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Thursday, March 11, 2004

  • Record number have jobs, but 200 don't
  • Psych is well taught, book concludes
  • Easier access to Canadian theses
  • Castle dwellers; staff awards; more
Chris Redmond

World's Largest Concert

Here before we know it

  • Engineering Explorations for high schoolers, Monday, March 15, details online.

  • Campus Day open house for future students: Tuesday, March 16.

  • Campaign Waterloo launch: Tuesday, March 23 (Waterloo event 11:30, Davis Centre).

  • Drama department's "Mimetic Flesh": March 24-27.

  • Graduate student research conference: March 30 through April 1.
  • Record number have jobs, but 200 don't

    A lot of last-minute work helped staff in the co-op department -- and the students themselves -- find jobs for the winter term, jobs for more students than have ever been employed before in a single term. The figure is 4,349, according to a report issued by the co-op department (with statistics as of March 5).

    But there's bad news too: more than two hundred students who wanted jobs for this term didn't get them. As a result, the employment rate is down to 95.41 per cent, from last year's 97.16 per cent.

    A total of 4,558 students were looking for winter term co-op jobs, and 209 didn't find them, the department says. Last year, there were 120 jobless students, out of 4,218.

    Most of the unemployed students are in math (89, including 63 in first year) and engineering (74, including 55 in first year). Those two faculties between them account for more than two-thirds of the students who were supposed to be working this term.

    "This was the fourth term where we have experienced a higher number of unemployed students, particularly at the beginning of the work term," writes co-op director Bruce Lumsden. "This trend is disturbing and is a result of many factors at play: increased enrolment, economic fluctuations, hiring caution in some big sectors and increased competition from other co-op institutions."

    He noted that the recently-announced review of the co-op program and co-op and career services department "will take these factors, and many others, into consideration over the next number of months."

    Meanwhile, the co-op department has announced that it will host a one-day conference for employers this summer, under the title WatWorks. "This is a rare opportunity," organizers say, "to meet and learn from not only the co-op experts at Canada's most innovative university, but also from some of Canada's top intellectuals, business leaders and entrepreneurs."

    The event will include a general session on "Best Practices in Co-operative Education" and workshops that range from "the renaissance of engineering" to "the power of performance appraisals" and "competing in the digital marketplace". Tours of UW labs will also be included, as well as a reception hosted by UW's president. The event is scheduled for June 22. Information is on the web and is being sent to employers.


    Psych is well taught, book concludes -- by Barbara Elve, from this week's Gazette

    There are times, "briefly anguishing periods at the end of a course", when Doug Crowne (left) wonders if he's doing a good job as a teacher. The fact that he retired 11 years ago doesn't keep him from still pondering that question -- or from teaching. A Distinguished Professor Emeritus, he's currently teaching a third-year personality theory course for the psychology department.

    Crowne notes the scrutiny his profession has been under "for the past 15 years, both in this country and in the U.S." Among the charges: "We're a disgrace in the classroom, we get away with bloody murder in sloughing off most of our teaching onto teaching assistants who are even more incompetent than we are, and we spend our time dithering over trivial research and conning granting agencies to give us the money to do it."

    Initially, said Crowne, "I was really kind of offended." Then he wondered, "Can it really be true?" He decided to find out if such accusations had any validity. His method: to sit in on introductory psychology courses at a cross-section of major U.S. universities.

    Psych 101 was a familiar course. Crowne had taught it ever since he arrived at UW in 1971. An elective open to students across campus, the classes are large. "It's a challenge to engage students who have no initial interest in the subject. You have to find ways to capture their imagination." In addition, those who teach the course "need to master the whole of psychology to be able to lecture accurately and convincingly about it."

    Crowne's exploration is chronicled in In Search of Psyche (Philadelphia: Xlibris), published last fall. "The reader," he says, "encounters introductory psychology as one would hear it at Berkeley on a Wednesday in October, Stanford the next Tuesday, Michigan and Ohio State in the same week in February. . . . I take the reader on a personal adventure to give an unmatched portrait of the daily happenings in university classroom, the substance and the style."

    What he found: "The excellence of the teaching was most striking. The critics were just flat wrong. It wasn't true. I left classes walking on air, feeling all was right with the world. I came out with a whole bunch of ideas that I then incorporated here."

