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Friday, April 20, 2012

  • Waterloo students at the top of the world
  • Play examines pacifism, draft dodging
  • Friday's notes
  • Editor:
  • Brandon Sweet
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Waterloo students at the top of the world

By Karen Kawawada, communications officer, Faculty of Environment

Research. Reports. Trekking to Mt. Everest base camp. Geography 430C isn’t exactly the average course.

The 15 students in professor Sanjay Nepal’s field course left for Nepal on April 10. Some say the 25-day trip will be a life-changing experience. Pictured above (L-R) are Sanjay Nepal and participating students Heather Wilton, Jacklyn Charlton, Michael Wytiahlowsky, and David Sullivan.

“Everest has always been on my list of places to go,” says David Sullivan, a geography and aviation student. “I think Sanjay leading this trip is going to make it unforgettable … we’ll be able to see things we’d never see if we went on our own.”

The students, all fourth-years, were selected from more than 50 applicants and come from a variety of different disciplines within the Faculty of Environment. They have been preparing for the trip all term, intellectually, physically, and psychologically.

During the academic term, the students divided into four groups, each researching a distinct topic area: tourism, natural resource management, climate change, and natural hazards.

Jaclyn Charlton, a planning student, has been looking at how tourism has changed lives. “The local Sherpa people, before tourism [became widespread] in the 1950s and ‘60s, used to be some of the some of the poorest people in Nepal and now they’re some of the richest,” she says.

The local infrastructure has also changed radically. For example, the airport town of Lukla had little infrastructure until the 1990s – the runway wasn’t even paved. Now, however, it bustles with tourists, Charlton says. “There’s a fake Starbucks there now.”

Sullivan looks forward to speaking to locals about the climatic changes they have already noticed. Nepal’s agrarian economy is coming under increasing stress as water resources in particular become scarce, he says.

Michael Wytiahlowsky’s research focused on natural hazards. He learned that of the climbers who have died on Everest, about a third were killed by avalanches – and avalanche risk goes up as the climate warms.

Besides trekking, students will be doing research, interviews, and meeting with key informants. Some nights, the group will stay in major tourist villages, while other nights will be off the beaten track, so students get a feel for how agrarian villages differ from the more tourism-oriented ones.

Professor Nepal plans to compile the students’ finished research and provide the information to organizations studying related issues in his namesake native country.

The trip will also be a chance for him to do some of his own research. It will be his first time back to the area in years, but he now hopes to run the course every two years, which will help him track how the region changes over time.

Physically, the trip will be challenging even for the fit students chosen, though the group will be supported by an experienced Sherpa guide and eight porters, says Nepal, who has trekked to base camp before.

Mt. Everest’s base camp is more than five kilometres above sea level, and it’s not uncommon for altitude sickness to force people to retreat before making it there.

“It’s going to be tough,” says Nepal. “Everest base camp is no joke.”

The group's activities can be followed online.

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Gadfly poster
Play examines pacifism, draft dodging

by Jennifer Konkle, communication coordinator, Conrad Grebel University College

Sam Steiner, a quiet, retired librarian and archivist of over 30 years at Conrad Grebel University College, has a wild past as a 1968 draft dodger resisting the Vietnam war. The story of his struggle with pacifism is brought to life this weekend in the play “Gadfly: Sam Steiner Dodges the Draft”, performed at the Conrad Centre for the Performing Arts.

The event is a fundraiser to generate support for the Mennonite Archives of Ontario construction project. Housed at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, the new archives will be more accessible to the community, be able to store many more pieces of history, and become a more vital part of the College’s academic program.

From self-proclaimed racial bigot to liberal left enthusiast, Sam seeks to find the balance between his conservative Mennonite upbringing and the political realities of the day. “Gadfly” explores one man’s journey to pacifism during the “peace-loving hippie” era, standing in stark contrast with the violence and injustice surrounding the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movement.

Still amazed that people find his draft dodging days so interesting, Sam believes that stories of peace continually need to be told. “Forty years ago we heard many stories of those who resisted serving in the military in World War II. For Canadian Mennonites, especially, there has been a long gap since of such stories,” Sam explains. “A Vietnam-era story helps fill the gap and might better reflect the issues we face in the modern wars Canada has fallen into.”

Drawing on the wealth of resources in the Mennonite Archives of Ontario, coupled with extensive interviews with Sam, Rebecca Steiner (no relation), has illuminated interesting characters and captured issues faced as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. As a uWaterloo student, Rebecca focused on pursuing acting and directing courses through the drama program. These have led to directing a collaborative script, "Open, A Story of Refugee Claimants in Canada”, co-writing and performing in “Life as a River”, and now writing, directing and acting in “Gadfly”.

“I have really enjoyed the process of workshopping "Gadfly" in classes at University of Waterloo and most recently with the other members of Theatre of the Beat,” said Rebecca. “It has been so rewarding to see a play come alive from the first initial thought to the last draft of the script! The opportunity to develop it in workshop with other creative minds has been amazing.”

This original play, produced by Theatre of the Beat, will include a soundtrack from a fantastic live band featuring songs from Gram Parsons with an authentic Flying Burrito Brothers sound. Gram Parsons was at his prime in 1968 and his songs reflect questions Sam was asking himself.

