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Wednesday, January 8, 2003

  • Math programs get high marks
  • As a new term begins: welcome
  • Pixels in the big picture
Chris Redmond

New site helps find rental housing in K-W

[Across the polished counter]

Students are thronging through the new CECS building for return-to-campus interviews this week, and the employers will be there in force before long. Construction fences are still visible outside in this photo, by Barb Elve of information and public affairs, featured in today's Gazette. Political science student Brian Smith is arriving at the reception desk, where Jennifer Machan is on the phone.

Math programs get high marks

The faculty of mathematics has said it will consider a recommendation, made by a "program review" team, that its business and accounting programs be based in one department -- statistics and actuarial science -- rather than free-floating.

Those programs "are supported by more than one department and have external linkages", the dean of math said in response to the program review. But "a small ad hoc committee" has been created "to examine advantages and disadvantages of having one or all of them based in a department". A summary of the review, as well as the dean's response, was submitted to UW's senate recently.

The program review, which covers all the programs in the math faculty except computer science, says math at Waterloo has "an impressive and deserved reputation for excellence". (UW has more math professors and more math courses than any other university in Canada.)

"Between 1992 and 1996," the review report notes, "the programs under review lost a total of 17 faculty positions, and since 1998, five faculty positions had been added back to the faculty complement through use of ATOP funding and international student tuition fees. In the next 10 years, 32 faculty, or 35% of the faculty complement, will retire. Nine new faculty have been hired, bridged to retirements in the next three years."

[From the math splash page] About individual departments, the review team observed that applied math has many "superb members of faculty," and that the undergraduates interviewed "were happy with the program" and "were enthusiastically appreciative of the quality of the instruction of the faculty"; that combinatorics and optimization "is unique in that it is the only one of its kind not only in Canada but apparently worldwide, with the largest concentration of faculty specializing in combinatorics and/or optimization anywhere" and has a record of attracting "the best students in the field"; that pure mathematics has "one of the largest complements of pure mathematicians in the country" and "contributes its share to the reputation that Waterloo enjoys nation-wide"; that actuarial science's "record in teaching, research and contributing to the public discussion of insurance and social security issues is outstanding"; and that the statistics "group is widely recognized as the best in the country."

There were two main recommendations:

The review team also suggested "more support to TAs and more structure for tutorials; a system of named, limited-term postdoctoral fellowships; "social or other opportunities for students in the Mathematical Sciences program be created in order to develop a sense of community, given that Mathematical Sciences does not have a departmental base"; (5) more attention and publicity for the success of the Teaching Option; and an enhanced co-op experience "by enriching the learning environment through undergraduate seminars or student club meetings devoted to co-op experiences".

And more: "The Operations Research program should seek to build bridges to other departments and Faculties to enrich its students' academic program, and to employers to enrich the students' co-op experiences; Actuarial Sciences should develop courses focused on financial economics; given the somewhat low enrolment in its undergraduate program, Statistics should consider developing focused programs related to biostatistics, statistical quality control, social science survey methods or market research; and, all Mathematics units should re-assess their mission in the field of continuing education."

In general, the math faculty likes the report, the senate was told: "Mathematics has accepted almost all of the recommendations and suggestions of the review team, which were offered in the spirit of achieving incremental improvement in high quality programs."

A key point: "The demand for the double degree program with Wilfrid Laurier University remains extremely strong, and the intent is to increase enrolment significantly, even if WLU wishes to maintain the initial level of enrolment. Mathematics would also like to change the admissions procedures to ensure the best 60 students are admitted, regardless of to which institution the students apply. Changes had recently been made to the Math/Business program, and a new finance options has been created. Another change has been to create a common Business Core for all options.

"The Math/Accounting program continues to attract excellent students. There will be need to sustain the Math/Accounting program in the context of the School of Accountancy's decision to establish a new BAFM degree. The Management accounting option requires attention, because it has very few students enroled. Mathematics hopes to participate with the School of Accountancy to review this program, with special attention to sharpening its focus and raising its visibility with prospective students."

[Turner, photo from CTV]

A prime minister from 1984, John Turner, will speak tomorrow about a prime minister from a century previous: Sir John A. Macdonald. "Reflections on Canada's First Prime Minister by One of His Successors" starts at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Theatre of the Arts. Admission is free.

As a new term begins: welcome

A "new student welcome reception" is scheduled for tomorrow, says Erin Moore, special events coordinator for the Federation of Students. The event will take place in Ground Zero restaurant in the Student Life Centre, she said: "If you are new to UW this term, stop by any time between 4 and 6 p.m. to meet your Federation of Students executive and the student life coordinator. You can ask questions, have something to eat, or pick up information from across campus." Need more information? Call Moore at ext. 3426.

Meanwhile, starting today, social, political, ethnic, religious and hobby clubs are among those making their presence known in the Student Life Centre. Clubs Days will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both today and tomorrow.

