Friday, March 23, 2007

  • Maclean's reveals student ratings
  • Engineer called to evaluate new clubs
  • Money for Accelerator Centre, and more
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Link of the day

Scientists 100 years ago today

When and where

First Robotics competition for robots built by high school teams, preliminary rounds 9:00 to 11:00 and 1:30 to 4:30 today, finals 9:30 to 11Z:30 and 1:00 to 3:00 Saturday, Physical Activities Complex, spectators welcome.

Blood donor clinic last day, 10 to 4, Student Life Centre, make appointments at turnkey desk.

Financial Econometrics Conference (ninth annual), "Hedge Funds and Associated Risks", Davis Centre room 1302, sponsored by Centre for Advanced Studies in Finance, details and registration online.

TourPlay presents "Charlotte's Web" at 10:00 and 1:30, Humanities Theatre.

UW Food Bank drive for non-perishable food, money, and Zehrs or Sobeys receipts, last day, Student Life Centre (booth with cookies 11:30 to 2:30) and bins across campus.

Blue Mountain ski and snowboard trip organized by Columbia Lake Village, leaving CLV 1:30 p.m., tickets $40 at community centre, everyone welcome.

Renison College presents Jeff Wilson, University of North Carolina, "Mourning the Unborn Dead: Buddhist Post Pregnancy Loss Rituals in North America", 2 p.m., Renison chapel lounge.

Philosophy department "Justice Through the Generations" lecture series by Janna Thompson: "Gratitude and Justice in a Multi-Generational Society", postponed from March 2, now scheduled for today 3:30, Humanities room 373; "Sustainability and Duties" March 30, same time and place.

Brecht-Fest organized by Waterloo Centre for German Studies: lecture 4 p.m. by faculty member Sid Hoefert, at St. Paul’s College, deutsches Büffet, then evening performance of "Caucasian Chalk Circle", tickets $20 (students $10), ext. 3-2260.

Arts Grad Ball from 7 p.m., Waterloo Inn, tickets from Arts Student Union.

Warrior Weekend continues: tonight, Matt DiSero and Jeff Leeson, comedy and magic, Student Life Centre great hall, plus crafts, "Blood Diamond" 11:15 p.m.; Saturday, Wii sports contest, "Pursuit of Happiness" 11:15; details online.

Release party for debut CD by Luke Andrews, Bombshelter pub, doors open 9 p.m., cover $10 includes the CD.

Alumni career planning workshop Saturday 10:00 to 6:00, details online.

Rhythm Dance Festival Saturday and Sunday, Humanities Theatre.

Origami lessons for Columbia Lake Village residents, Saturday 4 p.m., community centre, free.

UW Stage Band spring concert Sunday 2 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College great hall, tickets $10 (students $5).

'HUG-a-thon' Sunday 3 to 6 p.m., Columbia Icefield, details online.

Graduate student information session on bus pass referendum, Monday 10:30 a.m., Graduate House.

UW and Petro-Canada celebration and program announcement, Monday 11:30 a.m., CEIT building foyer.

Render/UW Art Gallery presents Gerald McMaster, Art Gallery of Ontario, "Rethinking Canadian Culture and History", about the reopening of the AGO's Canadian galleries, Monday 4 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

UW senate Monday 4:30 p.m., Needles Hall room 3001.

Environment and Business Conference organized by EB students, Tuesday 8:30 to 4:00; keynote speaker Bob Willard (author of The Sustainability Advantage); panels, exhibitors, workshops; details online.

Accountancy building ground-breaking ceremony Tuesday 11:00 a.m., northeast corner of Hagey Hall.

K-W Academy of Medicine, McMaster University school of medicine, UW school of pharmacy and school of optometry, reception and dinner "to celebrate new opportunities in interprofessional health education", Tuesday, Waterloo Inn, by invitation.

Author Guy Gavriel Kay reads from his work Tuesday 7 p.m., Festival Room, South Campus Hall, free, sponsored by UW bookstore.

Senator Larry Campbell, former coroner and Vancouver mayor, speaks on safe-injection drug centre, Wednesday 4:30, Clarica Auditorium, Lyle Hallman Institute.

Bus pass referendum for undergraduate and graduate students regarding Grand River Transit bus pass and fee, March 28-29.

'Footsteps of Death' walk for Darfur relief, Wednesday 2 p.m. until evening, around ring road from Student Life Centre, information

EMK-Waterloo Nanotechnology workshop: "Why Small Will Be Bigger Than Ever", March 29, Davis Centre, free registration e-mail

[Charie]Judy Charie, undergraduate office, faculty of arts, retirement reception Thursday, March 29, 3:30 to 5:30, University Club, RSVP ext. 3–5782.

Aftab Patla Memorial Hockey Game featuring kinesiology undergraduates vs. grad students and faculty, March 29, 5 p.m., Columbia Icefield. Admission $2, proceeds to UW Well-Fit. Outing to Bombshelter pub follows. Sponsored by Kinesiology Grad Students Association.

