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Monday, April 9, 2001

  • A proposed 'sustainable livelihoods' centre
  • More money out of pocket for pensions
  • President speaks at Canadian Club
  • Winter exams, and a little more

A proposed 'sustainable livelihoods' centre

[Kay] A two-day conference will be held this week to make plans for a proposed Centre for the Advancement of Sustainable Livelihoods in the faculty of environmental studies.

"This is the final event of this year's Canada Trust Walter Bean visiting professorship," says James Kay, professor of environment and resource studies (right) who's behind the proposal. "As part of this event we are having two guests from Europe: Silvio Funtowicz, who is internationally known for inventing the idea of 'post-normal science', and Mario Giampietro, who is a preeminent scholar on complex systems theory, societal systems and integrated assessment."

What's it all about? Kay explains: "Over the past twenty years a new way of thinking, called complex system theory, has emerged. It provides us with a suite of new methodologies and tools for operationalizing sustainable livelihoods. A group of researchers at Waterloo, WLU and Guelph have been working on complex systems theory and its application to issues of human and ecological health and sustainability, in community settings. This work is well recognized globally.

"However, this type of interdisciplinary work falls outside the purview of traditional departments and agencies, and thus is quite difficult to fund. In order to move forward with this enterprise we need a well funded centre that will connect theoreticians and researchers with practitioners and decision makers."

He's visualizing a centre that would "promote sustainable livelihoods of people in communities by harnessing the potential of systems thinking and complexity theory for teaching, research, and applications in business, public policy and international development".

Says his proposal: "Between the University of Waterloo, WLU and Guelph there is a pool of expertise and experience in this subject that simply does not exist anywhere else on the planet. A centre would allow these heretofore separate pockets of expertise to be formally integrated and their collective work to be nurtured and supported. This centre would foster the emergence of world class thinking about sustainable livelihoods and the translation of this thinking into action, both in terms of policy and community development. It would serve as a focal point, through a global virtual network of international researchers and practitioners, for the implementation of sustainable livelihoods all over the planet. This centre would allow UW to do for the environment in the 21st century, what it did for computers in the 20th century."

The meeting will start at 9 a.m. tomorrow in Environmental Studies I room 132. There will be talks, discussions and group reports about three "thematic areas" the centre might include: community development, international activities and business development. The day's work will wind up at 4:30. On Wednesday, discussions continue in the same location, followed by Funtowicz's talk at 10 a.m. The group will move to the University of Guelph in the afternoon and will hear Giampietro speak at 12:30 in the "learning centre" of the Ontario Veterinary College there.

More money out of pocket for pensions

Staff and faculty members will see a little extra bite out of their take-home pay starting next month, as premiums to the UW pension fund start to move back to the "normal" level that hasn't been in effect for the past four years.

Since the spring of 1997, the premiums have been at a reduced level, currently 25 per cent of full price. The pension fund has remained healthy in spite of this reduction in how much goes into it. The pension and benefits committee reported last fall that the fund had a surplus somewhere between $40 million and $90 million. As of January 1, a "conservative estimate" of the surplus, is $26 million, in a pension fund with a total actuarial value of $678 million.

It's always been the plan for premiums to go up again, and last week the board of governors gave approval for the first step upwards, from the 25 per cent level to 40 per cent of normal when the 2001-02 fiscal year starts a few weeks from now. Staff and faculty will see that bigger bite in their first paycheque after May 1.

The current plan is for the 40 per cent to become 60 per cent in May 2002 -- but it could be sooner, depending on a review of the pension fund's health that's now scheduled for December.

Someone with a $30,000 annual salary will lose about $17 a month in take-home pay when the pension deductions go up next month, says David Dietrich of the human resources department. That drop could be camouflaged by the effect of annual salary increases that are also due as of May 1, but it will still be there.

Pay slips this month will warn faculty and staff members that the jump is coming. Look for this wording on April 20 (biweekly paid staff) or April 27 (monthly paid staff and faculty):

"Pension contribution levels will increase as planned from 25% to 40% of the full normal level on May 1, 2001 (subject to Board approval). In Fall 2001, the Pension & Benefits Committee will determine if the planned increase to 60% of the full level needs to occur earlier than May 2002. Note that as pension contributions return to the full level, net pays will decrease. The University's Pension Plan contribution will also increase at a corresponding rate since it must be at least equal to the required contributions of all Plan members."

