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Thursday, June 12, 2003

  • Days of shine and roses
  • Grads face eight-page survey
  • Trio triumphs in Disney contest
  • Rights fellowship for UW history prof
  • And the rest of what's happening
Chris Redmond

Ford Motor Company marks its 100th

[PhD grad with roses] [He's still ungowned]

Above: Lois Claxton, secretary of the university, administers the oath of office to new chancellor Mike Lazaridis. Registrar Ken Lavigne looks on.

Days of shine and roses

Arts will be in the spotlight today, the second day of the Eighty-Sixth Convocation, after a first day in which the new chancellor was installed, the old chancellor was invested as "chancellor emeritus", and graduates from environmental studies, independent studies and applied health sciences had their place in the sun (left).

"Technology transfer is the buzz word of the day, especially in the circles that fund us," said the new chancellor, Mike Lazaridis, who as founder and president of Research In Motion (RIM) has made hundreds of millions from technology transfer.

But, he said in his convocation address, "I think this view of technology is short-sighted and wrong." Rather, he said, the most important means of innovation is for universities to rear students with new ideas and energy, who will then have their impact in business.

It was a thought-provoking comment from Lazaridis, who's often called a "visionary" for his comments on education and broader social issues. He went on to preside over the first of about thirty convocation ceremonies he'll attend during his six-year stint as chancellor.

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin listed several of the top awards being presented at the Wednesday convocation session, but here are two more. A Governor General's Silver Medal, for highest standing in the bachelor's program (one of three at UW), went to Kimberley Kent, kinesiology. As announced earlier in the year, a Distinguished Teaching by a Registered Student award went to Jason Niles of the school of planning.

In today's ceremony, starting at 2:00 in the Physical Activities Complex, arts students in the hundreds will come to the stage for their degrees. But first, UW will award two honorary degrees: to author Joy Kogawa, and Supreme court justice Frank Iacobucci. Iacobucci will give the convocation address.

Also today, retired psychology professor Pat Rowe will become an "honorary member of the university", a distinction reflecting not just her work in psychology (as an expert on co-op programs, as well as other workplace issues) but her service as acting dean of arts in 1973-74 (making her UW's first woman dean) and dean of graduate studies 1991-99.

And three Distinguished Teacher Awards will be presented: to John North of the English department, Anne-Marie Donovan of drama and speech communication, and Robert Ryan of French studies.

Mariana Jardim, receiving a BA in Spanish and translation, will be the valedictorian, speaking on behalf of the graduating class. Holly Recchia (psychology) will receive the alumni association gold medal as the top graduating student in arts this year.

Convocation sessions continue through the week: science tomorrow afternoon, math on Saturday morning and engineering on Saturday afternoon.

Grads face eight-page survey

Graduate students across campus are being asked to answer eight pages of questions, as the Graduate Student Association seeks to know more about its members and their needs.

Questions on the "survey of graduate needs and attitudes" ranges from faculty, program and sex (sorry, "gender") to the GSA's own services, social activities (interested in karaoke?), relations with the graduate studies office, and housing preferences. In that category, it asks students to rank the top five of 16 possible factors in somewhere to live, such as laundry, parking, level of rent and distance to campus.

Among the other questions: "Do you find the Graduate Student Association website useful? . . . How could the service at the Graduate House be improved? . . . Was your Graduate Studies Office experience positive? . . . How satisfied are you with your current housing? . . . Do you know who represents your department on the GSA Council?"

"To date," a covering letter explains, "little formal information has been obtained from the graduate student population in general. Graduate students currently have representatives on numerous committees on-campus. The benefit of this survey is to improve representation, as well as the services, provided to students by the GSA."

The letter explains that the survey is voluntary and confidential -- but those who want to can be entered into a draw for five $100 prizes, using an anonymous number system. It also notes that the survey "has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through the Office of Research Ethics".

Graduate students have received the survey through their departments, and have been asked to return them at drop boxes in the departments, no later than June 27.

Trio triumphs in Disney contest

Disney announced yesterday that a team of three UW students had placed first in Walt Disney Imagineering's Imagi-Nations competition with their "Monsters, Inc. Training Facility Ride."

[Disney photo] The three women -- Munira Jessa, Analene Go and Kimberly Tuck -- collaborated for nine months to develop their concept for a new theme park ride based on the movie "Monsters, Inc."

Imagi-Nations, a Disney news release explains, is a design competition to let students showcase their talents and gain practical knowledge in design, with the opportunity to earn scholarship funds. "Since the program's inception in 1992, more than 800 students have participated. A number of past winners have gone on to serve internships at Imagineering, a unit of the Walt Disney Company, and some have become full-time Imagineers."

"Our Disney stories come from all over the world and we entertain a diverse audience in our ten theme parks throughout the globe," said Marty Sklar of, Walt Disney Imagineering. "We are constantly looking for talent as diverse as our visitors."

