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Thursday, March 27, 2003

  • Grad students choose Guthrie
  • Report offers direction for UW computing
  • About the learning technology centre
  • Math students seventh in Putnam
  • Co-op forum among today's events
Chris Redmond

World Theatre Day

[In his lab]

Grad students choose Guthrie

The Graduate Student Association announced yesterday that Simon Guthrie (right), a PhD student in the school of optometry, will be its president for the coming year.

The annual general meeting of the Graduate Student Association will be held Monday, March 31, at 6 p.m. in Needles Hall room 3001.
Said a statement from Jason Grove, the GSA's chief returning officer: "Simon Guthrie has won a close battle for the GSA presidency, with a margin of 21 votes. The final count is Simon Guthrie 166 votes, Igor Ivkovic 145 votes, Spoiled or invalid, 39 votes.

"Voter turnout was 13.2%, with 350 of the 2,168 eligible voters returning their ballot.

"Congratulations to Simon on his victory. Well done, Igor, on running a good race.

"The rest of the executive team has already been acclaimed; Simon joins Shabnam Sobti (Corporate Secretary), Angela Garabet (VP Student Affairs) and Justin Wozniak (VP Operations) to take office at the beginning of May. Next year's team includes three-quarters of the current executive, with Simon moving from Corporate Secretary to President and Shabnam replacing him as Corporate Secretary. Justin and Angela continue in their current roles."

Report offers direction for UW computing

UW needs to become "a leader again in the use of information technology", says the report of an external review headed by the president of the University of Regina.

David Barnard visited UW from Regina in November, with two colleagues, at the request of UW's provost, and was asked to do a study that would "inform UW's IT vision for the next decade". His report was made public yesterday.

"It is clear," Barnard writes, "that the University of Waterloo is not making the pioneering contributions to the use of information technology in post-secondary education that it once was. Relative to other universities with whom it should be compared, there are some positive indicators and some negative ones.

"The University has done well in the development of its library system. There are many areas of research where faculty members have used computers effectively to achieve high standards of work, and international recognition. Many students use computers in a wide range of academic programs.


Retiring after thirty years of service in the information systems and technology department (and its predecessors) is Kim Spenceley. So that staff can attend a retirement celebration, the Computer Help and Information Place (CHIP) will be closing at 3:30 this afternoon.

"However, other universities have done better at managing the regular upgrading of desktop systems, at developing wireless networking, and at integrating the various components of the campus computing and communication environment into a seamless whole.

"Several of those with whom we spoke identified the desire of the President and the Provost to make the University of Waterloo a leader again in the use of information technology. In our view, this goal is achievable because the University has strong traditions on which it can build, it has skilled and enthusiastic people, and it has the will at the senior levels of the administration. But leadership among universities is not a fair characterization of the current state of the University's use of information technology."

And: "In our discussions with members of the University of Waterloo community we asked about the existence of a vision for the use of information technology at the institutional level and at the faculty level. While there is clearly not uniformity of views on this matter, the general consensus we perceived is that there is no explicit commitment at the institutional level, the commitment at the faculty levels varies considerably, but it is known that the President and the Provost are personally committed to making information technology a key aspect of the next stage of the development of the University."

The report says UW's well-known decentralization has some strong advantages, but makes it difficult for the whole university to move in the same direction. For example, "Some academics do not understand the processes by which priorities are established for IST. In particular, there remains a legacy of dissatisfaction with the Student Information System project."

It recommends "a consultative process aimed at arriving at the development and common understanding of a statement on the University of Waterloo's commitment to the use of information technology as a strategic component of the University's next stage of development."

It also calls for leadership: "We believe it to be important at the University of Waterloo at present to have a senior position devoted to the strategic development and achieving of the University's strategic direction with respect to information technology. To this end, it will be important to separate the roles of strategic leadership and of daily management of the central unit. Accordingly, we believe, along with a number of those who communicated with us, that it is appropriate to have two positions, a Director of Information Services (the renamed IST) and an Associate Provost for Information Technology (APIT). The Director of Information Services should report to the Associate Provost."

(The report calls for the current information systems and technology department to be renamed "information services" to emphasize service to users, rather than support for technologies.)

Among other recommendations:

About the learning technology centre

The information technology review gives special attention to LT3 -- the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology. Here's some of what it says:

"The role of LT3 needs to be clarified. The unit itself has a twofold mission. It is conducting research and development, attempting to provide sophisticated tools to help faculty members use computer-mediated delivery of course materials. At the same time it has a mission to engage faculty members in using technology and developing course materials suitable for computer-mediated delivery. The unit does not have sufficient resources to support large numbers of faculty members if large numbers were to become involved. In the short term, there are some faculty members enthusiastically embracing the approach, but we were told that many are skeptical.

"A number of people communicated to us their concern about the potential conflict of these two missions, and about their perception of ambiguity in the role and status of the unit. It is known that the President and Provost want the University of Waterloo to be in a leadership position with respect to the use of information technology, and LT3 is perceived as being one important component in their vision. As a result, LT3 wants to demonstrate change, but there is insufficient incentive for many faculty members to become involved.

"In our view, the best way to move forward would be to have LT3 report to the [Associate Provost, Information Technology]. The specific role of LT3, and the pace at which the technologies it is developing should be introduced into the academic programs of the faculties, could then be determined as part of the consultation that the APIT will have with the deans. The leadership position to which the University aspires may have LT3 as a fundamental building block, but there may be other building blocks as well. In any case, the deans must be committed to whatever role LT3 will play if it is to be successful."

