[University of Waterloo]


Past days


About the DB

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

  • May's days enter new phase
  • Public health seminar is tomorrow
  • What a student does at Microsoft
Chris Redmond

World Turtle Day

[Graduate expansion, Space, and the rest]

Top of the agenda for the coming year are these six issues, president David Johnston told the UW senate in a PowerPoint presentation last week. The list -- echoing issues that have been raised over the past year, or years, and noted in drafts of the Sixth Decade planning report -- was put in this form after discussions at the executive council retreat at Kempenfelt Bay two weeks ago.

May's days enter new phase

This shortened week is looking like a busy one, with several significant events both on and off campus -- including something called the Southwest Economic Assembly, tonight and tomorrow at a convention hotel in Stratford. UW, the University of Windsor and the University of Western Ontario are co-sponsoring the event, which brings together people from local government in this part of the province and leaders of business and industry in the area. They'll talk about economic cooperation, new investment and similar issues, and UW president David Johnston is expected to be one of the key leaders. Co-chairs for the "assembly" are Paul Davenport, president of Western, and Tom Jenkins, CEO of Open Text Corp., which is based in UW's research and technology park. Tonight's reception is at the Avon Theatre in Stratford, while tomorrow's working sessions are at the Arden Park Hotel.

Tomorrow brings the deadline for voting in the election of staff association directors for the coming year. Members of the association have been sent ballots, and are choosing two directors from among five candidates: Margaret Ulbrick of electrical and computer engineering, Christa Johnston (also of E&CE), Cathy Jardine (graduate studies office), Nelson Carillos (plant operations key control), and Elaine Brown (Village I). Two current directors continue in office for another year: Maureen Stafford (E&CE) and Andy Newman (plant ops). Otherwise, positions on the executive for 2006-07 have been filled by acclamation. Joe Szalai (library user services) becomes president, Stephen Markan (IST) becomes past president, Carrie Howells (computer science) becomes president-elect, Nancy Poole (health studies and gerontology) returns as secretary, Sue Fraser (kinesiology) becomes vice-president, and Stephen Sempson (faculty of science) becomes treasurer.

[Centre sections of theatre filled] Also tomorrow, the annual Friends of the Library lecture is set for 12 noon in the Theatre of the Arts. This year's speaker is Adel Sedra -- electrical engineering educator, former provost of the University of Toronto, and now UW's dean of engineering, who will speak on "Universities from the Bottom Up: Personal Reflections of a Lifer". Everyone is welcome. The talk will be accompanied, as happens each year, by a display honouring people from the UW community whose work was published or revealed last year in books, art exhibitions, musical performances and other forms. Pictured is last year's Friends lecture, featuring Howard Burton of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

The Smoke-Free Ontario Act goes into effect May 31, with various provisions about the sale and advertising of tobacco, as well as new rules about areas where smoking is forbidden. Among them: "enclosed public places and all enclosed workplaces", including restaurants and bars (already smoke-free in Waterloo Region, but not in some parts of the province), schools and offices. Smoking is already banned inside all UW buildings, apart from a few designated smoking rooms that remain. Kevin Stewart, the director of safety, predicts that "there will be changes" on campus, but he's not yet sure of the details, as the government has been slow in providing interpretations of words like "enclosed". A subcommittee of UW's Joint Health and Safety Committee will look at the rules when they're available, he said, and make recommendations to the provost.

Writing skills workshops offered by the UW writing centre in the PAS building will get going for this term next week. . . . The web site UWstudent.org, which was a lively news source for a couple of years before going quiet in December, is impressively back on line. . . . A reception was held in the Architecture building last week to announce the annual Mayor's Celebration of the Arts, which is to be held there on Friday night, June 16. . . .

Public health seminar is tomorrow -- from the UW media relations office

How technology can advance public health response times in emergencies is one of the topics to be addressed at a special seminar offered tomorrow. The Smarter Health Seminar is presented by the Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research and the InfraNET Project, based at UW. Health informatics is the discipline that investigates how information, information management, and information and communications technologies can deliver value in the area of health.

The guest seminar speaker is George Pasut, executive lead, Public Health System Transformation, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. His talk is titled "Ontario's Public Health E-Health Strategy-Supporting Public Health Renewal."

The seminar starts at 3:00 Wednesday in Davis Centre room 1302. There is no charge, but people are being asked to preregister on the InfraNET Project web site. The names of those who pre-register are entered in a draw to win a BlackBerry. A live webcast will also be available for those who can't be there in person.

The public health system is often described as an invisible component of the health-care system, working in the background to protect and promote health, as well as to prevent disease and injury at a local community and systemic level. Over the last decade, the importance of a strong public health system has been highlighted by Canada's experience with infectious disease outbreaks, such as the Walkerton Ontario E. coli and North Battleford Saskatchewan cryptosporidium outbreaks, West Nile virus and the SARS outbreak.

