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Friday, May 19, 2006

  • Long weekend ushers in summer
  • Arts program now 'general liberal studies'
  • PhD oral defences are scheduled
Chris Redmond

The longest tunnel in the world

[Queen in pink; big smiles in the crowd]

Victoria's great-great-granddaughter, the present Queen, spoke with a group of UW planning students in Oxford, England, earlier this month. From left, Matt Lee, Tiffany Tsun and Martina Braunstein (plus Liz Lau, only her left eye visible) are greeting Her Majesty as she visited the city to open a renovated heritage building. The students were among about 30 from Waterloo who have now returned from a three-week visit to Oxford Brookes University, part of an annual exchange program. "The students did speak with the Queen, and we have video to prove it," says planning instructor Jeff Casello.

Long weekend ushers in summer

The spring term is interrupted by three long weekends (while winter and fall have just one apiece), and the first of them is at hand. Monday, May 22, will be Victoria Day and a holiday; UW offices and most services will be closed, and classes will not be held.

Of course some key services continue as always:

The Dana Porter and Davis Centre libraries will be open from noon to 6 p.m. on Monday. It's unclear at this point just what hours the Tim Horton's outlet in the Student Life Centre will be open over the weekend.

And no, there are no fireworks on campus to mark Victoria Day. For that, we have to wait until the second long weekend of the summer, and UW's Canada Day celebrations on the north campus on Saturday, July 1.

In other matters today: the Ontario Nano Symposium is under way today. The all-day event seeks to build and strengthen local nanotechnology research communities, as well as spawn new collaborations, said Flora Li, one of the graduate student organizers from the electrical and computer engineering department. She and her colleagues were expecting to attract scientists and researchers from diverse backgrounds, including physics, biology, chemistry, engineering and medicine. The event will consist of invited talks by speakers at the forefront of research, poster presentations, and a panel discussion. A highlight is a talk by John Polanyi of the University of Toronto, winner of a Nobel Prize in chemistry, at 1:30 this afternoon. Things happen mostly in the Arts Lecture Hall, with poster sessions, lunch, and a late-afternoon reception in the Davis Centre.

Meanwhile, in a noontime event, the Centre for International Governance Innovation presents Eric Helleiner, UW political science professor, speaking on "Making Poverty History and Debt Cancellation". The talk starts at 11:45, at 57 Erb Street West; for reservations, e-mail rsvp@cigionline.ca.

And "Death of a Salesman", presented by Poor Tom Productions and hosted by UW drama department continues tonight and Saturday 8 at p.m. in the Theatre of the Arts. Tickets are $10 in advance from the Humanities box office, or $12 at the door.

The human resources department says staff members can now check out their 2006-07 salaries online. The "salary advice" document, distributed on paper in past years, has been posted on the myHRinfo site instead, indicating individual pay increases that were effective May 1.

Yesterday I referred to Frank Tompa of the school of computer science as an emeritus professor, but I've been reminded that he is actually an active faculty member and not retired. . . . Here's a reminder that Learning Initiatives Fund and Program Initiatives Fund grants, designed to support curriculum and teaching changes by UW faculty members and departments, are available for 2006-07, with an application deadline of May 25. . . . Participants in the Ontario Folk Dance Camp, some 80 of them, are arriving in Ron Eydt Village today for a weekend of what folk dancers do. . . .

Arts program now 'general liberal studies'

What has traditionally been a "non-major program" in arts now has a less negative name: it'll be "general liberal studies", following a decision by UW's senate last week.

"UW is unique, among universities offering this type of program, in designating the plan by what it is not, rather than by what it is," a report said. It added an explanation of what it is: "a liberal education in the arts, broadly defined, i.e., humanities, social sciences, languages, and fine and performing arts".

The name change was recommended by consultants as part of a recent academic program review -- one of four such reviews that were received by senate at last week's meeting. (The others covered religious studies, peace and conflict studies, and the spirituality and personal development program.)

More than 1,000 students are registered in three-year or four-year arts non-major programs at any given time, the report noted, although that's about half the number who were there in the early 1990s when UW had a larger number of part-time and distance education students.

Some students listed as non-majors are there temporarily, having dropped one major but not yet chosen a new one, the report said. Others are working towards a BA through distance education, where the choice of majors is limited. "A significant proportion of the non-majors are mature students," it said, "and many of them are pursuing their university education on a part-time basis while they engage in other work. Others are retired and are taking up post-secondary studies for personal satisfaction."

Then there are students who are transferring into arts from somewhere else and haven't planned the future yet, as well as "those whose academic performance has fallen below the requirements needed to continue in their chosen major" -- some of whom may find a new field in which they'll do better. And finally, there are "students entering from high school with career goals that do not require an undergraduate major", such as elementary school teaching.

"Most non-major grads are securing an innovative and broad-based liberal education," the program review said. "The program should be promoted as a positive program, and an active recruitment campaign be undertaken to attract students."

The report also suggested that "specific program streams be created, particularly for the pre-professional student". A starting point might be a "teaching track that might include co-op opportunities or internships". The response from the faculty of arts was not enthusiastic, suggesting that an honours program is the usual requirement for getting into co-op at UW, and it might be wiser to create an honours non-major program. "In the meantime, the Faculty is open to exploring the provision of other forms of experiential learning (e.g. internships, service learning) for non-major students."

Academic advising for such students is provided in the arts undergraduate office, the mature student services office, St. Jerome's University and Renison College. More resources need to be devoted to such advising, the review suggested, and it also called for the appointment of "a coordinator position to take responsibility to develop and promote the program". In response, the faculty of arts said it "does not feel it can justify the expense" at this time.

PhD oral defences are scheduled

It's not peak season for doctoral theses, but several graduate students are about to defend their work and surmount the last hurdle on the way to a PhD. Here's a list:

Mechanical engineering. Michael L. Kuntz, "Quantifying Isothermal Solidification Kinetics During Transient Liquid Phase Bonding Using Differential Scanning Calorimetry." Supervisors, S. Corbin and N. Zhou. On deposit in the faculty of engineering, CPH 4305. Oral defence Tuesday, May 23, 1:30 p.m., Engineering II room 2348.

Computer science. Michael Kwok, "Performance Analysis of Distributed Virtual Environments." Supervisor, J. W. Wong. On deposit in the faculty of mathematics, MC 5090. Oral defence Wednesday, June 7, 10 a.m., Davis Centre room 1331.

Electrical and computer engineering. Hatem Hussein Magdy Zeineldin, "Distributed Generation Micro-grid Operation: Control, Protection, and Electricity Market Operation." Supervisors, M. Salama and E. El-Saadany. On deposit in the faculty of enginering, CPH 4305. Oral defence Friday, June 16, 10 a.m., CEIT room 3142.

Computer science. Celine Latulipe, "A Symmetric Interaction Model for Bimanual Input." Supervisors, C. L. A. Clarke and C. Kaplan. On deposit in the faculty of mathematics, MC 5090. Oral defence Friday, June 16, 1 p.m., Davis Centre room 1304.


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