[University of Waterloo]


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Monday, February 6, 2006

  • Students asked 'questions that matter'
  • IST picks Dell for desktops
  • Pixels in the big picture
Chris Redmond

White Cane Week

[CKMS Valentine's messages on February 14]

'Record and deliver a personal Valentine's message over the airwaves,' CKMS radio invites the campus. There will be a table in the Student Life Centre today, and again later in the week, to collect those sweet nothings.

Students asked 'questions that matter'

All UW's first-year and final-year undergraduates will be receiving a survey shortly, asking "the kinds of questions that matter to student learning and institutional effectiveness".

Bob Truman, UW's director of institutional analysis and planning, said the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) will be sent to more students than ever before. "There has been increased interest in the data," he said, especially since a visit to campus last month by the director of NSSE, George Kuh of Indiana University at Bloomington. "Normally the sample is about one-half of the population," he said.

Today was the original target day for sending out the survey, but there's been a delay and a new date will be announced, Truman said.

He gave some background: "UW is participating in the NSSE survey along with all of Ontario's universities and several hundred other colleges and universities across Canada and the United States.

"While it's easy to ignore surveys, this one is short but has the potential to actually make a difference in the quality of undergraduate education here and elsewhere because it asks the kinds of questions that matter to student learning and institutional effectiveness. How much reading and writing is required? How often do students interact with other students who are from different backgrounds and cultures? How good is the academic advising? How many students work with faculty members on research and other activities?

"The University of Waterloo is interested in knowing how and where students spend their time, the nature and quality of their interactions with faculty members and peers, and what they have gained from their classes and other aspects of their college experience. UW can use the answers to these questions to figure out where to try to improve teaching and learning and other aspects of campus life.

"The survey is kind of like an anonymous suggestion box, and people who can make changes for the better need to hear from a broad cross-section of students who were randomly selected to participate. The survey takes less than 15 minutes to complete via either the paper or web version."

He noted that UW participated in the NSSE survey in 2003-04 and some results have been discussed by groups such as Executive Council, the Teaching Excellence Council, and the Chairs forum. "We learned, for example, that 22% of our 1st-year student respondents reported that they never received prompt feedback from faculty on their academic performance (written or oral). While concerned with this response, we wonder if the student's definition of prompt is the same as the faculty members' definition of prompt.

"We also found that while 42% of our 1st-year respondents indicated that they plan to (39%) or did (3%) study abroad, only 21% of our graduating-year respondents indicated that they plan to (10%) or did (11%) study abroad."

NSSE says the first of "nearly one million students" at 560 institutions received surveys on January 30, launching the seventh year of the survey. "An estimated 4 million e-mail messages will be sent in the coming months, projecting that about 400,000 students will respond by the time the survey ends June 1."

Candidates for Federation of Students executive positions

  President Vice-President (Education) Vice-President (Administration and Finance) Vice-President (Internal)
Team Yellow Kevin Royal (political science) Jeff Henry (political science) Renjie Butalid (economics)  
Shape the Future Michelle Zakrison (environment and resource studies)   Michael Tersigni (computer science) Sabrina Bowman (environment and resource studies)
EZ Vote Christopher Ferguson (English) Jesse Ariss (drama and speech communication) Tim Foster (physics) Michael L. Davenport (civil engineering)
All for Students       Sai Kit Lo (actuarial science)
Team Lorax Stuart Hastings (planning)   Sarah Beecroft (environment and business) Mike Kahn (planning)

IST picks Dell for desktops

The university has chosen "a preferred vendor" to provide new computers for administrative departments at "an advantageous price", says Andrea Chappell of the information systems and technology department.

She's been heading the "desktop rollover" project, designed to find an efficient way of keeping the machines on staff desks up to date. "We're assuming about a four-year lifetime on most computers," says Chappell, explaining that the goal is to provide "supportable and recent computers".

The project was aimed at non-academic departments that are funded from the university's central budget, and the idea is that their computing hardware will now be funded centrally, through IST. About 200 new computers were bought during the pilot phase, she said.

"We decided to go with a preferred vendor," Chappell said. The choice: Dell Canada. "The university has formed a partnership with Dell," says an IST announcement. "The partnership provides UW with a standardized desktop computer at an advantageous price, and also a discount on most other Dell systems. These systems are available to any UW employee who wants to purchase a Dell computer for use at UW, using a UW account number."

The IST web site offers instructions on how to order Dell computers, including how to use the UW/Dell web site in conjunction with UW purchase requests.

[Blue screen] IST adds: "UW is under no obligation to purchase Dell systems; employees can continue to purchase systems from other companies. The Dell partnership provides the campus with pricing benefits, and computing representatives and other individual purchasers can compare them with other vendor offerings, as they do now. UW staff and faculty members who do not ordinarily order their own computers should continue to go through their local Faculty and department points of contact to order computers, including Dells."

Chappell said the plan is for IST to order the computers in batches. "We have a standard configuration that we order," she said -- it includes the UltraSharp 1704FPV Flat Panel screen pictured at right.

As a side benefit from the UW deal, Dell has said it will offer "a 5% discount on any best price you can find on Dell's Canadian web pages or in any Dell Canadian advertising" for individual staff and faculty members who want to buy any Dell computer. "This is not administered by UW," IST stresses, but details are on the rollover project web site.

