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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

  • Science program brings Beijing students
  • E&CE students show off projects
  • Notes for a January morning
Chris Redmond

Benjamin Franklin

[Jasmine Song by snowy tree]

"Life is so beautiful," Jasmine Song says about her stay in Waterloo.

Science program brings Beijing students -- by Barbara Elve

Most mornings find Jasmine Song in the Renison College cafeteria, where she starts her day on a high note. "I love the over easies, pancakes, French toasts and orange juice very much," she wrote one snowy December morning in her blog. "Life is so beautiful."

Song is one of eight Chinese students who have just completed their first term of a new undergraduate program. Through agreements with their home university in China, the students complete their first two years toward a Bachelor of Science degree there, and years three and four at Waterloo. If successful, they will earn degrees from both institutions.

The 2+2 program, as it's been dubbed, seeks out elite students who are proficient in English, have the ability to leap cultural barriers, and can pay the high cost of international tuition fees -- roughly $25,000 per year, plus travel expenses. Students are being recruited from among China's top universities, with the first group hailing from China Agricultural University in Beijing.

Applicants are screened at participating Chinese universities by Xiao-Dong Huang, a UW research associate who came from China to earn his PhD at Waterloo, and Judi Jewinski, director of the English Language Institute at Renison College. She assesses English skills of prospective students through a combination of writing and reading tests, as well as a 20-minute interview.

Students accepted into the program arrived six weeks before the start of the fall term to participate in an English immersion program at Renison. Half the time was spent in English-as-a-Second-Language classes, with the rest focused on an introduction to Canadian culture and student life, including watching videotapes of science professors giving lectures.

Even though she arrived with English skills -- honed since Grade 5 in China -- and took part in the Renison immersion program, orientation week was a shock to Song. "The ESL teachers spoke slowly and clearly. At orientation week I couldn't understand anything," she laughs. "The students speak so fast. After a week it was OK."

Of the eight students who came to Waterloo from her university, Song considers herself "the happiest." Some of the other students didn't like the food in residence and moved out so they could cook for themselves. With little opportunity to practice conversational English in residence, they've struggled with the language. "Some skip classes because they don't understand the prof. They try to learn on their own from textbooks, but don't know which parts are the most important," she says.

Mario Coniglio, associate dean of science for undergraduate studies, admits the support network for the 2+2 students is still evolving. An ad hoc academic advisory committee of science faculty members has been struck "to ensure this special group of students has its needs met. We have to make sure the students who come here succeed. We're having to force ourselves to adopt a go-slow strategy until we get our feet under us. We owe it to the students to go slowly and work out the kinks in the first few years before we go bigger," he adds, although there is a waiting list of Chinese institutions who wish to join the venture.

Science teaching program a thing of the past

No new students are being admitted to the "science teaching option" program, which has let students earn a teaching degree from Queen's University at the same time they're doing a Bachelor of Science degree from Waterloo.

"It just seems that the interest has waned," said associate vice-president Gail Cuthbert Brandt as she asked UW's senate to approve the program cancellation last fall. Senate was told that the teaching option had room for 25 students a year, but "over the last several years, on average, three to four students per year have been participating."

Dean of science George Dixon told the senate that a new science teaching program could emerge: "We are exploring partners other than Queen's, but it will be a different type of program."

There's no change to the mathematics teaching program that also links UW and Queen's.

E&CE students show off projects

Students graduating from the electrical and computer engineering department this year are exhibiting their group technological projects on Wednesday. The E&CE Design Project Sixth Annual Symposium will be held at the Davis Centre from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. A public open house will be held from 4:30 to 8:00.

The more than 240 students participating in the event will present 60 projects in seminar format to guests from industry and the academic community. They will also display design project posters and will be available to discuss their projects. Symposium presentations will cover many forefront technological developments in diverse categories such as entertainment, personal computing, communications, information technology, medical systems, power systems, robotics and transportation systems.

For example, one student group has developed RFID tags (those electronic devices often attached to consumer products) that can be used in situations where the present rigid devices aren't practical. Another has developed a robotic guitarist. Still other groups have worked on pipeline design, character recognition for the blind, searching of printed text, electronic bartending, and measurements of spinal fluid. And then there's the "Voice Mail Organization System", which might appeal to some of us.

"This is an exceptional opportunity for interested parties to see these exciting projects first-hand," says Bill Bishop, fourth-year design project coordinator and a lecturer in the department. "The symposium represents the culmination of one of the most important academic aspects of the electrical and computer engineering program." The students have completed the intensive design project course sequence, which challenges them in their final year of study to work in groups to identify and address a specific design problem.

A detailed symposium schedule, including abstracts of each student project, is available online.