President speaks at Canadian Club

David Johnston, the president of UW, will give a major speech in Toronto today about "the economic and social impact" of this university over its 44-year life.

His audience is the venerable Canadian Club, meeting jointly with the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce at the recently renamed Fairmont Royal York Hotel. Lunch meetings of the Canadian Club are a traditional place for speeches by prominent people for an audience of movers and shakers.

Johnston's talk today is expected to include some word about the "economic impact study" of UW being done by the accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers in preparation for the Fiftieth Anniversary Fund campaign, as announced earlier this year. But more of it is a colourful description of what kind of university Waterloo is, and how it got that way.

The president will use some of his favourite speaking lines: "The most practical thing in the world is a good general theory. . .. The best form of technology transfer is a good pair of shoes. . . . We produce the leaders of tomorrow because we attract the brightest students and researchers of today."

He'll also tell his audience that UW was created by the dreams and risk-taking of a small group of people who saw a need. And he'll cite computer science professor Wes Graham, who brought computing to undergraduate students in the early 1960s, as an example of innovation that has produced huge changes. He'll also mention co-op programs, distance education, spinoff companies, and UW's unusual policy that the researcher who develops an idea, not the university itself, owns it.

"The University of Waterloo community especially focuses on the part of the learning cycle that moves from knowledge to innovation," says a draft of Johnston's speech. "We are still a youthful university with liberal arts and sciences at our core. But we have learned that moving from knowledge to innovation requires critical independent thinking. That theory and application are a two-way street. And that university and community are mutually dependent and beneficial."

From the registrar's office

Undergraduate students expecting to graduate at the Spring 2001 Convocation must submit a "Notice to the Registrar of Intention to Graduate" form. This form is available in the Registrar's Office, from your department office, or on the web as a printable form. You can find more information about convocation on the web. If you submitted the form earlier in the year for Spring 2001, you need not submit a new form.

Spring 2001 Convocation dates are June 13, 2:00 p.m., Applied Health Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Independent Studies; June 14, 2:00 p.m., Arts; June 15, 2:00 p.m., Science; June 16, 10:00 a.m., Mathematics, June 16, 2:00 p.m., Engineering.

Schedules for undergraduate students were mailed week of April 2.

Winter exams, and a little more

We're beginning a short week, leading up to the Good Friday holiday. But Easter perhaps seems a long way off to those who have to write exams between now and then. . . .

Not much is happening in the way of scheduled events to compete with those exams, but I note that the statistics department has a colloquium today by Zhengbuo Qiu of York University (3:30 p.m., Math and Computer room 5158).

A delegation from two Chinese universities -- Nanjing and Dalian -- and the government of China's Hainan province is at UW today to confer with Waterloo officials about a proposal for a major ecological project. UW, Nanjing and Hainan have already been involved in an environmental education project, funded by the Canada-China Higher Education Program to the tune of $1.3 million. A proposal for some $3.9 million is now being submitted to the Canadian International Development Agency. The project director is Geoff Wall of UW's department of geography. Hainan -- currently in the news because a United States Navy plane landed tehre last week -- is an island region between Hong Kong and Vietnam.

Hot water will be turned off in the General Services Complex tomorrow from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. so repairs can be made on a water heater, the plant operations department advises.

A memo has gone out from the staff association nominating committee: staff representatives are needed on several UW committees. Currently needed: three people to be members of the joint health and safety committee; one for the personal safety advisory committee; one for the president's advisory committee on traffic and parking; two for the committee of inquiry on staff grievances; two for the staff training and development committee; one for the staff relations committee; one for the staff association finance review committee; one for the nominating committee itself. "We encourage all interested staff members from across campus to consider this opportunity," says Paul McKone, chair of the nominating committee. More information should be available from the staff association office.

Peter Burroughs, UW's director of admissions, will speak Wednesday on "Secondary School Reform and the Double Cohort: A University of Waterloo Perspective". His talk, at 12 noon in Davis Centre room 1302, is sponsored by the employee assistance program.

"This is International Year of Volunteers," says a note from the local Volunteer Action Centre. "We are celebrating in a big way, and you can help! May 12 is Community Project Day hosted by the Volunteer Action Centre. Join hundreds of other volunteers and work four hours for one of 40 plus agencies across the city. Bring 4-5 friends or associates and sign up a team. Collect pledges for your work to support volunteer programs in our community. The event ends with a BBQ lunch and entertainment at Bingemans. Let's make a difference together. For more information, call 745-1606."


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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