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Monday, April 5, 2004

  • Number of faculty members past 800
  • 'Different fields have different ideas'
  • And it's the first day of exams
Chris Redmond

Passover begins tonight

[Dip in 1997, record high by 2004]

Number of faculty members past 800

The number of faculty members at UW hit a new high this year, as did their average salary. According to the office of institutional analysis and planning, there are 847 regular full-time faculty in 2003-04, from lecturers through professors to deans. A year ago the number was 773.

The graph above shows that the number reached just above 800 twice in the early 1990s, but fell below 700 after the early retirement program of 1996. Last year's figure of 773 was the highest in almost a decade, and this year sets a record.

The 847 full-time faculty include 592 with tenure, 195 with probationary appointments (on their way to tenure), and 60 with definite-term appointments. Last year it was 563 with tenure, 161 probationary, and 49 definite-term.

The IA&P figures indicate that engineering is the largest faculty for the first time, with 210 faculty members this year, up from 192 a year ago. Arts has 206 this year, but was the biggest faculty last year with 195.

Current figures for the other faculties are 48 in applied health sciences, 61 in environmental studies, 185 in mathematics, and 139 in science (including 25 in optometry).

The average salary for faculty members this year is $94,930, up from last year's figure of $92,650.

  • Government confirms fee freeze, promises 'good news'
  • First collection of short stories for UW arts grad
  • What do university students dream about?
  • McMaster's plans for budget cuts
  • $100,000 salaries across Ontario
  • Western renames medical school for big donor
  • Problems with free beer reported at Memorial U
  • 'The Perfect Score': screen teens trying to get into university
  • 'Different fields have different ideas' -- by Patricia Bow

    Defy the bullets and don't be a Zax -- but find a good advisor. Boiled down, that was the wisdom gleaned from a panel discussion held in the Davis Centre Friday morning as part of Sharing Discovery, the graduate student research conference.

    The panellists were Fakhri Karray, systems design engineering; Randy Harris, English language and literature; Jean Andrey, geography; and Jim Frank, kinesiology. Bruce Mitchell, associate provost (academic affairs), was moderator. The question they were asked was: "How can we as graduate students learn how to effectively communicate our research across disciplines?"

    Each professor found answers in his or her experience as a researcher, sometimes in their joint experience. Harris and Karray are collaborating on research in interactive speaking systems. After describing how he'd first assumed that what the engineers needed was a simple grammar edit, then found out he could contribute much more, Harris drew this moral: "Shut up and listen."

    Andrey works in the area of road safety, "a truly interdisciplinary field, not dominated by any one discipline." She learned that researchers in different fields have different ideas about what's important in their work, even different definitions of what it means to "know" -- and those unexamined foundations can trip you up. Her advice: "Be aware of hidden assumptions and values in other people and in yourself."

    Frank's research on fear of falling in the elderly led him to consult Larry Brawley, a social psychologist, on better ways of understanding and measuring what his research subjects were feeling. Unexpectedly, Frank discovered he could learn a lot from the social sciences. "Don't assume someone else's area is too simple or too difficult for you to learn from," he concluded.

    Practical tips on how to communicate across disciplinary boundaries: convey your goals clearly while also trying to lower your guard, and watch your language. "Jargon is an efficient way of communicating with someone else in your field," Harris says, "but it also serves to identify and exclude outsiders."

    The panellists were clear on the benefits of interdisciplinary research. You gain valuable new insights from other perspectives, you'll find new opportunities to publish and get grants. More importantly, you'll avoid becoming a Zax. (During his presentation, Harris quoted from a poem by Dr. Seuss, in which a north-going Zax meets a south-going Zax foot to foot, and neither will budge. While they stand there stating their positions, the world passes them by.)

    The strongest advice came during the question period from Tony Vannelli, chair of electrical and computer engineering, who was sitting in the audience. "Head out into the demilitarized zone," he urged. That dangerous territory between disciplines is where the important questions are waiting. "You'll get shot at a lot," he added, but that won't kill you. Don't stay there too long, though. "Get in quick, learn what you can, then return to your roots and see what you can accomplish."

