Wednesday, April 25, 2007

  • Pictures tell the history of Waterloo
  • 'Health account' would add to benefits
  • Site shakes down your class schedule
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

Formerly 'Secretaries' Day'

When and where

Graduate Student Research Conference continues: presentations in Davis Centre room 1302 and 1304; seminar on SSHRC fellowships Thursday 11:15; awards reception Thursday 4:30, Graduate House; details online.

Distinguished Nanotechnology Seminar: Meyya Meyyappan, NASA Ames Research Centre, "Novel One Dimensional Nonstructural, 10 a.m., CEIT room 1015.

Smarter Health lecture: Tom Closson, management consultant who studied the emergency room crisis in Waterloo Region hospitals, "Why Not Create the Ideal Health System Through Health Informatics?" 3:00, Davis Centre room 130

Rienzi Crusz, retired UW librarian, reads from his poetry 7 p.m., Kitchener Public Library main branch.

'Passport to Health' Fair for staff and faculty, Thursday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Student Life Centre; stations include blood pressure reading, ergonomics, "reading your stress level".

Surplus sale of UW furniture and equipment, Thursday 12:30 to 2:00, central stores, East Campus Hall.

'Aging, Health and Well-Being' lecture: Len Gray, University of Queensland, Australia, "Express Lanes and Collectors: Using Decision-Making to Ease Traffic Congestion in Acute Care", Thursday 3:30, Lyle Hallman Institute room 1621.

Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience "Waterloo Brain Day" Friday: seminars by four visiting researchers, followed by a reception, PAS room 2083, details online.

'Research Funding Opportunities for Engineers and Scientists' seminar sponsored by Ontario Centres of Excellence and Health Technology Exchange, Friday 12 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

Federation of Students 40th anniversary dinner-dance Friday evening, Federation Hall, by invitation.

'Learning about Teaching' symposium, including Presidents' Colloquium on Teaching and Learning, speaker Ken Bain, April 30, 2 p.m., Humanities Theatre; workshops and discussions May 1-2, details online.

Welcome reception for new students Tuesday, May 1, 4:30 p.m., Student Life Centre multi-purpose room, information about UW services and a chance to meet other newcomers.

'E-Merging Learning Workshop' introduction to professional development for instructors in online learning, to be followed by online modules and face-to-face coaching, Wednesday, May 2, 10:30 to 11:15, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details and registration online.

UW Accounting Conference (second annual) May 4-6, details online.

Positions available

On this week’s list from the human resources department:

• Development officer, planned giving, development and alumni affairs, USG 9-11
• Laboratory manager/instructor, nanotechnology, electrical and computer engineering, USG 10
• Sharcnet systems administrator, dean of science office, USG 11
• Administrative coordinator, undergraduate studies, pure mathematics, USG 4
• Theme area A administrative secretary, electrical and computer engineering, USG 4
• Managing director, Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research, USG 15
• Administrative assistant, Waterloo Centre for Automotive Research, USG 6
• Undergraduate secretary, political science, USG 4
• Administrative coordinator for graduate studies, biology, USG 5

Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

[Wearing white sweatshirt, white book in his hand]

UW president David Johnston showed off one of the first copies of the book at yesterday's "appreciation lunch" for faculty and staff members, held in Village I.

Pictures tell the history of Waterloo

I've been previewing Ken McLaughlin's new book about the history of UW, which is to be launched this afternoon at the Friends of the Library "Authors' Event", and I can report that it's an absolute treasure trove of photos. There are many lush colour pictures of the campus as it is today (taken specially for the book, I understand, by professional photographer Bryn Gladding), but in interest they have to compete with the dozens of mostly smaller, mostly black-and-white pictures taken over five decades.

For example: there are three students, key figures in the creation of the Watfor compiler in 1965, huddled around a giant machine that's labelled "Computer in operation, overnight run, do not disturb."

There are founding president Gerry Hagey, St. Jerome's University president Rev. Corky Siegfried, and several colleagues looking over landscape plans as they stand beside the waters of what McLaughlin calls "Hagey Pond", a name I haven't heard before but would be delighted to see put into use.

There are a Dodge and, I think, a Studebaker parked outside one of UW's early portable buildings, marked "cut here" in spray paint as crews prepared to haul it from Albert Street up to the new UW campus in 1958.