Blood donor clinic daily through Thursday 10 to 4, Friday 9 to 3, Student Life Centre; appointments at turnkey desk.

All-candidates' meeting for Kitchener-Waterloo riding, 12 noon, Student Life Centre, sponsored by Federation of Students.

'Rethinking What Influences Student Learning': Pat Terenzini, Pennsylvania State University, who will summarize studies identifying "six characteristics of learning and effective educational settings", 2:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, registration online.

Presidents' Colloquium on Teaching and Learning: George Kuh, Indiana University Bloomington, "Taking Stock of What Matters to Student Success in University", 4:00, Humanities Theatre.

Bass clarinet concert by Tilly Kooyman and Kathryn Ladano, Wednesday 12:30, Conrad Grebel University College chapel.

Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology presents John Baker, Desire2Learn Inc., "The Early Challenges of Building a Global Technology Company from Just an Idea," Thursday 12 noon, Tatham Centre room 2218, preregister at ext. 7167 by Tuesday.

Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology program information session Thursday 4 p.m., Needles Hall room 1101.

Graduate studies in mathematics information session Thursday 4:30, Math and Computer room 5158.

St. Jerome's University annual Devlin Lecture: theologian Gregory Baum, "Muslim-Christian Relations After 9/11, Friday 7:30, Siegfried Hall, admission free.

Notes for a January morning

The "Vision 2010" planning process in UW's engineering faculty -- part of the university-wide Sixth Decade study -- is moving ahead nicely, the faculty's Eng-e-news electronic newsletter says. A series of meetings are planned to update people on the plan as it's coming together, starting today: it's the main item on the agenda as the Engineering Faculty Assembly holds its annual general meeting (3:00, Rod Coutts Hall room 302). A meeting for staff is scheduled for Thursday at noon in Davis Centre room 1302, and one for students will be held January 31 at 5:00 in Carl Pollock Hall room 3385.

[Carpenter] Elaine Carpenter, manager of UW's parking services since 1995 -- and a staff member for two decades before that -- will be taking early retirement at the end of this month. A reception to honour Carpenter (right) will be held Friday from 4:00 to 5:30 at the University Club. RSVPs go to Cathy Mitchell at ext. 3630.

Sign-up continues this week in the Student Life Centre for the "Let's Make a Deal" stop-smoking challenge, sponsored by Leave the Pack Behind. The annual program started last week in the residences, and interest has been high, says graduate student Rosanna Morales, who's coordinating things. "A total of 104 students have pre-registered for our contest," she writes -- that's almost as many as the total who took part last year. "We are very pleased" as this week's campus-wide registration gets going, she says.

From the Dana Porter Library, Shabiran Rahman, who heads the information services and resources department, writes to say that the library's Community Needs Assessment Group is doing a user survey. "A random sample of faculty, students and staff will receive e-mail messages, she says, "inviting them to participate. Surveys will also be accessible from the Library's homepage for others who may wish to participate." The survey is an attempt to measure "level of satisfaction with various library services, resources and facilities", includes 11 questions "requiring 5 minutes or less of your time", and runs through February 16. There are draw prizes for those who take part.

Today's the day for the move: the UW safety office is leaving the landmark Health Services building to take up new space in the Commissary building, along the ring road near the smokestack. "We will endeavour to minimize disruption of our services," writes safety director Kevin Stewart, but says people might be hard to reach today. Everything should be in place in the new building by Wednesday, and phone numbers are not changing. Also not changing: medical care and occupational health services that are provided by the Health Services department, still in the white building.

The other day I mentioned the pilot "Open Classroom" series, in which a few faculty members are inviting other professors to watch them teach a session. Stan Laiken of the accountancy school, who chairs the Open Classroom Working Group, reports that the first such session for this term will be held on Thursday, when Lyndon Jones of the school of optometry will welcome visitors. Says Laiken: "The class will deal with 'External Eye Disease' and will provide an excellent opportunity to discuss and observe methods of student engagement in a large class environment. There will be a pre-class session at 8:50 a.m., followed by the class at 9:30 a.m. and a post-class discussion from 10:30 to 11:30. Faculty members who are interested in attending should contact Verna Keller, vkeller@admmail, to sign up and obtain information on the location."

In yesterday's note about the impending Hagey Bonspiel, I wrote that organizer Meredith McGinnis works in procurement services, when in fact she's on the other side of campus in the faculty of applied health sciences. . . . The alumni affairs office says an electronic survey is asking 35,000 UW alumni (about a third of the total) to comment on "content, design and frequency" of the UW Magazine. . . . David Fransen of the federal ministry of industry officially started January 15 as executive director of UW's Institute for Quantum Computing and associate vice-president (strategic relations). . . .


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