Math students seventh in Putnam -- from the UW media relations office

Upholding a tradition of top 10 finishes and displaying Canada's math skills, a student team was ranked seventh in this year's prestigious William Lowell Putnam Mathematics Competition

The competition, won by a team from Harvard University, was written by 3,349 students at colleges and universities in the United States and Canada. The students worked to solve mathematical problems designed to challenge the best brains in North America.

The members of UW's team were Lino Demasi, Shu Niu and Karen Yeats. In top place individually among Waterloo participants was Demasi, who earned an honourable mention by placing in the top 60. Just missing an honourable mention by a single point was Tom Waterhouse.

News release about the ACM programming contest
"Waterloo has once again earned an honourable mention in the prestigious Putnam competition," said Christopher Small, of statistics and actuarial science, who coached the students along with math lecturer Ian VanderBurgh. "A total of 476 colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada participated in the most recent competition. So the seventh place finish by our team members is an outstanding showing."

UW's ranking among the universities was based on the performance of the three pre-selected team members. Though other UW students did not represent the university as part of its team, they did participate as individuals -- eight students placed in the top 200 individuals and 19 in the top 500.

[Purple, chained to chair]

Hard to know exactly why, but Josh Levitz, newly elected president of the Engineering Society, spent some time in the lobby of Carl Pollock Hall yesterday. Nice taste in makeup.

Co-op forum among today's events

On the day that Ontario finance minister Janet Ecker announces her extra-Legislative budget -- and it might have something in it that touches on university funding -- there's also lots happening close to home. For example, displays of work by systems design engineering students continue today in the Davis Centre. (I was somewhat confused in what I wrote yesterday: the displays yesterday were of work by third-year students, and today fourth-year students have their time in the sun.)

Graham Vincent, director of transportation planning for Waterloo Region, speaks about the proposed "central transit corridor", at 12 noon in the Student Life Centre. (UW could be much affected by the "corridor" plan, which would involve light rail or some similar transit system running north-south through Kitchener-Waterloo, with stops at the main campus and the north campus.) Vincent's visit is sponsored by the UW Sustainability Project.

A cancer control seminar on "Psychosocial Impact of Genetic Testing" is scheduled for 12:30 in the Clarica Auditorium. . . . David Jackson of the department of combinatorics and optimization will speak on algebraic combinatorics and enumerative geometry at 4:30 in Math and Computer room 2038. . . . The International Students Association hosts a talk about Hong Kong at 6 p.m. in Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall room 307. . . . The Computer Science Club presents a talk on "SSH and Networks" at 6:30 in Math and Computer room 1085. . . .

There's an open forum about the co-op program, 4:30 to 6 p.m. Rod Coutts Engineering Lecture Hall room 101. "Co-op students can learn about current and upcoming changes in CECS, including the new online system. They can also ask CECS reps any questions about co-op, offer suggestions, etc."

It'll be chartered accountancy night from 4:30 to 8 p.m. in the Co-op Education and Career Services building. "The School of Accountancy and CECS have invited chartered accounting firms to UW to introduce themselves to the 1B class of co-op accounting students through presentations and sessions." Refreshments follow.

The opening reception for this year's exhibition by graduating students in fine arts starts at 5 p.m., East Campus Hall. The show, titled "From Rathke's Pouch", will run through April 10.

The UW-based literary magazine The New Quarterly hosts a reading tonight by local writer Lesley Millard, whose story "A Fine Country" is featured in the magazine's current issue. Art by Isabella Stefanescu will be on display at the same event, which starts at 7:30 at the Kitchener Globe Studio, 141 Whitney Place. The new issue of TNQ, at nearly 400 pages, is "our most ambitious issue yet", says editor Kim Jernigan.

The department of Spanish and Latin American studies presents "The First Non-Annual Spanglish Theatrical Interlude" at 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room of the Student Life Centre. . . . "Towards Oneness: An Academic Approach" is tonight's talk in the series sponsored by the Waterloo-India Linkage and the Spiritual Heritage Education Network (7 p.m., Math and Computer room 4021). . . . The drama department's "Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde" continues tonight in the Theatre of the Arts (8:00). . . .

Here's a reminder that the UW bookstore will be closed Friday, Saturday and Monday for renovations.

The weekend will bring concerts by several of UW's music ensembles: the Stage Band with Accent vocal ensemble, Friday at 8 p.m in the great hall at Conrad Grebel University College; the UW Choir on Saturday at 8 p.m. at St. Louis Catholic Church on Allen Street; the Chamber Choir on Sunday at 7 p.m. at Parkminster United Church on Erb Street East.

And this note from Mary Stanley in UW's library: "Please join us for the 11th Annual UW Friends of the Library Lecture and Authors Event on Wednesday, April 2, at 1 p.m. This year's speaker is Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. Hadfield is a dynamic speaker, and given the recent events with the Columbia space mission, this should be a very interesting and timely talk. The works of UW authors, artists, and musicians will also be on display. The event takes place in the Theatre of the Arts. If you have had work published or exhibited in 2002 and would like to have it included in this year's Author's event, please contact Mary Stanley in the Dana Porter Library, ext. 6019 or mstanley@library by Friday, March 28."


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