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Tuesday, May 28, 2002

  • Future students open the mail
  • When you call 885-1211
  • Paying attention to attention
  • So I'm, like, what's happening?
Chris Redmond

The United States Open University is going out of business

Future students open the mail

Thousands of young people will get the news in their mailboxes today: yes, you can come to UW next fall if you want to.

A mountain of admissions offers were mailed out yesterday, says Peter Burroughs, UW's director of admissions: "As of today, 14,946 offers of admission have been extended to help realize our November 1 year one registration target of 4,879. Last year at this time, we had made 14,437 offers.

"All offers to year one programs issued by May 28 include a residence guarantee and, where applicable, an entrance scholarship or bursary award. Applicants admitted by May 28 have until June 12 to confirm their acceptance of our offers of admission, residence and scholarship and bursary."

Why so many offers for 4,879 spaces? Says Burroughs: "Applicants can apply for a maximum of three programs at each of the 18 Ontario universities. Based on historical data, we can predict with some degree of accuracy the number of applicants who will confirm to UW."

He adds: "We will continue to make a measured number of offers to non-Ontario secondary school applicants until about the end of June or until programs become full. These offers require a confirmation response by the applicant within 15 days."

When you call 885-1211

Callers to UW's "published phone number", (519) 885-1211, will have more choices starting this morning -- but they'll have to wait a little longer if what they want is to speak to a live human being.

For the past while, Waterloo has been one of just three universities in Ontario where the main phone number is answered by a live voice. As of today -- at 10:00, when the changeover is scheduled -- the number is down to two. Callers to 885-1211 won't get a live operator for a few seconds, giving them time to exercise one of two other choices:

Judie Lankowski of the information systems and technology department says today's changeover is officially a "test", though she's confident that it'll work fine.

For years, UW has had a second phone number -- 888-4567 -- for people who know the extension number they're after and are prepared to key it in immediately. That number, the so-called "automated attendant", doesn't lead to a live operator.

The voice-recognition system is new, and has been available for a few weeks to on-campus callers only, at ext. 7777. Now it'll be offered to outside callers as well -- but, Lankowski noted, only to 885-1211. Plans are to add the voice recognition option to 888-4567 later.


Paying attention to attention -- from an interview by Bob Whitton

How well can people drive while they're talking on cell phones? What makes an effective emergency warning signal? Those are the kinds of questions that come up in "attentional performance" research being done by UW psychology professor Jennifer Stolz (right).

"My research may be able to contribute to the issue of how people are able to spread their attention efficiently across their environment, such as is necessary when using a cell phone in moving vehicles," says Stolz, who came to UW in 1995 and recently received one of the Ontario provincial government's Premier's Research Excellence Awards for promising young researchers.

She finds that developing experiments to measure what is going on in a person's mind represents a considerable challenge. She has tried to measure performance under conditions in which subjects are asked to perform only one task, and conditions under which the performance of a second task is also required. This helps her determine which kinds of tasks can be performed relatively automatically and which kinds are greatly affected when attention has to be shared.

Most of her research subjects to date have been students, as often happens in psychology research, but she plans to expand her studies to other age groups, to find out if there are age-related differences. "We know that very young drivers are involved in a large proportion of automobile accidents, as compared with those who are middle-aged. We also know that elderly drivers have more accidents. So we would like to find out more about the attention spans of people of all age groups -- whether one's ability to pay attention varies with age."

One of the things she has investigated is how the meaning of an object that is being processed affects how an observer pays attention to it. Interestingly, she has found that the meaning of an "attentional" cue can make it difficult for us to ignore that cue, even though paying attention to it impairs our ability to perform a task.

Currently she is on a sabbatical and is using the time to write up a considerable backlog of reports on previous research activities. In addition to her work on attention, she is also planning a series of new research ventures having to do with a longstanding idea that reading is an automatic activity, in which we compute the meaning of a word in print each time we encounter it even though we may not even intend to.

Some factors that will be included in this new research: Are we better at detecting the appearance of more meaningful objects? Does the emotional feeling conveyed by an object affect how readily it is perceived? What role does attention play in influencing order judgments? How does multi-tasking affect our ability to perceive the order of appearance of objects? What qualities, in an object, make good warning signals during periods of high stress?