UW board of governors spring meeting April 3, 2:30, Needles Hall room 3001.

Faculty association council of representative 2:00, annual general meeting 2:30, Wednesday, April 4, Math and Computer room 4020.

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[Two women pulling on child's arms]

The tug of war over young Michael is a crucial scene in "The Caucasian Chalk Circle", which will have just two more performances as the drama department's major winter production. Drama students Amy Cruickshank and Whitney Allen play the rivals; Michael is Anna McWebb, daughter of Christine McWebb of UW's department of French studies. Performances of the Brecht classic are at 8:00 tonight and tomorrow night in the Theatre of the Arts (tickets 519-888-4908).

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Maclean's reveals student ratings

The "university student issue" of Maclean's magazine started hitting newsstands yesterday — dressed, as it happens, in Waterloo gold, black and red — and revealed that UW ranks fifth in Canada in the satisfaction level reported by first-year students. (For upper-year students, UW came a little lower in the pack, ninth or tenth among 28 institutions.)

Maclean's presents the results of three national student surveys: the National Survey of Student Engagement, the Canadian Undergraduate Survey Consortium, and a survey conducted by Maclean's itself at the few universities that took part in neither NSSE nor CUSC. "Most of these results have never before been made public," says Maclean's, although UW, for one, has extensive NSSE results on its web site.

Says the magazine: "Overall, students at smaller, undergraduate-focused universities say that they are generally more satisfied than students at larger, research-oriented universities. There are exceptions to this trend, with larger research powerhouses such as Queen's, Guelph, Western and Waterloo getting high marks from their students. But on the whole, small schools tend to do much better than larger institutions."

Charts showing the answers to various questions in the three surveys show institutions such as Trent, Nipissing, Mount Allison and St. Francis Xavier ranking high, and the country's largest university, Toronto, near the bottom of the pack.

UW appears only in the NSSE survey, which asked among other things, "How would you evaluate your entire educational experience at this institution?" Among first-year students at UW, 41 per cent said "excellent" and 44 per cent said "good"; nationwide, it was 32 per cent and 52 per cent. Among upper-year students, 36 per cent at UW said "excellent" and 47 "good", compared to 35 and 50 per cent for the country as a whole.

"When asked which areas inside the classroom were most in need of improvement," the magazine reports, "Ontario first-year students chose improving the quality of teaching assistants. Areas outside the classroom they said were most in need of improvement were increasing contact with professors and working toward a better social environment."

Education experts quoted in Maclean's point out that "student satisfaction" is not necessarily the best measure of quality education, since it depends heavily on what expectations the students had when they arrived. Still, UW officials will be pleased to see that Waterloo has avoided some of the dissatisfaction often associated with larger, research-intensive institutions.

The Maclean's survey results are accompanied by feature stories about students on Facebook, sex on campus, and the problems associated with sessional lecturers carrying a large share of teaching duties. There's additional information available on the magazine's web site.

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[Golf ball]Engineer called to evaluate new clubs

from the e-newsletter of UW's faculty of engineering

For John McPhee, the invitation to evaluate all the new golf clubs out this year for Golf Digest magazine was a dream come true. In fact, the Waterloo systems design engineering professor and former Canadian junior golfer originally thought the invitation to the Georgia event from the magazine with a readership of 1.6 million was a hoax. "I was happy to find out it was on the up and up," McPhee says.

[Checking out issue of magazine] He's pictured (left) in the department of kinesiology's gait and posture lab, showing the Hot List issue to Sukhpreet Sandhu, systems design engineering doctoral student, and Willem Petersen, a mechanical engineering master's student on exchange from Germany.

McPhee has always been a golf enthusiast both on and off the course — his first published paper in the 1988 American Journal of Physics was on the aerodynamics and 3D trajectories of golf balls. He got to know MIT professor Kim Blair at a sports engineering workshop and, in turn, Blair recommended McPhee as a technical advisor (scientist) to Golf Digest.

Last October McPhee attended the Hot List Summit at Callaway Gardens in Georgia, to which the magazine's editors invite golfers, golf retailers and technical advisors to evaluate the hundreds of new clubs introduced this year. "The 'scientists' were there to evaluate the manufacturers' claims and to explain the underlying science of the clubs in layperson terms to the editors."

For a golfer, being able to get his hands around brand-new clubs was exciting, but McPhee admits it was hard work. The evening he arrived he was presented with all the manufacturer's specs for new drivers followed by five-inch-thick documents on irons, wedges, putters, hybrids and fairway woods.

"At the end of one day, we managed to go to the driving range with several hundred clubs to test. We then grabbed about 50, threw them into the back of a golf cart and squeezed in 18 holes before dark. I played terribly, but I loved the conversation about the new clubs and their technology."