    The panellists agreed that students should be well grounded in their own disciplines before venturing into the DMZ. On how to do interdisciplinary research without losing that grounding, the consensus was that the best way is to find a co-supervisor, perhaps informally, in another area: someone who will suggest readings and seminars, encourage you to take risks -- and tell you when to bail.

    If It Rained Knowledge' philosophy lecture series, Russell Hardin, New York University, today-Thursday 1:30 and Tuesday 7 p.m., Humanities room 373. Today's topic: "Why Know?"

    Senate executive committee, 3:30, Needles Hall room 3004.

    'Using Science to Fight the Global Tobacco Epidemic', President's Circle breakfast and talk by psychology professor Geoffrey Fong, Tuesday 7:30 a.m., South Campus Hall, tickets online.

    'Developing Life-long Learning Skills in Students", workshop by Suki Ekaratne, University of Colombo, Tuesday 11 a.m., Flex lab, Dana Porter Library.

    Artificial intelligence seminar, "Raising the Stakes" (software for poker), Jonathan Schaeffer, University of Alberta, Tuesday 2 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

    Board of governors, Tuesday 2:30, Needles Hall room 3001.

    Novelist Donna Morrissey reads from her work, Tuesday 4 p.m., St. Jerome's University room 2009, event postponed from last month.

    French pronunciation course from office of continuing education, four Tuesday evenings starting tomorrow, details 888-4002.

    Certificate in University Teaching research paper presentations, Wednesday 9 a.m., Math and Computer room 5158.

    Tips for a Healthy Back, presented by Employee Assistance Program, Wednesday 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

    And it's the first day of exams

    This year's "Friends of the Library" lecture, continuing a tradition in the early days of the spring term, will be given this year at noon on May 5, says Mary Stanley in the library office. The speaker: journalist and international affairs analyst Richard Gwyn, who is chancellor of St. Jerome's University. As usual, the lecture will be accompanied by a display of the work of campus creators. "Authors and others -- we want to hear from you," Stanley writes. "Authors, artists and musicians who have had work published or exhibited in 2003 are invited to display their work at the Lecture and Authors Event. Anyone who would like their work included should contact Cheryl Kieswetter in the Dana Porter Library, ext. 2282, e-mail ckieswet@library."

    Results from the annual "debt survey" of engineering students are published in the most recent issue of the Iron Warrior. Among the findings: out of 541 students who responded to the question, 39 per cent said they have a student loan, while 46 per cent said no (and 14 per cent more cautiously answered "not yet"). "Has the differential tuition increases caused you hardship?" Yes, 58 per cent; no, 16; not yet, 26. "How much debt do you expect to be in by graduation?" None, 24 per cent; Less than $999, 3 per cent; up to $4,999, 17; up to $9,999, 17; up to $19,999, 23; $20,000-plus, 16 per cent.

    The annual used book sale sponsored by the local chapter of the Canadian Federation of University Women is scheduled for weekend after next: Friday, April 16, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, April 17, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The location, as always, is First United Church in downtown Waterloo. Proceeds from the sale go to CFUW scholarship programs and other activities of the association, which includes many UW staff and faculty members or their spouses.

    François Paré, chair of the department of French studies, is among the finalists for this year's Trillium Book Award. The announcement was made last week by the provincial minister of culture. Paré's book La distance habitée, an essay on minority cultures around the world, was published in 2003 by Éditions du Nordir. The name of the winner for the $20,000 literary award will be made May 4 in Toronto.

    Spring must be here, despite this morning's chill (it was so cold that I found my car window frozen shut when I got to the parking lot). Sign of the season: the Computer Help and Information Place, or CHIP, is moving to summer hours, effective today. From now through the beginning of the fall term, the CHIP will be open 8:30 to 4:30, Monday to Friday.

    And . . . a "progress report" from the Staff Relations Committee has been issued, summarizing what it's been doing over the past few months -- from overtime policy revisions to the long-term project of making job descriptions publicly available. The report is available on the web.


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