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Thursday, April 29, 2004

  • Students honoured for teaching
  • Preparing for the year-end count
  • Hot news on a warm campus
Chris Redmond

Anniversary of the Peace Rose

[Smiles in the sunshine]

As the winter work term comes to an end, eleven students who have been working for the co-op and career services department gathered for a group shot on the steps of the Tatham Centre. Front: Paul Thiagamoorthy, Shannon Cole, Sadisha Ambagahawita. Middle: Kai Cao, Matthew Wurtele, Sabrina Khamisa, Pamela McIntyre. Rear: Kevin Joldersma, Mathew Escott, Nancy Collins, Michelle Steffler.

Students honoured for teaching

Lunch at the University Club today will honour four students who are receiving the 2004 Distinguished Teaching by a Registered Student Award. They'll also get kudos at convocation ceremonies, either this June or at the time they graduate, and receive a $500 cheque.

The awards -- open to all students who have a formal teaching role as teaching assistants, laboratory demonstrators or sessional lecturers -- are given in recognition of excellence in teaching. Recipients are chosen from among nominees by a selection committee of faculty and students The selection committee looks for "intellectual vigour and communication skills in the interpretation and presentation of subject matter. Concern for and sensitivity to the academic need of the students is an important criterion." The winners:

Abdul Rahim Ahmad is pursuing his PhD in systems design engineering. A fellow teaching assistant noted that Ahmad's "devotion to his teaching assignments has raised the level of expectations by our undergrad students from other TAs".

According to citations prepared for the awards committee, students report that "he made us think, analyze, and connect every piece of task to our knowledge and intuition of the course material." Labs previously considered as "menial manual work that improves grades" are now seen as interesting and knowledge-enhancing by his students.

"Ahmad's entrance to the PAMI lab causes a brief moment of chaos as everybody greets him in their own native language and he returns those greetings in the same language -- Mandarin, Persian, Hindi, Urdu, Arabic, and French. A colleague says that "he knows that much of each language which is sufficient to start lasting friendships with a positive note." Another colleague adds that Ahmad's "enthusiasm, sense of humour, frankness, dedication, and supportive behaviour removed the 'invisible barrier' between students and teachers."

Danica Martin, a graduate student in health studies and gerontology, was a teaching assistant in the Health Studies 433 advanced research class. Students note that she is "always on top of the information presented in class; it is rare that she does not know the answer to a question. In the infrequent event that she is stumped, she has been very fast at finding out the answer and emailing the solution to everyone." Students also appreciate the quick turnaround time for handing back assignments, even the long ones, and that she "always writes a lot of comments/suggestions for improvements when she marks."

A colleague confirmed that Martin was "especially effective in providing detailed written feedback on the course assignments, which involved rather complex problem-solving exercises requiring individual guidance and clarification for each student's particular concerns." Another colleague says she "served a very important role as a positive mentor to the students, not only through her enthusiasm and commitment to academic excellence, but also through her personal integrity."

Esther Cheung, a master's student in the school of architecture, is being recognized as an exemplary teaching assistant for her work as the Arch 292 teaching assistant for 67 students.

Design Studio TAs assist in the "backbone course" of the program and provide assistance on a student-to-student perspective. According to one student, "The Design Studio, the most fundamental and time-consuming component of the study of architecture at the University of Waterloo, represents somehow finding common ground between such erratic variables as ideas, inspiration and creativity and struggling to manipulate these within the confines of time, reality and logic."

Cheung encouraged students to think in many different ways and helped them solve their own problems, rather than coming up with a quick solution for them. She would frequently come by the studio on the weekends and offer her help, as well as staying for many hours after class had ended in order to offer assistance to anyone who needed it. A student noted that "if one of us ran into a design problem at three in the morning that person could find Esther nine times out of ten."

Doreen Siu, a fourth-year student working on the academic aspects of being deaf or hard of hearing, teaches an American Sign Language class through independent studies. The sign-language students describe Siu's classes as well-thought-out and informative, and they enable many people in the hearing community to communicate with members of the deaf community.

Siu founded the Talking Hands club on campus to offer free ASL lessons. The mandate of the club is "to break down communication barriers between hearing and non-hearing students" A colleague says that "Ms. Siu manages to present the rules of grammar, pronunciation, cultural references, and nuances of etiquette in a way that allows the student to seamlessly absorb the information."

Her extra "silent" excursions after classes and on weekends, such as the trip to the School for the Deaf in Milton, have been an integral part of her students' advancement in ASL. Siu is seen as tireless in her efforts to create fun and informative games, activities and theatrical productions.

Preparing for the year-end count

A number of UW stores and services will be closed tomorrow for year-end inventory -- a physical counting of items, from T-shirts to staples, that's still necessary even in the electronic age.

May Yan, director of retail services, explains that UW's finance office "expects us to take a physical count of all our merchandise to verify the inventory value stated in our annual financial statement is accurate. Finance and the external auditors verify our counts also.

