Wednesday, April 16, 2008

  • A $500,000 flutter on gambling
  • Health forum and lecture planned
  • Heard on the spring breezes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

A $500,000 flutter on gambling

by Angela Roorda, faculty of arts

Buoyed by a $500,000 “Emerging Team Award” from the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, a new group dubbed the “Waterloo Emerging Team” is set to begin a five-year program to investigate problematic features of video slot machine design. The team’s launch will take place on Friday at a talk given by Robert Simpson, CEO of the provincial agency. The OPGRC is a provincially-funded granting organization that promotes research into the causes, prevention, and treatment of problem gambling. In his talk, Simpson will discuss the issue of problem gambling, the OPGRC mandate, and UW’s research role.

The “Waterloo Emerging Team” is a multi-disciplinary group in the Faculty of Arts headed by Kevin Harrigan of the Canadian Centre of Arts and Technology. Team members include Glenn Stillar, David Goodwin and Jill Tomasson Goodwin, all associated with CCAT, and Mike Dixon of the psychology department. The team will examine elements of video slot machine design that may pose a risk of turning recreational gamblers into problem gamblers.

"Current Ontario gaming regulations allow many slot machine programming features that, in actual play, are not transparent to gamblers,” explains Kevin Harrigan. “For example, the intentional programming of 'near misses,' which misrepresent the game outcome by making it appear that a player was 'close' to a win, may lead a player to form erroneous cognitions, a key risk factor for problem gambling. Our team's goal is to provide a research base from which regulators can make informed decisions regarding which slot machine design features are acceptable — and which can be shown to correlate strongly with problem gambling behaviour.”

The “Waterloo Emerging Team” will begin its investigation with a study of “near misses,” their frequency, and their impact, both physiologically and psychologically, on users. This will be followed by an examination of a series of other slot machine design features that may also serve to trigger or exacerbate problem gambling. The team will use a wide range of research methods to conduct this study, including multi-media analysis and experience-design testing.

Robert Simpson’s talk, and the UW Team launch, will take place on Friday from 2:30 to 4:00 in Tatham Centre room 2218. All are welcome.

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Health forum and lecture planned

from the UW media relations office

Better building designs can result in better health, says a public health physician and health promotion consultant who will deliver a Hallman Community Lecture on Thursday afternoon. Trevor Hancock, described as among the 10 best health futurists in the world, will give a public talk entitled "It's The People, Stupid! Reflections on the Impact and Ethics of Designing Built Environments as if People Mattered".

The community lecture, part of the Healthy Communities Knowledge Exchange Forum, takes place at 3 p.m. on Thursday in the CEIT building room 1015. Admission is free, but people are asked to preregister online.

The two-day forum, which takes place all day Thursday and Friday morning, is hosted by UW's faculties of applied health sciences and environmental studies. It will bring together more than 100 professionals for an exchange of action-oriented knowledge aimed at making local communities healthier. Sessions will focus on walkable communities, community design, community connections, community growth and healthy food access. The participants represent public health and planning professions, community-based agencies and local academic institutions.

"The forum brings together an impressive group of agencies and people from across the region to focus on the future of our local communities," says organizer Troy Glover. "As reflected in the sponsors and participants, the forum is special because of its social relevance to a wide variety of stakeholders, which represents a growing coalition dedicated to making our local communities healthier."

In his talk, Hancock will focus attention on the health impacts of the design professions, from the people who design door handles to those who plan buildings and cities. He has worked for local communities, municipal, provincial and national governments, health care organizations and the World Health Organization.

"The most important outcome measure of a built environment is its impact on the health, well-being, quality of life and ultimately the level of human development of those who live, learn, work or play in those environments," Hancock says. "Good design can lead to good health but equally, poor design can lead to poor health." He stresses that the design professions should share with the health professions the ethical duty to do no harm — to improve the health, well-being and quality of life of those who live in the built environments they design.

In his presentation, Hancock will explore the implications of his perspective for the design professions, as well as for the colleges and universities that train professionals and do research on built environments. He will also look at the implications for the public and private sector organizations that employ design professionals and for the people who end up living, learning, working and playing in the environments they design.

Hancock is a public health consultant for British Columbia's provincial government. His research interests include health promotion, healthy cities and communities, healthy public policy, environmental health, health policy and planning and health futurism.

The forum is being presented by UW's Healthy Communities Research Network and the Waterloo Region Healthy Communities Coalition. The event is also sponsored by the Public Health Agency of Canada and Waterloo Region Public Health.

"Waterloo Region Public Health is pleased to be a co-sponsor for the Healthy Communities Knowledge Exchange," says Katherine Pigott, manager of healthy communities and policy for the public health branch. "The way we plan and build our towns and cities can transform our lives for the better by improving our physical health and the way we relate to our neighbours and fellow residents. We're looking forward to a stimulating exchange of ideas among academics, practitioners and citizens. We're also excited about finding ways we can work together in the future so we can plan and design our communities so we want to live in them for the rest of our lives."

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Heard on the spring breezes

Winter term exams continue, the libraries are open on the usual extended schedule (that means 24 hours a day at the Davis Centre, 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. at Dana Porter), and the notes on Facebook are starting to have an apocalyptic tone. Says one of them: “This is probably my last school term in Waterloo, and as usual my birthday coincides with exams. I would like to throw a party that will be huge and awesome. There is so much to celebrate: end of finals, end of the term, end of undergrad (for many of us). . . .”