In addition to learning that a quiet librarian has such a riveting story, Rebecca says that “it has been a very rich experience to see this bit of history come alive again, through the lens of Sam Steiner's journey. I have been challenged to think about how peace and active pacifism can be lived out in my own life, and I hope that the audiences can be similarly inspired.” Reflecting on the entire process of researching, writing, and producing Gadfly, Rebecca has learned that” in order to inspire change, we must look critically at our own communities, for that is how we will grow. It is involves wrestling and dancing with challenging questions, but becomes an enriching and necessary act of peace if we can stay with it.”

Gadfly is showing at the Conrad Centre for Performing Arts in Kitchener. On Friday, April 20 (sold out!) and Saturday April 21st at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online.

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Friday's notes

This weekend's installment of CBC Radio One's "The Sunday Edition" will contain a segment on David Koker's "At the Edge of the Abyss: A Concentration Camp Diary, 1943-1944," which was edited by Robert Jan van Pelt, University Professor in the School of Architecture. Van Pelt, a leading Holocaust expert, also wrote the book's introduction, with Michiel Horn and John Irons translating Dutch student Koker's diary into English. The diary was originally published in 1997 as Diary Written in Vught, and this is the first time it has seen print in the English language.

Your friendly neighbourhood social network: WizeNation, a location-based social network, was launched back in February by Kitchener resident Asim Siddiqui. The WizeNation website was developed by Mad Hatter Tech, a business run from the Communitech Hub with Waterloo connections. WizeNation is a bulletin board-like system that incorporates information feeds based on users' postal codes and a search tool. The aim is for users to build online connections with people and businesses in their own neighbourhoods. Membership is free.

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A world of opportunity

A longer version of this piece appeared as an April 2012 Keystone donor profile. and was written by Tasha Glover. It is being reprinted in support of National Volunteer Week. Many thanks to the faculty, staff, and retiree volunteers who make the Keystone Campaign such a success by volunteering their time, talent, and treasure.

Life-changing experiences are confirming CUPE award recipient Emma Nussli’s future aspirations. Her dream of helping people around the world is beginning to take shape.

Emma is a student in the Geography and Environmental Management program at Waterloo and has been using what she’s learned in communities abroad already. This past summer, she spent five weeks in Guatemala working with the Mennonite Central Committee to carry out work in disaster relief, sustainable community development, justice and peace-building. “I had the opportunity to live with indigenous people, witness first-hand the devastating effects of mudslides, and gain a comprehensive knowledge of Canadian mining practices abroad.”

Her experience has reinforced and clarified her passion for helping. With dreams of teaching and working with communities around the world, she is already planning her next venture in Haiti. Without the support from her CUPE award, the financial burden of this experience would have made this opportunity unmanageable.

Emma is truly grateful for the CUPE award and looks forward to a rewarding future, sharing her passion for helping and teaching around the world.

Link of the day

Global Youth Service Day

When and where

On-campus examinations April 9 - 21.

Grades due April 16 to May 1.

Chemistry Department Seminar Series, featuring Prof. Paschalis Alexandridis, Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University at Buffalo, "Nanostructured Polymers and Solvents: Opportunities in Health, Environment, and Energy Applications," Friday, April 20, 10:00 a.m., C2-361.

On-campus examinations end April 21.

International spouses meet-up event "Movie & Coffee", Sunday, April 22, 1:00 p.m., Breakfast at Tiffany's, tickets $5, meet at Galaxy Cinema on King Street North, Waterloo. Details.

Graduate Student Research Conference, Monday, April 23 to Thursday, April 26. Details.

Unofficial grades begin to appear in Quest April 23, standings and official grades available May 22.

Spring 2012 promissory notes and payments due April 24.

Co-operative work term ends April 27.

Canadian Undergraduate Technology Conference, April 27 to 29, University of Calgary and University of Toronto. Details.

Retail Services locations closed for inventory, Friday, April 27.

Spring term classes begin May 1.

WatRISQ presents Eike Brechmann, Department of Mathematics, Technische Universitat, Munchen, Germany, "Financial Risk Management with High-Dimensional Vine Copulas," Tuesday, May 1, 4:00 p.m., DC 1304.

David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science distinguished lecture series, featuring Jeannette Wing, Carnegie Mellon University, "Computational Thinking," Tuesday, May 1, 4:30 p.m., DC 1302. Details.

Co-op return to campus interviews begin Wednesday, May 2 to Friday, May 4 (except Architecture).

Centre for Career Action workshop (staff only) "Discovering Your Skills," Wednesday, May 2, 3:30 p.m., TC 2218.

OCUFA Status of Women workshop, "Navigating the Academy: Lessons and Strategies for More Equitable Universities," featuring a keynote address by University of Waterloo Professor Carla Fehr, Friday, May 4, 8:45 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., OBA Conference Centre, Toronto. Details.

Warrior Football Spring Camp, May 4-6 for kids ages 10-15, and Coaches Clinic, May 4-5. Details.

DaCapo Chamber Choir, based at Conrad Grebel U College, “Celebrating Home” concert May 5 (8 p.m.) and 6 (3 p.m.), St. John the Evangelist Church, Kitchener. Details.

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