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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

  • Staff who 'make UW a better place'
  • Peace studies now boasts a major
  • It's still the term called winter
Chris Redmond

The great spinach controversy


'Focus of teaching' is focus of today's talk

Oxford researcher Keith Trigwell (right) is the speaker today at a "Presidents' Colloquium on Teaching and Learning", starting at 3:45 in the Humanities Theatre. All are welcome at the talk (a sizeable turnout of graduate students enrolled in the Certificate in University Teaching program is expected) and faculty members are invited to a reception afterwards.

Trigwell, who heads the Institute for the Advancement of University Learning at Oxford, stresses that he's talking about the results of research with actual students (mostly at two universities in Sydney, Australia). He writes: "Great teachers think about and approach their teaching in ways that are different from their colleagues. The differences are more to do with the focus of their teaching than with the methods they use in their teaching. There are parallel differences in the ways students approach learning, and in the resulting outcomes of their learning.

"In this seminar, we will describe the results of research studies showing how successful learning outcomes are associated with a congruence between approaches to teaching and approaches to learning. The best learning approaches are found to be more strongly related to one type of teaching approach than to others."

Staff who 'make UW a better place'

We don't know who he is, but somewhere UW has a staff member who "displays superb quiet confidence, quickly and efficiently identifying and solving problems brought to him by faculty and staff. He is generous in sharing his knowledge. In sum, he is an extremely competent and committed staff member who, in a quiet and often behind-the-scenes kind of way, makes UW a better place for all of us to work, teach, and learn."

And that was just one of the more than 200 people who were honoured through the "Special Recognition Award Program" in its first year of operation. Nominations are due by June 30 for the second annual round of awards, to be presented this fall, and can come from colleagues, managers, students, faculty, anybody who has experienced the exceptional work of a (non-union) UW staff member.

The praise for an anonymous staff person is taken from a nominator's letter -- one of several excerpts, carefully edited to remove identifying information, that have been made available by the staff compensation committee, which manages the award program.

"I don't want potential nominators to think that these samples include enough information on which to base a decision," warns the secretary of the committee, Trenny Canning. She says there's a danger that a nominator in a hurry will write a note that says nothing more than "So-and-so is terrific," which isn't enough for a decision on whether to give one of the awards.

The annual awards, up to 250 of them, bring a one-time $1,000 cheque and public recognition. "The program is intended to recognize staff who make UW a better place," the terms of reference say. "Although performance in one's job is important and expected to be above average, the award is designed to recognize staff who consistently demonstrate the use of the basic principles in their interactions with members of the UW community, and others. These are individuals who focus on the situation, issue, or behaviour, not the person; maintain the self-confidence and self-esteem of others; maintain constructive relationships, take initiative to make things better; and, lead by example."

Here's what a nominator wrote about one candidate last year: "She provides me with a sense of comfort and I can depend on her. It is a joy to work with someone so dedicated to her position and willing to help others accomplish their goals. Her good natured attitude is infectious. She is an extremely committed and dedicated individual that demonstrates a high level of productivity and professionalism. She is a good example for others and represents the type of image the university can be proud of." Of course there had to be specifics as well -- details that the committee has deleted before making this paragraph public.

What's shut off this Sunday

A major utilities shutdown on Sunday, April 24, is expected to affect the following:

  • Hydro power, heating, ventilation on the northern half of campus (including Matthews Hall, Student Life Centre, Chemistry II, Math and Computer, Davis Centre, Optometry) 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

  • Steam and hot water for all buildings inside the ring road, 8 to 2.

  • Campus computer network, external connections and central computing services, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Telephone system is not affected. ORION network to Laurier, Western and Conestoga is not affected.

  • Library electronic resources and Trellis, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Davis Centre Library closed all day. Dana Porter Library will be open noon to 6 p.m. (Details.)

  • Public computing labs in school of computer science closed from Friday 4 p.m. to Monday 8:30.
  • And about another nominee: "She is perpetually 'cheery' no matter the emergency, question or problem. When you call, she is there, without ever questioning the reason for the request be it 'silly' or complicated, or needed yesterday. Not only does she solve the problem, but she always ensures that there aren't other issues with which she can help. She is a pleasure to work with; not only is she reliable and knowledgeable, but she makes everyone with whom she works feel important and valued."

    I'll quote a few more such excerpts another day.

    Peace studies now boasts a major

    Some students have actually postponed graduation from UW so they'll be able to list "peace and conflict studies" as their major, says a news release from Conrad Grebel University College, where the PACS program is based.

    UW's senate gave approval to a full degree program in PACS at its March meeting. The change is effective September 1.

    Previously, the Grebel release points out, PACS was only an "interdisciplinary program" offering a minor, option, or diploma, but not a major. "Students are pleased to hear that the BA plans were approved . . . some even delaying graduation as a result."

    It quotes one student, Dora Marie Goulet: "For me, PACS was the most meaningful part of University and I was really excited to be able to major in it." She's actually postponing her graduation until after September 1 in order to receive the PACS major.

    In her third year studying PACS is Sarah McGrath, whose first reaction to the news, according to the release, was, "Finally!" Like other students in the PACS program, McGrath is exploring the thought of further education, possibly graduate school or a master's degree once she graduates. Lowell Ewert, director of PACS, says students in the program graduate and go on to "many fields -- grad school, civil service -- and apply the values and principles that help to influence all environments."

    Unlike other programs, "we are not training students for a particular career, but rather to apply this into everything they do," Ewert says.