The UW team was one of seven finalists selected from more than 50 entrants. Students from across North America demonstrated their creativity and technical, artistic and business skills to design a theme park ride, attraction or new experience. Students presented their concepts, presentation art boards and 3-D models to a team of judges from the Walt Disney Company.

Team member Analene Go expressed her feelings about winning the competition, "Wow! To accomplish something of this magnitude with a company like Walt Disney Imagineering is a dream come true." Go, from Guelph, Ontario, recently graduated in systems design engineering. Tuck, also a systems design graduate, said, "it's thrilling to know that the Imagineers considered our project the best."

Rights fellowship for UW history prof -- an SSHRC news release yesterday

University of Waterloo history professor James Walker, an expert on human rights and multiculturalism, has been awarded the 2003 Bora Laskin Fellowship by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The 12-month, $55,000 fellowship is awarded to a leading Canadian researcher in the field of human rights.

"When Canada's law against hate propaganda came into force in 1970, it cemented our commitment to protect the human rights of Canadians, regardless of their religious or cultural background," said Allan Rock, minister of industry and minister responsible for SSHRC. "Dr. Walker's research will help determine the law's role in promoting diversity, a key element of our Canadian identity."

"At the same time that our neighbours to the south struggled with civil rights, minority groups in Canada sought to protect their rights under the law," said SSHRC president Marc Renaud. "Dr. Walker's research will show how the debate around the issues of hate propaganda, freedom of speech and racial equality established the principle that group hatred was a threat to our fundamental democratic principles."

Walker will focus on the period between 1963 and 1970, when a burgeoning wave of anti-Semitism sparked what proved to be a spirited social and legal debate. Minority groups urged the government for protection while other groups argued that restricting hate literature would infringe on freedom of speech.

"The debate really made Canadians reconsider the nature of our democracy and the rights of our citizens," said Walker. "Supporters of the law convinced Canadians that protecting the rights of minority groups was necessary to preserve the rights of all individuals. Their efforts helped distinguish Canadian concepts of citizenship and rights from those in the United States."

The debate is closely connected to Bora Laskin, who devoted his entire career as a lawyer and judge to making Canada's legal system more just and humane. The late Supreme Court justice was asked to draft amendments to the Criminal Code by the groups championing protection. He was also an active campaigner for change.

In addition to studying Laskin's role, Walker will also examine how Pierre Trudeau's connections to the debate contributed to later initiatives by his government.

"Mr. Trudeau was initially concerned about freedom of speech, but he soon became convinced that group hatred restricted individual rights and threatened the peaceful working of society," said Walker. "It will be interesting to see how much influence the debate had on his idea of a just society."

And the rest of what's happening

A correction first: talking the other day about UW's new men's hockey coach, Karl Taylor, I wrote that he had formerly been with the "Fredericton Canadians". That would be, as fans quickly wrote to tell me, the Canadiens with an E, now defunct but formerly a farm team for Montréal.

An open board meeting of the UW faculty association will be held at 10:30 this morning in Math and Computer room 2066, to discuss progress on salary negotiations for the next two years.

The staff of the UW library will hold their annual spring barbecue at noontime today. . . . The Graduate House hosts a "Retro 80s" party tonight, promising "gift certificates for those brave souls who show up with real, serious hockey hair". . . .

Math student Mo Chen died Saturday at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, three weeks after he suffered head injuries in an apparent fight in a Kitchener apartment. His roommate, identified as UW math student Yushan Hu, is in custody facing charges of attempted murder and assault.

Today and tomorrow will bring lectures by four prominent people who are here to receive awards at convocation:

Now just in case anybody's having trouble looking past convocation week, let me remind you that there are a few big events happening just over the horizon. Tuesday brings a "Collaboration Technology Vision" day co-sponsored by UW and spinoff company Open Text. Tuesday night, it's the annual 25-Year Club reception for long-serving staff and faculty members. And Wednesday (that would be June 18) brings a campus-wide noon-hour "beach fun and games" event for the Keystone Campaign; I'll be saying much more about that one at the beginning of the week.

Speaking of the Keystone Campaign, organizers report that the monthly draw prizes for June have just been awarded. There are eight winners, taking home such things as restaurant gift certificates and a coffee-maker; names are posted on the Keystone web site and will likely be published in the Gazette.

"We are looking for volunteers," writes environmental studies student Ralph Shaw, "to take part in a study of learning outcome and retention using interactive software vs. a textbook. As a participant in this study, you would be asked to complete an initial learning activity followed by a written assessment. At a later date, you will be asked to complete a short multiple choice evaluation. . . . In appreciation for your time, you will receive a UW Shop gift certificate." Anyone who's interested (and hasn't done it before) is invited to get in touch with Shaw at rwshaw@fes. "The experiment will be running at least until the end of the summer," he adds.

And an advance note: a reception and dinner will be held next Thursday, June 19, to honour Hamish Duthie and Swani Vethamany-Globus, both of whom are retiring from UW's biology department after many years of service. Barb Rae at ext. 2141 is handling RSVPs and arrangements for dinner tickets, as well as contributions to a scholarship fund in honour of the retiring faculty members.


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