Events today

About 20 high school students -- most from Ontario, with one each from British Columbia and Québec -- have been invited to take part in "stage 2" of the UW-sponsored Canadian Computing Competition this week. They'll be staying in the Ron Eydt Village conference centre today through Saturday.

The "iWeb" group will meet in the Flex lab in the Dana Porter Library today at 11 a.m. Topic this month: "Learn about Microsoft's .NET architecture, how to use it, why you should use it and some sample code." More information: ext. 3779.

The third "Know Your Workplace" seminar is being given this week - today at 12 noon, Thursday at 9 a.m., both times in Davis Centre room 1302. The topic: conflict resolution, with people from counselling services, the Employee Assistance program, and the office of ethical behaviour and human rights involved as well as human resources, which sponsors the whole series. Registration is through the HR web site.

Several workshops on interview skills are scheduled today, tomorrow and Thursday, as the "career development" series continues. The career resource centre on the first floor of Needles Hall has the details.

Many UW graduates are on hand as the Statistics Society of Canada holds its annual meeting this week at McMaster University in Hamilton. UW is sponsoring an alumni reception at the conference tonight, 4:30 to 6:30 at Mac's faculty club.

Centre Stage Dance has its spring recital tonight and tomorrow night at 7:00 in UW's Humanities Theatre.

And an advance gustatory note: the University Club is promising a Tex-Mex fiesta Thursday from 4:30 to 7:30 -- details and reservations, ext. 3801.

So I'm, like, what's happening?

I'd better start with a correction to something I said yesterday. That's no language lab they're constructing in the PAS building, I'm assured by Rob Hiscott, associate dean (computing) in the faculty of arts. "The lab which is being created," he writes, "is a general-purpose computing lab, not limited or in any way restricted to language instruction. This computing lab will be used by students from across all 16 academic departments in the faculty of arts." In addition to the 42-station computer lab, the space in PAS (formerly used for animal research) will include "a conventional classroom" and a tiered presentation/case room.

Judy McCrae, UW's director of athletics, is off next week to the annual meetings of Canadian Interuniversity Sport -- still known to many of us as the CIAU, though it changed its name a while back. McCrae is halfway through a two-year term as national president of CIS. "There isn't anything significant new on our plate at the CIS level," she says, although some discussion is planned towards a reassessment of how decisions are made in such a large, unwieldy organization with sharp regional differences. (Sort of like Canada itself, come to think of it.) "We'll be doing some review of the scholarship issue," McCrae added.

And back in Waterloo, the athletics department is about to add a professional staff member, or rather, fill a job that's been sitting vacant. The position was advertised recently: "interuniversity coordinator" for women's sports, and coach for either volleyball or field hockey. Over the past year, Sharon Creelman has been coaching, and "a bunch of us picked up some extra administration," McCrae says. The plan now is to have a full-time staff member in both roles by September.

The engineering student newspaper Iron Warrior recently asked Sujeet Chaudhuri why he isn't looking for a second term as dean of engineering. His answer is worth quoting: "The main thing is fatigue. I've been at it for ten years now (five years as head of E&CE, and five years as dean). There hasn't been a routine week in the last ten years. It's been a lot of fun; however, looking at what's been done and what's in front of us, we need a new person with new energy. Also, I am able to keep my research going. My field of RF technology and optics, etc. -- it's becoming a critical technology. I have to seize the opportunity -- it's very exciting. We have some fantastic initiatives and projects. It's kind of selfish."

How about on-campus television? Adrian Chin writes on uwstudent.org: "At the Feds Students' Council meeting on 12 May 2002, Feds Vice-President Administration & Finance Chris Di Lullo presented a plan to introduce a campus channel to the University of Waterloo. The service would be provided by UCTV Inc., a newly founded company that provides an information services for colleges and universities in the form of a customized channel. The company sells ad spots on its channel. The project is in its preliminary stages, and was presented to council for information. The next step in the process is for the newly elected directors of the Feds to consider the proposal."



May 28, 1963: UW hosts the annual meeting of the Institute of Professional Librarians of Ontario.

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