Though those recent public health experiences have been largely shaped by infectious disease issues, epidemics of obesity and tobacco-related diseases also underscore the importance of integrated health promotion programs to ensure optimal growth and development and improved health at all ages. But the public health system, along with much of the health-care system, has lagged behind other sectors in the development and implementation of e-health solutions.

"The presentation will offer an opportunity to learn about current developments, and exchange ideas on possible future directions," said Shirley Fenton, managing director of WIHIR. "The public health e-Health strategy has evolved along with the changes to the public health system."

The presentation will highlight several key priorities. These include a recently introduced province-wide information system for effective disease control and inter-jurisdictional information sharing for outbreak response, an "Important Health Notice" emergency alerting system, development of two communication portals to support collaborative planning, as well as planning of next generation public health case management information systems.

Pasut's ministry office is responsible for supporting the renewal of the public health system, including an update of public health legislation and program standards, and a response to the Capacity Review Committee recommendations that together frame a strategic direction for public health programs and services in Ontario.

Later this week, the Institute for Health Informatics Research will offer a two-day professional workshop on "health privacy" at a hotel in downtown Ottawa. The event starts Thursday morning, and at last report a few spots were still available. Details and registration are available online.

What a student does at Microsoft -- by Jill Campbell, from the Inside Scoop newsletter for co-op students

You have to admit that when someone tells you they work for Microsoft, you're immediately impressed. But what exactly do Microsoft employees do, besides computer programming, computer software, and computer this-and-that? Just ask Vik Kambli, a 4A Science-Biotechnology/Economics student who spent an eight-month co-op term with Microsoft Canada, first as the Marketing Communications Associate, and then as the Marketing Coordinator.

During his first couple of months with Microsoft, he noticed that his team had no tool to view overall metrics generated from marketing campaigns previously executed. After coming up with a plan and receiving the green light to move forward, he developed a tool that allows Microsoft to better target specific customers for various campaigns. "The team now uses this tool as a planning parameter for the majority of upcoming direct marketing campaigns."

Kambli also got to exercise some of his soft skills, particularly those for project management. "The company was entering the fourth quarter of its fiscal year, and there were more advertising campaigns going than execution then our advertising manager had the bandwidth to manage on her own. Seeing this opportunity to further develop my skills set in project management, I asked the advertising manager and our director if I could take on the management of a few of the campaigns." As a result of his initiative, he managed the planning and execution of campaigns for Microsoft Windows, Corporate Brand, Server, and Office.

Career workshops:"Interview skills: Preparing for questions", 4:30, Tatham Centre room 2218; "Starting your own business: Being an intrapreneur" 4:30, Tatham room 1208; registration online.

Retirees' association Mennonite countryside tour, Wednesday 9:30 a.m., information 699-4015.

Département d'études françaises présente un Café-rencontre des étudiantes et des étudiants de maîtrise, mercredi 14h30 à 17h00, Humanities salle 373.

UW Recreation Committee alphabetical dining group, Smiling Frog restaurant, Wednesday 5:30 p.m., information online.

Engineering 'Vision 2010' meeting for staff about the final draft plan, Thursday 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

Warrior Weekend activities in the Student Life Centre on Friday and Saturday evenings, including movies, crafts, games; details online.

ACM-style programming contest Saturday, open to all members of the UW community, details online.

Graduate Student Association trip to Stratford Festival, choice of "Oliver!" or "London Assurance", Saturday, bus leaves 3 p.m., tickets $35 at Graduate House.

[Kambli, hands in pockets] While working for Microsoft is great, it also has its challenges. Like most large companies, it's difficult to actually get things done and to make changes. Or as Kambli (right) says, "It's hard to move an elephant." The positives outweigh the negatives, though, especially with the calibre of people Microsoft employs. "This was easily the most talented and driven group of professionals that I have ever worked with, and being in their presence served as a catalyst to inspire me to make the most out of my time with the company."

One of the reasons Kambli feels he's accomplished so much at Microsoft is his ability to adapt to different circumstances. "Give me two weeks and I can adapt to any situation." Good communication helps too, especially with multiple projects and campaigns simultaneously going on. One of his supervisors, Carly Watkins, says that "he did a great job of clarifying deadline conflicts upfront and ensuring from the start that each project owner had clear expectations for timelines and deliverables."

Originally from Whitby, Kambli chose UW partly for its co-op program. "I like co-op for the obvious reasons, one of them to find out what you want to do. You get to experiment." And experiment he has -- he's also had co-op terms with BMW Canada, Campbell Company of Canada, and Grand River Hospital.

As for his plans after graduation, he hopes to attend grad school and earn a business or law degree. Travelling is very important, "to the Mediterranean!", and after that, who knows? "Overall, my time with Microsoft was a period of extreme growth, both personally and professionally. I hope to find myself back to them soon."


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