    The PACS program covers topics of war, nonviolence, conflict resolution, mediation, human rights, International development, mediation, and other social justice topics. "The program is inspired by the Mennonite heritage of a small liberal arts college but also draws upon the resources of one of Canada's leading comprehensive Universities," says Nathan Funk, a PACS faculty member, pointing out the advantages of being at Grebel and UW. "Our program effectively combines an affirmation of Peace within the faith-based spirit context and a broad and open engagement with a dynamic and pluralistic university community."

    The program also offers a field study placement that allows students to take charge of their education by gaining hands on experience in the field. This offers the opportunity for students "to learn experientially," says Funk. "By broadening their base of experience students are able to put what they have learned into practice and develop a new context for evaluating course readings and lectures." Students have chosen placements that include working as a conflict resolution mediator in Kitchener, doing community development work in the Philippines, assisting human rights lawyers in the Middle East, planning women's advocacy group events in Washington, and becoming further educated on militarism in southern Africa.

    Rather than defining a career path for students, PACS seeks to "empower them to become peacemakers in whatever line of work they choose to pursue, whether that is peace advocacy, humanitarian work, or engagement with local efforts to strengthen community", says Funk. In McGrath's case, she hopes the program will lead her to a fulfilling career in mediation, while in Goulet's case, the possibilities for peace-making "are still being unveiled".

    It's still the term called winter

    But it seemed like summer more than mid-April yesterday, as students studying for their last exams, or celebrating as their last exams ended, strolled the campus basking in high-20s temperatures. Even more surprising, authorities issued a smog advisory for most of southern Ontario yesterday, so breathe with care. Maybe this kind of seasonal confusion is only to be expected on a campus where the term that runs through the hot months of the year -- the one that officially begins May 2 this year and continues into August -- is called "spring".

    Colin Campbell writes from information systems and technology: "Researchers launching Matlab today (and from now on), will get the message "Not authorized to use Matlab", if their "2005 MATLAB License Fee" has not been paid by their supervisor. Payment is made using an on-line form. (This does not affect the use of Matlab for course work -- there is no fee.)"

    The Federation of Students has announced the names of 10 Leadership Award winners -- honoured "for their contribution to student life on and off campus", says Feds president Becky Wroe. At a reception at Federation Hall, each was presented with "a certificate and a small gift". The winners: Archna Gupta (science and business), Grace Yeung (science), Jonathan Fishbein (software engineering), Amie Vu (science), Cora Dupuis (history), Matt Strickland (electrical engineering), Andrew Dilts (psychology), Enam Rabbani (mechanical engineering), Arda Ocal (math and business), and Sonya Konzak (computer engineering).

    Mathematics contests sponsored by Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing: Hypatia (grade 11), Galois (grade 10), Fryer (grade 9).

    Ellen Roseman, Toronto Star business columnist, speaks on "The Dollars and Cents of Post-Secondary Education" Wednesday 11:30, Kitchener Holiday Inn, sponsored by Greater K-W Chamber of Commerce.

    Smarter health seminar: Jim Anderson, Purdue University, "The Human Side of Health Informatics", 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302 abstract online).

    Family business philanthropy one-day workshop sponsored by Centre for Family Business, Conrad Grebel University College, Thursday, Westmount Golf and Country Club.

    Germanic and Slavic studies presents James R. Dow, Iowa State University, "Bruno Schweizer's Gesamtgrammatik as a Product of the Kulturkommission", Thursday 3:00, Humanities room 373.

    The long-awaited Employee Wellness Fair will run Monday through Wednesday next week, mostly in the Davis Centre. Brochures with the details were sent to faculty and staff members last week, and some information is available on the web, such as details on the mass walk around the ring road that will start in front of the Physical Activities Complex at 12:15 on Monday. There are a number of workshops for which preregistration is required (there's a sign-up form in the brochure), and there's also an opportunity to drop in at Davis and meet vendors of health-related products from 10 to 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday. In spite of what the brochure indicates, there's no need to sign up in advance for such drop-in activity, says Linda Brogden of the occupational health office in health services.

    "Joy Read Canada," writes Mari-Beth Davis of the retail services department, "is an innovative campaign spearheaded by the Literary Press Group of Canada to invite Canadians to take a Joy Read -- to read for fun, to try something new, and to reach new readers. The goal of the project is to increase awareness of diverse and original books, and to reach new readers by offering a greater selection of titles in the marketplace from Canada's esteemed literary presses. The UW Bookstore is now featuring titles from the Joy Read program for the month of April on our main web page and in-store. The Bookstore will be updating these titles throughout the year to showcase the latest offerings from Canadian presses."

    Repair work is on track on the east side of campus today -- yes, really. A note from Tom Galloway of plant operations says a contractor working for CN railways "will be repairing the tracks in the vicinity of the Lot B pedestrian crossing across from Engineering III. Access will be intermittent for the day."

    The human resources department says there are no staff Positions Available listings this week. . . . The coffee shop in Psychology 3005, Pastry Plus in Matthews Hall, and the Modern Languages coffee shop have closed for the term, to reopen in May. . . . Unofficial marks for winter courses should start appearing on Quest on Saturday, the registrar's office says, and grades become official May 24. . . .

    I'm going to be away from campus for the next few days. The Daily Bulletin will appear as usual in my absence, thanks to assistance from several of my colleagues. Urgent announcements can be sent by e-mail to bulletin@uwaterloo.ca.


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