analysis.” Supervisor, Mohamed Oussama Damen. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Tuesday, April 19, 2:00 p.m., CEIT building room 3151.

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