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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

  • Convocation sun shines on weatherman
  • Book marks 30 years of German links
  • From jobs to dragon boats
Chris Redmond

Bloomsday 100 years later

Convocation sun shines on weatherman

Ryan Brydges, a kinesiology student, and geography student Julie Sperling will be among the stars of the show this afternoon, as UW begins the four days of the Eighty-Eighth Convocation.

Brydges and Sperling are receiving Alumni Gold Medals as the highest-ranking graduates from the faculties of applied health sciences and environmental studies, respectively. Today's first convocation ceremony is for graduates from AHS and ES, along with the independent studies program. It starts at 2 p.m. in the Physical Activities Complex.

[Phillips] More than 3,700 students will graduate and eight honorary degrees will be awarded by the time spring convocation winds up with Saturday's two ceremonies. A total of 3,315 undergraduate and 471 graduate students are listed to receive their degrees and diplomas over five ceremonies.

Several special honours are also planned, including the presentation of UW's first three University Professorships -- one on Thursday afternoon and two on Saturday.

[Somerville] Each convocation ceremony also includes honorary degrees, presented to people from outside UW to recognize academic or public distinction. Two honorary degrees are scheduled for today.

David Phillips (right) will receive a Doctor of Environmental Studies degree. Considered Canada's top weather expert, Phillips is a senior climatologist with Environment Canada's Meteorological Service. For 34 years, Phillips has studied Canadian climates, promoting the importance and understanding of weather and climate in this country. He is well known as the weather expert on The Weather Network and has also appeared regularly on The Discovery Channel and CBC-TV.

Margaret Somerville (above) will receive a Doctor of Laws degree. One of the leading medical ethicists in Canada, Somerville has been active in the worldwide development of bioethics and in the study of the wider legal and ethical aspects of medicine and science. She holds professorships in McGill University's faculty of law and faculty of medicine and is founding director of the McGill Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law, which was the academic home of UW president David Johnston before he came to Waterloo in 1999.

Somerville will give today's convocation address.

Book marks 30 years of German links -- shortened from a UW news release

The accomplishment of 30 years of scholarly collaboration between UW and the University of Mannheim in Germany has been marked by the printing of a "festschrift".

Publishing a book to mark an outstanding record of academic research, service or cultural achievement is a longstanding tradition among German universities. Festschrifts have honoured distinguished UW academics, including the first chair of the Germanic and Slavic department, William Dyck, and Werner Packull, a retired faculty member at UW's Conrad Grebel University College.

In this case, the book is to celebrate a successful academic venture that has contributed to an interest in international student exchange programs that have grown steadily across the UW campus. The book is entitled Cultural Link: Kanada -- Deutschland.

[Smiles and gestures]

Hans Walter Arndt, president of the University of Mannheim, receives a copy of the festschrift from UW's David John and Mannheim co-editor Beate Henn-Memmesheimer.

The Waterloo-Mannheim program has seen as many as a dozen or more Mannheim students spend a year at a time at UW. At the same time, UW students have spent a year in Germany for credit towards a UW degree. Most of these exchange students are in bachelor's degree programs, but a number have been in master's and PhD studies. After 30 years, the number of students involved totals 629 while the number of professors participating by accompanying students spending a year on the other campus totals 52.

The new festschrift lists more than 100 titles of master's research papers, theses and PhD dissertations produced by exchange grad students. The book was co-organized and co-edited by David John of UW's Germanic and Slavic department and Beate Henn-Memmesheimer, a Mannheim professor. The articles written by Mannheim scholars are, for the most part, in German; those written by UW faculty members are mostly in English.

Two of them, by Manfred Kuxdorf (a retired UW professor) and Dietrich Jons of Mannheim, outline the history of the exchange program to date. Kuxdorf's article refers to the cultural advantages of the exchange program to Canadian students. Important among these, he feels, are the opportunities provided to Canadians to spend some of their time in Germany visiting cities of historical and cultural interest, among them, Berlin, Hamburg, Rothenburg, Würzburg and Munich. "Travel, living and studying in a different country leave an indelible mark on a young mind," he concludes. "One becomes enriched, one learns to compare and to discern. All of us, faculty and students alike, profit from the experience."

The book also includes an article by Michael Boehringer, chair of UW's Germanic and Slavic department, who argues that exposure to a foreign language and culture through formal language learning "fosters the ability to accept uncertainty and suspend judgment -- in short, to develop the kind of cultural awareness that is needed for successful intercultural interactions."

"Theoreticians and practitioners agree that cultural awareness training proves useful for people who have to work or live in another culture," he notes, pointing to a flood of books or "cultural primers" on the market. Boehringer has been involved in studies into the effectiveness of such primers among Canadian and U.S. university students. The conclusion: basic intercultural knowledge can be learned through reading primers, and they do have an impact on the "cultural predisposition" of the reader.

