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Monday, March 17, 2003

  • Dealing with students in distress
  • Lecture tomorrow on climate change
  • UW summer programs for kids
  • A few other notes for today
Chris Redmond

How Ireland celebrates St. Patrick's


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Dealing with students in distress

A student tells a faculty supervisor he won't be around, but won't say why: "I'm going to disappear for a while." Another student dissolves in tears over a poor mark on a lab exercise.

The problems could be minor and short-term, or they could be signs of students in serious distress. How's an instructor to know, and what's the appropriate response?

Christine Tauer Martin of UW's counselling services addressed those questions in a pair of noon-hour workshops at the end of February, each attended by about a dozen staff and faculty members from science. She reviewed some of the situations that can arise, heard comments and questions based on people's experience, and showed the group a gold-and-brown brochure that's available from counselling: "Helping Students in Distress".

"There's not a dividing line between academic and personal," Tauer Martin reminded her listeners, pointing out that the elements of students' lives overlap, including relationships, courses, independence, finances and health. And it's often instructors who see the results first: "They're having a meltdown in your office," and while the lab mark may be the immediate cause, there's more behind it. "You may be the flashpoint," she reiterated, "but it's not about you."

A student could be crying, might be unnaturally calm and rigid, or maybe doesn't show up at all, even for a crucial exam. Students can be suffering from depression, anxiety, or just practical problems. There are also students who suffer such social anxiety that they can't function in classes -- or anywhere else on campus. "I've worked with a number of students," she said, 'around how to stand in line in the registrar's office!"

One instructor in the workshop recalled meeting a student who was so obviously distressed that "I walked her over to Needles Hall to see a counsellor." (Good response in some circumstances, said Tauer Martin. Or an instructor can call ext. 2655 to arrange for an emergency appointment.)

Another instructor said she has encountered a student who talks about academic matters, almost admits to having a deeper problem, but then lets her voice trail off: "It's just . . . "

The university environment is stressful, everyone agreed. "I don't want to be looking at every person who comes in and seems a little stressed," one of them said, "and think, Is this person teetering?" But some students are, in fact, teetering, Tauer Martin told her audience. "When you're dealing with depression, suicidal thoughts are not uncommon. However, thought is not the same thing as action."

Most of the instructors sounded more eager to talk with students about their academic work than about emotions and personal life. It's a matter of boundaries, someone said. "I don't think it's fair for me to be put in this position. Some of them look at me and say, You can make it all better!" The implication: no, I can't -- the most I, as an instructor, can do is help you with your lab work.

Talking to a student about other matters depends, said Tauer Martin, on "your own comfort level. If you're not comfortable, that's perfectly okay, and you may want to take that to the referral stage. Raise it as one of the options: 'We have counsellors on staff who might be able to help you.'"

And she offered six steps for an instructor who does end up in a conversation with a student about more complicated problems: Listen. Empathize. Clarify. Problem-solve. Refer. Summarize.

Lecture tomorrow on climate change -- from the UW media relations office

A leading international authority on climate change will speak tomorrow, offering practical advice on how to alleviate the damage from noxious greenhouse gases.

[Thambimuthu] Kelly Thambimuthu (left), who will deliver the TD Canada Trust/Walter Bean Visiting Professorship in the Environment lecture, is a senior scientist with the CANMET Energy Technology Centre of Natural Resources Canada. The centre develops and delivers knowledge-and technology-based programs for the sustainable production and use of Canada's energy supply.

The public lecture -- titled "Fossil Fuels, Climate Change and Kyoto: Are We in a Fix?" -- will be held at 4 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre, Hagey Hall. Admission is free.

In his speech, Thambimuthu will explore how we can eliminate harmful emissions from using fossil fuels for energy. In other words, the steps that can be taken now and until such time when the technology is available to effectively use alternative energy sources.

Thambimuthu is responsible for research and development on advanced fossil energy utilization cycles. As well, he advises on greenhouse gas management, carbon dioxide capture and storage technologies. He is also chairman of the International Energy Agency's greenhouse gas research and development program and a member of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change WGIII CO2 Capture and Storage Program Committee.

The intent of the TD Canada Trust/Walter Bean professorship is to provide students with an opportunity to study with ranking experts active in the fields in which they plan to work. Established in 1992 with a $1 million endowment, the professorship honours the late Walter Bean, who was president of Waterloo Trust (which merged with Canada Trust, now TD Canada Trust) and is widely remembered for his commitment to youth, education and the community.

The professorship seeks to attract outstanding researchers with international reputations in engineering, science and environmental studies. Last year, the post was held by Jorg Imberger, of the University of Western Australia, who is an expert on water flows and water resources. In earlier years, visiting researchers have included Jeffrey Luvall, a senior research scientist at Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama and a expert on urban heat islands; Joseph MacInnis, president of Undersea Research Ltd. of Toronto and adviser to the Titanic discovery team; and David Schindler, one of Canada's leading researchers in freshwater environmental science and a professor at University of Alberta.

[In the shade of a tree]

Kids from Engineering Science Quest play "polymer tag", summer of 1999

UW summer programs for kids

Now that March break is over, parents will be thinking about summer programs for their children. As in past years, UW has several to offer. They're listed in an information sheet prepared by the communications and public affairs office:

Arts Computer Experience (ACE): ACE 2003 is a summer day camp for children ages seven to twelve years. Children will experience hours of fun while learning exciting and interesting aspects of art, computers, drama and music combined with outdoor activities and swimming. The camp runs four two-week sessions throughout July and August, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Cost is $295 for the sessions. A $10 discount applies for full payment before April 15. The program begins July 7 and ends August 29. 888-4567 ext. 5939, ace@watarts.uwaterloo.ca.