There are three African students in bold robes, being greeted by an impossibly young Doug Wright, dean of engineering circa 1960. There are young lady graduates with bouffant 1968 hairdos being greeted at convocation by chancellor Ira Needles. There's the Dana Porter Library topped by a construction crane.

In short, the new book — Out of the Shadow of Orthodoxy: Waterloo @ 50 — captures the scenes of the past as well as the glories of the present. From a quick browse, I see that McLaughlin's text does the same thing, taking the story of Waterloo from the earliest days of a glorious concept through the years of building, expanding and improving. He puts an emphasis on the development of computing, which played a very large role at Waterloo almost from the beginning, especially the life and work of computing pioneer Wes Graham. And like Bill Scott, whose history of UW's first decade, Of Mud and Dreams, was published to mark UW's 10th anniversary in 1967, McLaughlin talks extensively about now as well as then, describing what UW has become in addition to how it got here.

Doubtless I'll write more about the book when I've had a chance to read it more fully. In the meantime, McLaughlin will be speaking about his work at the Friends event this afternoon: 3:30 p.m., Theatre of the Arts. Everybody is welcome. And the book is for sale at $20 (a remarkably low price for a 220-page coffee-table volume) online or at the UW bookstore.

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'Health account' would add to benefits

There are absolutely no plans to reduce staff and faculty health benefits, despite some rumours that seem to have hit campus, associate provost Catharine Scott said yesterday. “I don’t want any of our staff to be fearing that their benefits are going to be depleted or taken away,” said Scott, whose job includes serving as chair of both the UW pension and benefits committee and the staff compensation committee.

In fact, she says, an agenda item for the P&B committee (some time after it finishes its current work on the design of the pension plan) is a proposed addition to staff and faculty benefits in the form of a “health spending account”. Such an "account" would give each individual a modest sum of money annually to help cover health costs that aren't covered by the existing benefits. For example, it could pay for extra chiropractic visits, or orthodontists’ bills beyond the limit imposed in the dental plan.

The “health spending” money could also be spent on vision care, thus helping to remove what Scott calls “the single biggest irritant” in UW’s current benefits package, the lack of optical coverage.

A health spending benefit would go to both staff and faculty members, and would be an addition to current benefits, not a replacement for any of them, Scott says. She adds that the idea came from the actuary who advises the P&B committee, and emphasized that it's in its early stages and has barely been discussed so far.

The committee includes representatives of staff (CUPE and non-union) and faculty, as well as retirees, the board of governors and UW administration.

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Site shakes down your class schedule

by Meghan Kreller

An applied math and computer science student has created a tool to make the lives of his fellow UW scholars a little less stressful. Putting his programming skills to work, Thomas Dimson developed his Course Qualifier in only three days. He says the web application — designed to create custom, non-conflicting academic schedules — is a useful source for any students selecting undergraduate courses for their next term.

“Figuring out the ideal schedule is always a pain,” said Dimson. “Hopefully this will help cut back the time involved.” Initially planning the program for his own use, he figured expanding the project wouldn’t be too complicated, and he realized it would be an ideal way to “boost my Internet presence”.

How does it work? Simple. The user enters up to five courses found on UW’s undergraduate course calendar into the fields provided and by clicking “Make it so!” a list of schedule variations will appear. To determine the ideal option for individual students, schedules are broken down into categories; lateness (how close you are to having all classes start at midnight), earliest (the earliest start-time through the week), latest (the latest start-time) and average idle time (the average amount of time spent between classes in a day).

Or, as it’s explained on the web site itself, “The Course Qualifier helps you generate all possible course timetables without time conflicts. From that, you can choose a path that allows you to sleep in and make the most efficient use of your time.”

Dimson has been fixing bugs along the way, and says reaction has been generally positive since the site’s creation about three weeks ago. Feedback has even included an e-mail from fellow UW student, but stranger to Dimson, Don McKenzie, with the offer of a new site design, which he’s happily accepted.

Although Dimson does not pride himself in his marketing abilities, he knows his site will be a success. “If people are attracted to things that work — and work well — it will get there eventually.”

Ideally, Dimson would like to expand his application to accommodate other institutions. He reports that he has yet to find anything as easy to access or as user-friendly available to students on any Ontario campus.


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