Federation of Students candidates forum 12:00 to 4:00, Student Life Centre great hall.

'The Adult Learner': teaching workshop, Pam Tate of Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, 1 p.m., details online.

Career workshops: "Are You Thinking about Graduate Studies?" 2:30, "Mastering the Personal Statement" 3:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

UW senate executive committee 3:30, Needles Hall room 3004.

IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology student group holds first general meeting, 4:00, Rod Coutts Hall room 112; all graduates and undergraduates working in biomedical or health engineering welcome.

Senate undergraduate council Tuesday 12 noon, Needles Hall room 3004.

UW board of governors Tuesday 2:30, Manulife Wellness Centre, Lyle Hallman Institute.

Engineers Without Borders discussion group, "Is Water a Commodity or a Human Right?" 7 p.m., Graduate House. General meeting, "Development Issues in Africa", Tuesday 5:30, Davis Centre room 1302.

St. Paul's College inaugural Harvey-Klassen Annual Lecture in Bible and Culture: Paula Fredriksen, "The Death of Jesus and the Making of the Passion", Tuesday 7 p.m., MacKirdy Hall, St. Paul's. Panel discussion of the scholarship of William Klassen on Jesus, 3 p.m.

UW alumni in Palo Alto "Meet the Deans" evening, Tuesday 6 to 8 p.m., Blue Chalk Café.

Careers in math and computer science: panel of math graduates speaking about their careers, Wednesday 4:30, Davis Centre room 1302, sponsored by Women in Mathematics Committee.

'Entrepreneurship: A Woman's Perspective' panel sponsored by Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, Thursday 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302, reservations ext. 7167 by Tuesday.

'Polar Jam': "Two schools, one huge party," multiple bands, Friday noon to 9 p.m., University Stadium, tickets $10 at Federation of Students office.

Celebratory luncheon for UW staff hosted by executive council, February 14, noon to 1:30 p.m., Federation Hall (evening event 10 p.m., Brubakers, Student Life Centre).

Pixels in the big picture

Friday, it was so springlike that the grounds crew was spreading mulch for lack of snow to clear. Today, the world is white, walkways are piled deep and tree branches are heavily laden. In front of the Graduate House, one tree is bent over onto the front porch, and there's so much snow that access is blocked; the Grad House will be closed today until things are cleared up.

There wasn't much publicity when the school of accountancy did this year's WatCase exercise for fourth-year students last fall, but it gets some attention in the new issue of the accountancy alumni newsletter, which introduces the four winners of the ninth annual competition: Queenie Lee, Khushdeep Pannu, Adam Yantha and Kelly Russell. "The subject company," says the newsletter, "was Sleeman Breweries, a previous case participant. This time Sleeman was considering the acquisition of a Quebec-based micro-brewery. Thirty student teams had to answer a key question for CEO John Sleeman: Should we go back to the negotiating table? Five finalist teams made presentations to a panel comprising Sleeman's CFO, a representative of BDO Dunwoody (case sponsor), two UW Accounting alumni, and School of Accountancy Director Alister Mason. The competition was organized by professor Alan Webb."

An "academic program review" of UW's department of management sciences came up for brief discussion at the January meeting of the UW senate. It had good things to say about the existing ManSci option, which is now taken by about a sixth of all engineering students, and that led to talk about the broad range of management and business programs across the university. Someone asked whether the faculty of engineering is likely to start a full-scale "management engineering" program at the undergraduate level. Such a proposal is a gleam in some people's eye, dean Adel Sedra replied, but "the faculty has not yet had a chance to discuss it."

The winter term "Get Up and Grow" leaflet is out, listing programs being offered by the staff training and development committee. They include the familiar "Leadership for Results" series, including sessions such as "Handling Emotions Under Pressure" and "Proactive Listening", and also several individual sessions -- on customer service, "Personality Dimensions", "Defining Your Financial Future". Finally there's "a jam-packed three days" under the title "Maximum Achievement", aimed at "those staff members at a plateau in their lives, either personally or professionally". There's more information on the human resources web site.

We're entering Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and counselling services and health services will have an information booth in the Student Life Centre Wednesday through Friday. . . . While renovations continue at the UW Shop in South Campus Hall, a contest is under way to "win a 30-second shopping spree" by guessing the value of merchandise that's on display in the window. . . . The talk on "Stalking the Holy", given by Michael Higgins of St. Jerome's University in November, will be aired on CBC radio's "Ideas" on three Wednesday nights starting February 15. . . .

The Ontario Centres of Excellence -- which of course include large representation from UW researchers -- will hold a special event tomorrow at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, under the title "Discovery 2006: Bridging the Innovation to Commercialization Gap". Says the web site: "Discovery 2006 will assemble the business, academic and government leaders driving today's innovation, collaboration and commercialization agenda -- within Ontario and globally. Join us for a unique opportunity to engage in dialogue and debate with those who are shaping our competitive future today and be inspired by leading edge discovery that's poised to enter the marketplace. . . . There are many reasons to attend. First, we have assembled a strong line-up of speakers who are leaders in their fields. Second, we have invited some of the province's most promising research academics and students to showcase the exciting work they are engaged in on OCE-funded projects. And, a number of the province's most exciting innovation stories will be told by the companies who are taking solutions to market everyday."


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