However, these studies also suggest strongly that there can as well be a clear link between "language study" and the goals of intercultural training through primers. Boehringer advocates more communication between those primarily concerned with foreign language education (teachers and professors) and those concerned with "intercultural competence" for the benefit of, for example, companies that move employees across national boundaries.

Among the other articles in the new festschrift are ones about the German-speaking settlers in the Kitchener-Waterloo community dating back two centuries and discussing their (German) language-maintenance and assessing their cultural mark on the K-W community and with Slavic (Belarusan) immigrants.

From jobs to dragon boats

History will record that today, for the first time, JobMine matched co-op students with jobs. Results from what's now called "the first interview cycle" -- formerly the "initial interview phase" -- were to be posted on the JobMine web site at 6:00 this morning, so students in search of fall term jobs will be waking to find out what they've got. ("Students have a match," documentation says, "if the work term status has changed to 'Employed -- Interview Process' under 'Term Card' in the 'Profile' section.") And for those who don't have jobs assigned yet? A new "cycle" of postings also started first thing this morning, and meetings to provide more information will be held at various locations at 4:30 p.m.

Just how high does Waterloo rank among the world's universities? One provisional answer comes from the "Academic Ranking of World Universities" recently done by Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The criteria used included an institution's presence in the Science Citation Index and the number of Nobel Prizes it can boast. The "top 500 world universities", according to Shanghai, include 23 in Canada. Figures about them were presented to UW's board of governors last week by the provost, who noted that the highest-ranking Canadian institution is Toronto, ranked 23rd in the world. U of T is followed by British Columbia, McGill, McMaster, Alberta, and -- sixth place in the nation, 170th internationally -- Waterloo. (The best university in the world? Harvard.)

The recently organized UW Recreation Committee, putting together leisure-time events for the whole range of people who work at UW, has some things scheduled in the coming days, starting with one tomorrow. That's an outing to Jack Couch Baseball Park, to see the Kitchener Panthers of the amateur Intercounty Baseball League play Hamilton. Then next Wednesday at noontime, "Elaine Sings the Blues" -- that's Elaine Brown of the Village I staff, and you can bet I'll be saying more about this event over the next few days. And the latest news: UWRC is looking for people to join a team that will enter the Kiwanis Dragon Boat Festival of Waterloo Region on July 17. Details of UWRC activities are on their web site.

Elections Canada voters' list revision, 11:30 to 3:30, Student Life Centre.

Engineers Without Borders discussion group on "higher gas prices", 12:30, "grassy knoll behind the Grad House".

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

Career development workshops: "Are You Prepared to Work Outside of Canada?" 2:30, Tatham Centre room 1208; "Thinking About Graduate Studies", 2:30, TC room 2218.

Web creators presentation by Jesse Rodgers, communications and public affairs, "The Four Corners of the Web", Thursday 10 a.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Arriscraft Lecture, school of architecture: Jean Beaudoin, Montréal, "Resonance/Interdisciplinary Design Approach", Thursday 7 p.m., Environmental Studies II room 286.

Tom Harpur, author and religion columnist, speaks Thursday, 7:30, Waterloo North Mennonite Church, fundraising event for Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre, which includes Conrad Grebel University College.

'Governance in a Business Enterprise', Ed O'Donnell, Centre for Information Systems Assurance, school of accountancy, lunch and lecture at Centre for International Governance Innovation, 57 Erb Street West, Thursday 11:45, RSVP 885-2444 ext. 227.

National Aboriginal Day speaker, Gemini-winning actress Jennifer Podemski, Monday, June 21, 7 p.m., St. Paul's United College, free.

The campus will get a visit next week from Guy Drapeau of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, here to talk about NSERC's "Idea to Innovation" (I2I) program. "With an ever increasing government focus on innovation and improving University knowledge transfer to enhance Canadian social and economic well being," a memo explains, I2I "has been designed to facilitate the reduction of research discovery to practical tangible application. The I2I Program provides an excellent opportunity to access intellectual property development funding." Scott Inwood of UW's Technology Transfer and Licensing Office says I2I "may be an ideal source of funding for many UW faculty researchers", and invites anybody interested to meet with Drapeau. He'll be here Tuesday at 1:30 (Rod Coutts Hall room 110).

It's Wednesday, so the human resources department has a Positions Available list out, and here are the week's job possibilities:

As usual, longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

And . . . well, there's a smart aleck in every crowd. Last week I asked for brief notes from students about what was happening on campus, and this answer arrived from computer engineering student Arun Bagga: "The best event this semester alongside co-op is taking grad pictures. This way people like us who get no interviews get to dress like we are having one, and if we are smart we reschedule our time slots a few times for maximum enjoyment."


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