    Crowne observed classes taught by "very senior distinguished professors to grad TAs," as well as "different ways of solving the numbers problem." There were big classes with small discussion sections taught by TAs, and small sections taught by grad students. And teaching has benefited from technology, he discovered. "A good PowerPoint presentation can be wonderfully engaging."

    Crowne critiques not only the form but the substance of the lectures, fleshing them out with his own asides and adding insights. He sets the stage for each visit with a description of the architecture of the campus (enhanced with sketches by his wife, Sandy), and even tosses in the odd restaurant review. In the end, he assigns letter grades to each school, with only one failing to make the grade.

    His standards are demanding. Of one professor, he notes: "He did an intellectually solid job with it, but there was a definite austerity, an uncompromising straight-and-narrow sticking to the facts without much illustration, anecdote, or intensity of feeling in its shaping. You don't woo a lover or an intro class austerely, and it takes some experience with lovers and intro classes to figure that out. I chalked up the formality to newness at the game, a remediable deficiency."

    Crowne -- who is not above donning a fright wig or resorting to magic tricks to make a point -- contrasts that example with one by another prof, who attempts to illustrate how each leg of a cockroach is "driven by a neural metronome. He gave a demonstration of front-to-back, lagged cockroach leg movement, an absolutely incredible metamorphosis before our very eyes of professor into a cockroach. Lifting his right arm to shoulder height, he made a swimming motion and then, in rapid succession, tucked his elbow tight to his side and made a second one. His leg lifted and completed the third step. For an instant, not one of us could have doubted that what we saw was one side of the ambulatory repertoire of a monstrous insect."

    Crowne concludes: "What I saw as an academic peeping Tom affirmed my faith in the discipline I have given my career to." But he adds: "The story I have told would not have been different for any of the other principal disciplines had I come from one of them. The university can be proud."

    Easier access to Canadian theses

    UW library staff are taking part in a pilot project meant to increase access to the life-work of Canadian graduate students, says the library's electronic newsletter.

    "The purpose," says the newsletter, "is to provide a model for Canadian universities to submit electronic theses directly to Theses Canada as well as provide a metadata structure that Theses Canada can recommend."

    [Jewell] Christine Jewell (right), acting head of the library's interlibrary loan and document delivery section, is a member of the Theses Canada Advisory Committee and its technical sub-committee. Partners in the project, besides UW, are Library and Archives Canada and Université Laval.

    Says the newsletter: "The Pilot Project is the second phase in the development of the Theses Canada Portal, a portal that provides access to bibliographic records in the LAC collection, with some abstracts, and also includes free access to full-text electronic versions of theses processed by LAC from 1998 to 2002 (about 45,000 theses).

    "The Pilot Project, scheduled for completion by the end of 2004, will support new optional procedures for Canadian universities to submit electronic theses directly."

    Currently, through a contract between the National Library and the American company UMI (formerly University Microfilms International), Canadian universities submit PhD theses for microfilming. The filmed version is then included in the National Library's microfiche archive. Since 1998, UMI has digitized these theses to make them available for sale through such services as Dissertation Express and the full text index Digital Dissertations.

    Several Canadian universities have active electronic thesis submission programs. At universities where students submit electronic theses to their graduate studies office, the electronic version is forwarded to UMI. Electronic submission has been an option at UW since 1999. Theses can be submitted in PDF or converted to PDF in the graduate studies office. The library maintains a database of electronically submitted theses, which will now be made available through the Theses Canada Portal as well.

    The newsletter continues: "Access to the theses in the UW Electronic Thesis Database depends upon the metadata submitted by the student. The metadata consist of author identification and thesis identification, including keywords and an abstract. The Library, under the direction of Bill Oldfield, has developed a program that harvests these records.

    "With this program, we have made our theses available to searchers of the union catalogue of the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations . . . an international movement to increase access to ETDs (electronic theses and dissertations) and support efforts of institutions around the world to build ETD programs."

    Student referendum on membership in the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations winds up -- online polls open through 8 p.m.; campus polling stations 9:00 to 4:00. Results announced noon Friday.