And welcome-to-campus events for new graduate students are continuing. today, it's "Free Burger Day", noon to 2 p.m. at the Graduate House. Then from 8 p.m. to midnight, grads are welcome at the Campus Cove game room in the Student Life Centre: "free games all night, free pizza while supplies last." Admission is free for GSA members and one guest per person, also free for kids under 10 (with an adult), and $5 for others.

And information sessions in the library are under way, with an emphasis on what graduate students need to know to use UW's libraries effectively. A one-hour session is offered today at 1:30, repeated tomorrow at 2:30; meet at the information desk in the Davis Centre library.

Pixels in the big picture

If you couldn't use Quest or some other services on Monday night, here's why: "Starting at 18:43," writes Reg Quinton from the information systems and technology department, "an upgrade to a software component on ego (the UWdir server) resulted in failure of the UWdir authentication service. The service was restored this morning at approximately 09:06 when the problem was noted. This would have resulted in many failed logins to services like myQuest and other web services." He sends apologies from IST to all those who were inconvenienced.

An item of interest from the front page of Friday's Imprint: "Feds academics commissioner Raymond Gillis has made an ambitious New Year's resolution to publish course evaluations in all faculties, a goal that has eluded the Federation of Students for a number of years. . . . The academics commission is an organization within the Federation of Students that focuses on improving the quality of education at UW. Hard copies of course evaluations are currently available in the math and engineering society offices. 'We hope to have paper copies of the statistical data available in all student society offices,' said Gillis."

FASS, the annual home-grown theatrical wonder, will be the talk of the campus at the end of this month. Faculty, Alumni, Staff and Students -- hence the name -- are invited to show up for auditions tonight, tomorrow or Friday at 7 p.m. in Humanities room 378. "No experience necessary," says producer Heather MacDonald. "Just be ready to have fun!"

A call for nominations has been issued for five student members of UW's senate -- two at large, and one each from engineering, mathematics, and environmental studies or independent studies. Nominations are due by January 17. Details appear in the Notices column of today's Gazette, and on the university secretariat's web site.

"We have new benefit maximums effective January 1, 2003, for our active employee health and dental plans," writes Glenda Rutledge from the human resources department. Let's see: the maximum an employee is required to pay towards eligible costs of prescription drugs is up to $111 (single, or $222 family); the maximum that will be paid for certain kinds of practitioners, such as physiotherapists, is up to $555; the maximum for "basic" dental expenses is up to $1,650 per eligible person. Details are on the web.

I have a note of interest from Tara Phillips, one of two co-op students working this term for the department of systems design engineering. "Over the past 29 years," she writes, the department "has produced many successful graduates." She and colleague Arthur Kong are now "researching the progress of the program and are looking to contact former alumni and others who have participated. The alumni will share their thoughts and experiences in order to develop a better understanding of what Systems Design Engineering is. The intended result of this research is to develop a more informative website for prospective undergraduate and graduate students, as well as for alumni. The revised website will include among others, a short history of the program and an FAQ section. Overall, the website will present more practical and detailed information." She'd like to hear from people, particularly SDE alumni, who can "provide information or photographs regarding your past or current employment, education and reflections on the Systems Design Engineering program." She can be reached at tsphilli@engmail.

There are plans for a Weight Watchers group on campus this term, if 20 interested people can be found, says organizer Melissa Latour, a graduate student in English. "Everyone on campus is welcome (men, women, students, staff; people who are already on the program who would like a more convenient meeting or new joiners). Meetings will be held Mondays at 4:30 p.m. at St.Jerome's. The first meeting is a free information meeting for all those who are curious, and it will be held in SJU room 2009 on Monday, January 13, at 4:30." For more information, she can be reached at mmlatour@uwaterloo.ca.

UW will sponsor a few people to attend one of two senior management courses for university administrators this year, a memo from the provost's office says. The week-long courses are sponsored by the Banff Centre in Alberta. "The programs," says the memo, "are designed to broaden and deepen participant skills in recognizing, meeting, and handling current and emerging issues across a wide spectrum of circumstances." More information is available from Anne Wagland in the provost's office, awagland@admmail.

Penny Pudifin in the graduate studies office sends a reminder that January 15 -- next week -- is the deadline for interested graduate students to submit abstracts if they'd like to be involved in the Graduate Student Research Conference this spring. The abstract submission form, along with conference information, can be found on the web.

This year's membership cards have gone out to members of the staff association, along with a letter from association president Steve Breen. "Like most of you," he writes, "I also enjoy the savings offered by the Discount Club, but more important being a member of the Staff Association means you are supporting the organization that works diligently to support you and your interests. No doubt we all wish for a higher salary, better benefits, etc. but we can only do more with your continued support and by increasing our membership. I invite you to encourage your co-workers who have not joined the SA to seriously consider joining us. If we all work together we can make a difference."


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