Engineering Science Quest (ESQ): Engineering Science Quest is a member of ACTUA of Canada, winner of the Michael Smith Award for excellence in the promotion of science to young people across Canada. Now in its 13th year, this student-run program explores new horizons in engineering and science. It gives children in grades 1-12 an opportunity to see, touch, invent, design, create, and experiment in twelve distinct camps. Our four ExXtreme Camping! programs focus on the world of computers and technology. Camps have a camper/instructor ratio of six campers per instructor, except the ExXtreme and Primary programs that have a ratio of four campers per instructor. Camps run weekly from June 30 to August 29 at $190 per five-day week and $235 per five-day week for the ExXtreme Camping! programs. Camp hours are 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. 888-4567 ext. 5239, info@esq.uwaterloo.ca.

Hildegard Marsden Day Nursery Summer Camp: This program of fun-filled indoor and outdoor activities emphasizes the intellectual, physical, social and emotional growth of young children ages 2 1/2 to seven years. Activities include science projects, swimming, large and fine motor activities, songs, co-operative games, field trips and more! The child-staff ratio is eight campers for each ECE with a maximum of 16 weekly campers. Each week offers different trips and activities. Minimum weekly sessions are offered for July and August. Cost is $145 per five-day week; $125 per four-day week. Alicia Smith 888-4567 ext. 5437.

Klemmer Farmhouse Co-operative Nursery Summer Program: This fun-filled weekly program for children ages 2 1/2 years to five years involves crafts, water play, music and games combined with field trips and outdoor play programs. Children may register for one or more weeks. Hot lunch and snacks are provided. The child-staff ratio is eight children for each ECE teacher. Hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Cost is $140 per five-day week and $130 per four-day week. Jan Robinson, 885-5181.

Ontario Mennonite Music Camp (OMMC): Are you looking for an exciting camping experience? Then join us for 12 fun-filled days of Music Camp! We welcome boys and girls ages 12 to 16 years who have a love for music and some basic music training. Create lifetime friendships as you participate in choir, instrumental music, private coaching, a musical theatre production, crazy outdoor activities, campfires, field trips, camper planned chapels, concerts by professional artists, and a concert for family and friends. Now in its 18th year, OMMC gladly receives campers from many Christian denominations. Campers and University-trained counselors are housed in the UW dormitory rooms of Conrad Grebel University College. August 10-22. Cost is $495, plus a non-refundable deposit of $50 before June 16 or $75 after June 16. Julia Richards, 885-0220 ext. 226.

[At the keyboard]

Pianist Naida Cole will perform at Centre in the Square on Friday and Saturday, and "The Garry Show" on CKMS radio (today from 1 to 3 p.m.) is giving away tickets.

A few other notes for today

Note number one: it seems to be spring, and the heart rejoiceth. Note number two: the Federation of Students council met yesterday afternoon and was to discuss the hot topic of "online strikable fees", though I don't yet have any report on what, if anything, was decided. The issue has been covered exhaustively in 'uwstudent.org', and deals with the procedures around the fees students pay each term for a number of campus organizations. (Most controversial, or at least most often cited as an example, is the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group.) At present, a student has to pay all those fees, but can get a refund for some of them on request. There have been various proposals to have them "strikable" rather than "refundable", meaning that a student wouldn't have to pay them in the first place. A committee studying the issue was to bring its report to yesterday's council meeting.

And 'uwstudent.org' also reported over the weekend that the Federation of Students "intends to go to mediation in the $11 million lawsuit it filed against the university last week. . . . Feds lawyer Jerry Levitan said that one of the reasons for requesting the case be heard in Toronto was because of the mandatory mediation program." The university, which is being sued over its actions in closing the two student-run pubs in January, has until March 24 to file papers in its defence, and a first court appearance is set for April 9.

The engineering faculty council will meet at 3:00 in Carl Pollock Hall room 3385. (Among the agenda items: a presentation from the Midnight Sun solar car team.) However, UW's senate is not meeting today, in spite of what I said in a recent Daily Bulletin -- this month's senate meeting is scheduled for next Monday, March 24.

There will, however, be a meeting of the senate finance committee today, starting at 3:30 p.m. in Needles Hall room 3004. A peek at the agenda makes clear that provost Amit Chakma will be bringing forward the outline of a 2003-04 operating budget, with spending increases in some areas but a 2 per cent "expenditure reduction applied across all academic and academic support units".

Tomorrow, the second of two meetings for people interested in a health informatics institute at UW will be held at 9 a.m. in Davis Centre room 1304. . . . UW Graphics will hold a brown-bag seminar on digital archiving tomorrow at 12 noon at the main graphics facility. . . . A talk on mortgages, sponsored by the campus credit union, is scheduled for 12:15 tomorrow in Davis Centre room 1304. . . . And writer and radio interviewer Elizabeth Hay will be reading from her work tomorrow at 4 p.m. at St. Jerome's University. . . .

"Godspell", performed by students from Conrad Grebel University College, hits the stage Wednesday through Saturday at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener. I understand that a couple of performances are sold out already; tickets for the others are available at the music office at Grebel, priced at $10 and $8.


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(519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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