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Tuesday, April 13, 2004

  • Easing the way for new faculty
  • Optometry doing fine -- until it grows
  • Flakes in an April flurry
Chris Redmond

Lanka's New Year


Easing the way for new faculty

UW's department chairs were so pleased with what they heard from Frances Hannigan (left) at their annual "forum" on March 25 that they've been phoning her ever since.

Hannigan, whose office is on the third floor of Needles Hall, was at the one-day event to introduce a faculty program that's being called "WatPort", as in PORTal (the way into this university) and supPORT (to help newcomers get settled here).

In the past year, she points out, UW hired more than 60 new faculty members. While some of them were familiar with Canadian culture and bureaucracy, some weren't -- and nearly all were new to Kitchener-Waterloo and could have used some help finding temporary housing and learning how things work at UW. Hannigan was hired late in the fall to organize a "faculty recruitment and retention" program, and after a gradual start was ready to announce it to the chairs last month. Her phone has been ringing ever since with requests for help and the names of new or potential faculty members.

"Especially if you're moving an entire family, it's quite hectic," she says, listing some of the things that may be difficult for a newcomer, especially from another country: learning the mechanics of health insurance, getting an Ontario driver's licence, knowing how school systems work, starting the search for a job for a spouse. And in the past few weeks there have been a number of phone calls, she says: "What do we do with our taxes?"

UW started the program in response to a recommendation in the 2002 report on female faculty recruitment, which recommended the hiring of a "coordinator" to help ease both women and men into faculty jobs. There's also a web site, originally set up by the teaching resource office, with information for new (and not-quite-new) faculty members.

Hannigan also serves as assistant to the associate provost (academic and student affairs), Bruce Mitchell, and is supposed to be operating WatPort with just half her working hours. Demand is likely to grow, she predicted, but at least now, newcomers "have one person to call and I can look for the answers, rather than getting transferred again and again."

She has developed "information kits" that can go to individuals who are considering offers from UW, telling them something about Canada and Waterloo, and more extensive kits for those who are about to come here or have arrived and are learning their way around. The binder given to new arrivals includes not just cultural information but a briefing on the services offered within the university, from UW Graphics to the faculty association.

"I'm not very good with languages," Hannigan claims, but she grew up speaking Cantonese, a skill that came in handy recently when she had a chance to work with the non-English-speaking spouse of a potential faculty member from Hong Kong. That's where Hannigan herself was born -- her family came to Canada when she was a toddler. "It makes it easier," she says, "to understand what the cultural shocks are."

Before taking the job with the associate provost, she worked for six years in UW's combinatorics and optimization department, often assisting visiting researchers and post-doctoral fellows who needed exactly the kind of orientation she's now providing through WatPort.

Optometry doing fine -- until it grows

The school of optometry -- unlike some other UW departments -- has enough faculty members and enough space for the programs it's currently running, says an "academic program review" recently submitted to the university senate. However, things will change as the school moves into an expansion, aimed at teaching 90 students in each year of the four-year Doctor of Optometry program. At present there are 60 students in each year.

The document is one in a series of reviews that are to be done for all UW academic programs on a seven-year cycle. Based on a self-study and an assessment by a team from the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education, the review was submitted to senate, along with others, by the associate vice-president (academic), Gail Cuthbert Brandt. Some excerpts:

"The total undergraduate enrolment in Optometry has been about 240 for many years, with an average of 60 students in each year of the program, translating into an overall student/faculty ratio of 9:1. Typically, 250 qualified applications were received each year for the 60 first year places. The number of applications dropped sharply in 1999 after significant changes were made to admission requirements. Application numbers grew from 97 to 168 per year between 1999 and 2002, as students caught up with the new admission requirements. . . . Applications to optometry programs in North America have declined steadily over the past 5 years. . . .

"There are 27 core faculty members, and the self study report notes that 'the number and qualifications of faculty are more than adequate to meet the current mission of the Optometry program.' Eight of these are lecturers with continuing appointments, with primary responsibility in clinical teaching. The other 19 are tenured or tenure stream appointments. . . .

"The review team noted the following strengths of Optometry: . . . appropriate equipment to educate the students; a highly qualified faculty with many years of teaching experience and well known through their research; an overall research program by faculty which 'continues to be outstanding'; . . . considerable care in screening applicants, including interviews with all applicants from Ontario and in 5 of the other 6 provinces; and, a significant revision to the curriculum in 1998, which includes an increased biomedical emphasis, expanded clinical training, improved preparation in ethics, jurisprudence and practice management, and a more efficient delivery of optics. . . .

"The physical space for Optometry is being 'maximally utilized' but is adequate to meet the current class size. However, expansion from 60 to 90 students will require new space and facilities. . . .