    Philosophy Graduate Student Association conference, today and Friday, details online.

    Electrical and computer engineering brown-bag seminar series (aimed at non-specialists) begins: Raafat Mansour, "Radio-Frequency Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems", 12:00, CEIT room 3142.

    Adobe Creative Suite information session, sponsored by Campus TechShop, 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

    Career workshops: "Letter Writing" 3:30, "Resumé Writing" 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208.

    Smiling Over Sickness charity ball, tonight at Knights of Columbus Hall.

    Rainbow Reels gay film festival opens tonight with "Girl King", 9:15, Princess Cinema. Weekend showings in the Davis Centre are listed online.

    Senate finance committee, Friday 10:30, Needles Hall room 3001.

    Centre for International Governance Innovation noon seminar, Francisco Ruge-Murcia, Université de Montréal, "The Backing of Government Debt and the Price Level", Friday 11:45, 57 Erb Street West.

    Sandford Fleming Foundation debates, finals Friday noon outside POETS pub, Carl Pollock Hall.

    Games to Explain Human Factors: meeting of the Waterloo Computer-Human Interaction Group, Friday 2:30, Graduate House.

    DaCapo Chamber Choir spring concert, Saturday 8 p.m., St. John the Evangelist Church, Kitchener, tickets $15, students $10.

    Castle dwellers; staff awards; more

    A picture of Queen's University's British outpost, Herstmonceux Castle, was at the top of yesterday's Daily Bulletin, and shortly after it showed up, I had e-mail from Angela Jones, the Kingston-based coordinator for the International Study Centre at Herstmonceux. Turns out she is a Waterloo graduate and used to work at UW, in student recruitment and applied health sciences, and regularly checks here for Waterloo's news. "We have had six UW students study at the Castle in the past four years," she reports. And that number could go up: Joanna Duong, the UW math student who was pictured in the Castle grounds, says she had a number of inquiries yesterday from students wanting to know more about her experience.

    Posters and brochures about the "special recognition award" program for UW staff members are being distributed around campus today. Each department gets a poster, and "there were enough brochures included to give an individual copy to each faculty, staff and student," says Trenny Canning of the university secretariat. The documents announce that nominations for the first year's $1,000 awards are now being accepted, with a June 30 deadline. Forms and information are available online.

    Roger Watt of information systems and technology sends word of a "UW ORION/CA*net4 Advanced Networking Day", to be held March 18 (a week from today). He explains: "The plummeting cost of high-capacity bandwidth and advances in digital technologies are transforming opportunities for partnerships in research and education. UW is pleased to host one of a series of ORION/CA*net4 Advanced Networking Days intended to increase awareness of opportunities enabled by these gigabit-speed connections to the R&E community across the country and around the world. The event is aimed primarily at researchers, but may also be of interest to research administration and support staff." Program outline and registration information are available online.

    An official from Nigeria's University of Ibadan is spending a few weeks at UW, says Bruce Lumsden, director of co-op education and career services. The visitor is Kola Fasola, senior industrial coordinator in the faculty of technology, who is "interested in understanding how co-op and career services operates here at UW, how it is funded and possibilities for collaboration", Lumsden writes. "Ibadan is approximately the same size and scope as Waterloo," and he notes that a delegation from Ibadan was here in the 1970s when their institution was about to launch co-op education there. Fasola is based in an office in the Tatham Centre while he's at Waterloo.

    Computing support people from across campus will be talking about "client-managed workstations" tomorrow morning, and it turns out that what the phrase means is, your personal computer or laptop, whether UW-owned or personally owned, on campus or off. Steve Carr of information systems and technology has headed a project studying the needs of such machines and their owners -- for support, software and so on -- and will summarize the project's findings at the weekly IST professional development seminar tomorrow (8:45, Math and Computer room 2009).

    "I'm organizing a group from UW to attend the Harlem Globetrotters," writes Verna Keller of the teaching resource office, who's much involved in staff association social activities. "The tickets are available to anyone from the UW community." The Globetrotters come to the Kitchener Memorial Auditorium on Friday, April 9. Tickets are $23. Keller can be reached by e-mail at vkeller@admmail.

    Finally, the human resources department sends this reminder: performance appraisals for staff members are due March 15.


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