"Scanners have certainly made it easier and more efficient to take inventory. As soon as each book or T-shirt barcode is scanned, the information is recorded in the system and the inventory value report is generated immediately after all entries are recorded. We compare before and after inventory value reports, investigate discrepancies and confirm the information is correct. Unaccounted discrepancies are recorded as shrinkage.

"Inventory only takes one day compared to two days in previous years. There is always pre-inventory prep work; however, the extra work involved with inventory preparation is decreasing each year as we improve our procedures."

Spring term fees are due today.

Health services closed until 1 p.m. today because of staff training.

Health informatics seminar, Murray Moo-Young, chemical engineering (emeritus), "Bioprocesses for Drugs, Food and the Environment", 11:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

Joint health and safety committee, 1:30, Needles Hall room 3004.

Statistics seminar, Bin Nan, University of Michigan, "Survival Models for Evaluating Marker Events of Menopausal Transition", 3:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

Spiritual Heritage Education Network presents Raheel Raza on "Building Religious Inclusivity" with pluralism and respect, 7 p.m., CEIT room 1015.

Southwestern Ontario Research Data Centre mini-conference, Friday from 10 a.m., McLaughlin Library, University of Guelph, information online.

Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Daniel Drache, York University, "The Political Economy of Dissent Post Cancun and Its Global Counter-Publics", Friday 11:45 lunch, 57 Erb Street West, reservations 885-2444.

Susan Schaefer in UW Graphics has much the same story to tell: "Year-end inventory is more streamlined than it used to be. However, Graphics does have to close for a short period of time to do the physical count, and we cannot print anything on April 30."

UW's fiscal year ends on April 30 annually. The year-end affects all departments, and inventory will be happening tomorrow in a number of other areas too, from food services to plant operations.

A quick review of what will be closed tomorrow:

Graphics: All copy centres closed noon to 2:30; no production until Monday. Main Graphics open to customers all day, but no printing.

Retail services: Bookstore, UW Shop and Techworx closed Friday, open Saturday. Campus Techshop (Student Life Centre) open Friday, closed Saturday.

Hot news on a warm campus

Mechanical engineering professor Robert Macdonald, who was shot in a street robbery in Trinidad last week, came home to Kitchener yesterday by air ambulance, and is being treated in Grand River Hospital. A brief announcement on behalf of his family added: "We are not making any statement about the status of his health at this point." Meanwhile, news reports from Port-of-Spain have had conflicting details about the exact events on Thursday night when Macdonald, one of a group of visiting Canadians walking home from dinner, was shot in the head after the group was robbed of their valuables. Authorities have arrested three men, but witnesses have apparently not been able to identify them as the robbers.

With the annual "Friends of the Library" event set for next Wednesday -- this year, a talk by journalist Richard Gwyn -- the library has issued a "last call" invitation for authors, artists and musicians who would like to have their published or exhibited work displayed. The display of creative work by UW people is an annual part of the event, held in the Theatre of the Arts and the surrounding gallery. Authors and others should be in touch with Cheryl Kieswetter in the library office, phone ext. 2282, no later than tomorrow.

On another front, the library sends a reminder that term loan books borrowed before the beginning of April are due on May 12. "Patrons should return material before then or, if they are renewing on-line, the name of the tab in Trellis to go to is 'your library account'."

A proud note from Susan Schaefer in UW Graphics: "This month, Graphics received two 2004 Excellence in Print Awards from the Ontario Printing and Imaging Association. The Kinesiology Program Guide (one-colour saddlestitched booklet) and the Alumni Services two-colour postcard were overall winners in their respective categories. Printed and designed at Graphics, each piece won on the basis of the quality of the printing and the overall design. Designers were Marybeth Huehn and Melissa Smith of UW Graphics. Printers were Alan McColl and Richard Gesinghaus of UW Graphics."

There was a brief quiz on the web in honour of Earth Week last week, challenging people's knowledge about conservation and waste on this campus, and the winner's name has now been announced. She's Christine Szentgyorgyi, a computer science student. "Christine got 7 out of 10," writes Patti Cook, the UW waste management coordinator. "I guess the quiz was harder than we thought." Among the trivia in the quiz: on a typical day, about 7,000 cars are driven to campus; one tonne of recycled paper saves 27,000 litres of water.

Also from Patti Cook in waste management: "Linda Youngblut of school of planning, Jennifer Fleet of electrical and computer engineering, Donna Sutherland of the school of accountancy and Vic Neglia of the arts computing office were all presented with Special Recognition Awards for their various activities, efforts and accomplishments in waste management over the past couple of months. All were nominated by either staff, faculty or student."

Finally, here's word of a "world-class baroque concert" to be held on Tuesday night at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, which has strong UW connections and is just off campus in the former Seagram Museum building on Erb Street. The concert, plus a reception and silent auction, will be a fund-raiser for CIGI, Project Ploughshares (associated with Conrad Grebel University College), and and the Academic Council on the United Nations System (based at Wilfrid Laurier University). Music is by the Grand River Baroque Festival Ensemble. Tickets for the evening, dubbed "Waterloo on the World Stage", are $50, with a $35 charitable donation receipt -- phone 885-2444 ext. 227.


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