"Due to changes in American immigration and visa requirements, Optometry can no longer place senior undergraduates in the United States for training related to ocular disease, and particularly to gain experience with the use of diagnostic and therapeutic pharmaceutical agents. Optometry requires students to complete a 15 week Ocular Disease and Therapeutics externship. In 2001, all externships were in the United States at 13 sites. Replacement arrangements will be needed, and the review team recognized that Optometry was working aggressively to find new sites in the four provinces within Canada where therapeutic pharmaceutical agent usage is permitted. . . .

"While research is of high quality, and graduate student enrolment is expanding, the review team noted a concern about the growing need for space to properly accommodate the research and graduate student activities associated with the new Institute for Vision Science and Technology.

Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition, first of three this spring, East Campus Hall gallery, through Thursday.

'Why Re-Invent the Wheel?' Workshop on "generic learning tasks", Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology, 10 a.m. today and April 28, information ext. 5902.

'Credit Union Mortgages', Paul O'Reilly, 12:15, Davis Centre room 1302, sponsored by Education Credit Union.

Arts faculty council, 3:30, Humanities room 373.

'Rate Your Plate' nutrition seminar, Linda Brogden and Megan Lindsay of health services, Wednesday 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302, sponsored by Employee Assistance Program.

Systems design engineering third annual banquet, Saturday 6 p.m., South Campus Hall.

"The review team provided specific recommendations, including: . . . adequate library and study facilities must be provided to students; students must complete courses adequately covering topics of general human anatomy, immunology and histology, and students must be provided with an adequate quantity, quality and variety of supervised patient care experiences related to the diagnosis, treatment and management of ocular disease. . . .

"Optometry has indicated the following intentions and actions: program expansion will be implemented with an additional 5 students each year over a 6 year period, allowing annual reviews as the expansion occurs; . . . current inadequate library facilities are recognized, and the long-term solution will be realized through allocating 6,600 ft2 of net space for the library, which will be a threefold increase in space (in the short term, existing space will be renovated to be more efficient); . . . the undergraduate studies committee will review the curriculum regarding what action should be taken related to the concern about all students not having courses in human anatomy, immunology and histology."

Flakes in an April flurry

First a fairly obvious correction: when I wrote yesterday that the "Let's Make A Deal" stop-smoking contest "will run again next week, starting in mid-January", that was supposed to say "next year".

Provost Amit Chakma told UW's board of governors last week that he has just about finished putting together a "task force on student aid". Its job: to work out how UW will "implement the commitment" made by the board two years ago "that all qualified students admitted to full-time undergraduate programs have adequate financial assistance to complete their studies". As already announced, the task force will be chaired by Adel Sedra, the dean of engineering. Chakma said the other members will be George Dixon, dean of science; Mary Bales, a Waterloo real estate agent who sits on UW's board of governors; Becky Wroe, incoming president of the Federation of Students; and another Federation executive.

"Keystone Campaign progress continues to soar," writes Bonnie Oberle from UW's office of development. "It has raised $3.89 million in support of UW and its students, 86 per cent of its $4.5 million goal to be raised by 2007. With 1,500 generous donors, 200 talented, enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, 60-plus sponsors and partners, the campaign is sure to surpass its goal." Monthly draws continue, distributing prizes (mostly gift certificates) among Keystone donors; the results of the April draw have just been posted on the campaign's web site.

[Heier] Edmund Heier (left), one of UW's early faculty members, died April 5. He was 77. Heier came to UW in 1960, as the faculty of arts was being established, and taught in the Germanic and Slavic department until his retirement in 1994. A funeral service was held Thursday.

An item of interest from the late-March issue of the engineering newspaper Iron Warrior: "The University of Waterloo Clean Snowmobile Team has recently returned from competing at the Society of Automotive Engineers Clean Snowmobile Challenge . . . in Houghton, Michigan from March 15-20. The challenge consists of university teams throughout the United States and Canada modifying a stock snowmobile to reduce the emissions and noise generated while trying to maintain the high performance that snowmobiles are known for. Engineering students Dan Cluff, Simon Dine, Brian LeMoine, Chris Mendes, and Eero Teene represented Waterloo at this year's competition. The UW Clean Snowmobile Team entered a modified 2000 Ski-Doo MXZ 2-stroke powered engine with custom emissions, silencing, and cooling systems in the competition. . . . The UW team ended up placing 10th place overall, but found out at the awards banquet that they had won the Most Sportsmanlike Award, which is voted on by all of the attending student teams. The effort and strength of our team in the competition was noticed, from staying at the shop until they were kicked out almost every night at midnight, to their constant refusal to give up in the face of multiple major breakdowns."


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