His own golf bag will be getting a makeover this spring. "I will definitely be upgrading my ancient clubs. I like the new Callaway X-20 irons — and they didn't pay me to say that — but I'm still undecided about the new driver I'll buy."

Since his Hot List experience, McPhee has submitted a conference paper with Sandhu on the biomechanics of the golf swing. He is also supervising an undergraduate student design team that is developing a camera-based swing analysis system recently demonstrated to the golf pro at Waterloo's Grey Silo golf course. As well, he is working with Petersen, the German exchange student, on the modelling of impact between club heads and balls to scientifically evaluate the effects of golf club parameters like moment of inertia and groove design.

A native of Cape Breton, McPhee grew up regularly playing 18 holes of golf in the morning and nine at night and played in the 1978 Canadian Junior Golf Championship. The father of a daughter, seven, and two sons, five and two, he doesn't have a lot of time to golf these days, but expects that to change in the future — his kids are already learning to swing a club.

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Money for Accelerator Centre, and more

At yesterday's special event celebrating the first anniversary of the Accelerator Centre, the Ontario Centres of Excellence announced a $200,000 "investment" to strengthen technology start-up companies in the Waterloo region through Accelerator Centre services. Additional investments will follow in the coming two years, an OCE announcement says. "OCE's investment will expand the mentoring and training opportunities for young firms that are at the heart of the Accelerator Centre's offering. It will also support an inventory of technology developed at the region's research institutions — Conestoga College, the University of Guelph, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University — giving OCE and the Accelerator Centre exceptional insight into commercial opportunities." Says Tom Corr, UW associate vice-president and the new director of the Accelerator Centre: "The bottom line is that because of this investment more area firms will be better positioned to realize their commercial potential. I look forward to working with OCE to build our programs for the future."

Although the main theme of yesterday's provincial budget seems to have been aid to low-income families, finance minister Greg Sorbara had some words about higher education as well. The words include the sum $390 million, but as the Star reports this morning: "About half of the post-secondary funding will help universities address immediate costs, a third will help colleges and universities with infrastructure spending, and the rest will go to training centres. The government also revealed that new funding announced in Monday’s federal budget for post-secondary education will go toward funding the province’s existing $6.2-billion, multi-year plan and won’t supplement its spending. That news, coupled with no new money in the government’s $91.2-billion budget to cut or freeze tuition fees, was a huge disappointment for students, said Joel Duff, Ontario chairman of the Canadian Federation of Students." Details of how the announcement does, or doesn't, affect UW's budgeting are sure to figure in the president's report to the monthly meeting of the university senate, scheduled for Monday.

UW president David Johnston, a proud graduate of Harvard University, is a key speaker at a conference on academic issues and "important initiatives shaping Harvard's future" tomorrow in Toronto. Johnston — a former president of the Board of Overseers of his alma mater — will not only speak during a panel on "The Role of the University in City Building", he'll also introduce the luncheon speaker, Derek Bok, former (and again interim) president of Harvard and author of several major books on the academic world. Other speakers at the conference in the Royal York Hotel include Drew Gilpin Faust, set to take over this summer in the presidential office after a term heading the Radcliffe Institute, and high-profile Liberal Party MP Michael Ignatieff.

As expected, a memo went out from the UW staff association this week, inviting nominations for its 2007-08 executive. As usual, there's need for a president-elect and some directors — six of them this year, from whom, under new rules approved a few months ago, a vice-president, secretary and treasurer will be chosen. In addition, the UWSA is looking for a president for the coming year, since the president-elect, Carrie Howells, resigned a few days ago. "If you are committed and have the enthusiasm to make things better for your fellow staff members, and can assist in maintaining and improving the working environment of one of Canada's best universities, please consider nominating someone for one of the above positions, or seek a nomination for yourself," the yellow memo says. It gives some details, and notes that nominations (with a nominator and two seconders) are due by April 19.

[Black tie and big smiles]UW and its Federation of Students do not recognize fraternities or sororities, but a few such groups have been established around the university anyway, including a branch of the venerable Sigma Chi fraternity. A banquet will be held at Kitchener's Walper Terrace Hotel tomorrow night to mark the 20th anniversary of the Theta Psi chapter of Sigma Chi (left: founders with charter, 1987). A guest will be singer, UW alumnus and ΣX member (there's no such thing as a "former" fraternity brother) Luke Andrews. "The chapter will be celebrating many accomplishments over this past year," member Levi McCulloch reports, "including a leadership conference held last month in which approximately 80 students from universities from across Ontario and Quebec were in attendance."

Curtis Darling, goalie for the men's hockey Warriors, has been named a second-team All-Canadian by Canadian Interuniversity Sport. • The Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel University College, is holding a breakfast seminar today on "The Evolution of the Manager". • Extended exam-time hours for UW's libraries begin Sunday, with the Davis Centre library to be open round the clock (except Sundays 2 to 8 a.m.) from now through April 21, and the Dana Porter Library open from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily.


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