But other students will be coming back to campus either in the spring term (classes start May 5) or in September, following a “summer job” or co-op work term. “The current employment statistics for spring 2008,” says a memo from the co-operative education and career services department, “show 4,108 students scheduled for co-op work terms.” The main round of employer matches in mid-March put just short of 60 per cent of them into jobs, and statistics should be along pretty soon indicating how many more found jobs during the past month of postings and interviews. “Final employment rates in spring terms over the past few years have been in the mid-90s,” writes CECS director Peggy Jarvie, “reflecting the higher level of competition from other co-op programs and regular students.”

The university secretariat has announced the results of a recent election in which undergraduate students chose one of their at-large representatives to the UW senate. Aswin Alexander of engineering drew 624 votes, with 210 going to Gagandeep Pabla of mathematics, and 234 declined electronic ballots. Alexander will join the ranks of student senators as of May 1, to serve until April 30, 2010.

A pair of back-to-back workshops organized by the Waterloo Institute for Health Informatics Research got under way yesterday: an evening and a day on “risk and opportunity” in eHealth (“privacy, security, safety, project and business risk management”) and then an evening and a day on health privacy. Leading both events is Brendan Seaton, “Canada’s leading authority” according to WIHIR. Sessions will be held in the conference room of the Centre for Environmental and Information Technology: “If lost,” the WIHIR web site tells participants, “ask people to direct you to the building with all the dinosaurs!”

The latest note to appear on the UW Opinion web site is a thank-you to Katrina Di Gravio, of the office of organizational and human development, for putting together the recent two-day “staff conference”. • A one-day “Introduction to Financial Accounting” will be offered Friday by UW’s continuing education department. • Tickets are still available ($2 at the Humanities box office) for the keynote talk at UW’s Graduate Student Research Conference, to be given next Monday afternoon by new faculty member Thomas Homer-Dixon.

Organizers are expecting interesting things at a noontime brown-bag session tomorrow, sponsored by the Employee Assistance Program. The speaker is Michele Dunsford, who recently joined the UW police service after a career with the Peel Regional Police. Her topic: “Are You Following Me?” Says Dunsford: “In today’s world, people are able to profile and stalk others without leaving the comfort of their own homes. Have you left yourself exposed to unwanted attention, invasion of privacy, identity theft, and serial daters? Are you able to assess the risk that potential dates may pose? Are people who they say they are on the Internet?” She’s promising “dynamic simulations” as well as some first-hand information; the session starts at 12:00 tomorrow in Davis Centre room 1304.

Three writers for the student newspaper Imprint were honoured the other day as the Ontario Community Newspaper Association handed out its annual “Better Newspapers” prizes, including the category for student news writing. Andrew Abela was the first-place winner; editor Maggie Clark (who’s also making a reputation for her thoughtful editorials on student newspapering, week after week) placed third; and Suzanne Gardner received an honourable mention.

The UW Shop is discounting a wide selection of clothing and gifts this week, clearing out the inventory “to make room for new things coming in for the spring”, as Kathryn King of retail services explains. • The Warrior football team will be represented by defensive back Patrick McGarry and receivers Joshua Svec and Sean Cowie in the sixth annual East-West Bowl game, to be played May 10 in Hamilton. • Rogers Communications sends word that "to take the hassle out of moving for students", they'll be giving away 3,000 free moving boxes at the University Plaza and Campus Court retail malls tomorrow and Friday, first come first served.


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Link of the day

Moment of laughter

When and where

Mathematics contests for high school students: Fryer (grade 9), Galois (grade 10) and Hypatia (grade 11), today; Gauss (grades 7 and 8), May 14; details online.

Inventory Clearance Sale outside UW bookstore, South Campus Hall, last day.

Dance auditions for new initiative to be filmed in early May, today 1:30 to 3:00 p.m. and Thursday 10:30 to 11:30 p.m., Village I great hall, information e-mail

Pat Cunningham, faculty of mathematics, retirement party 3:00 to 5:00, Davis Centre lounge, RSVP

‘Common Exercise Mistakes’ lunch-and-learn session 5:30 p.m., boardroom at TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard.

Engineering alumni reception during Society of Automotive Engineers world congress in Detroit, 5:30 to 8:00, "Sweet Lorraine's Café and Bar".

‘Communication in Creative Leadership’ workshop at Conrad Grebel University College, Thursday, 8:30 to 4:30, details online.

Terpsichore Dance Competition Thursday, Humanities Theatre.

International spouses group potluck lunch Thursday 12:45 p.m., Columbia Lake Village community centre, bring food and utensils, information e-mail

Chemical engineering seminar: Allan Hatton, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Functionalized Magnetic Nanoparticles for Chemical and Biochemical Processing”, Thursday 11:30 a.m., Doug Wright Engineering room 2529.

Former president of India A. P. J. Abdul Kalam speaks on “Canada and India: Partnership in Global Development”, Thursday 12:00, Theatre of the Arts, registration now closed lecture available by webcast.

44th annual used book sale sponsored by Canadian Federation of University Women, Friday (9:00 to 9:00) and Saturday (9:00 to 1:00), First United Church, King and William Streets; book dropoff information online.

Synergy “urban design intervention” by architecture students, opening Friday 4 to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 12 noon, Main and Ainslie Streets, Cambridge, exhibition continues through May 4.

Going Green workshop series sponsored by Grand House student co-op: “Urban Gardening, Growing Healthy Food” April 19, “Making Concrete Countertops” April 26, details online.

Beethoven Lecture Series: Cecile Monique Michniewicz, music student, “The Psychology of Beethoven”, Tuesday 1:00 to 3:00, and “The Philosophy”, Wednesday 1:00 to 3:00, Conrad Grebel University College room 1302, all welcome, refreshments.

School of Pharmacy presents Robert S. Langer, MIT, “Advances in Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering”, Tuesday 1:30, Math and Computer room 2065, reception follows.

Permanent residence in Canada: speaker from Canada’s Consulate-General in Buffalo, sponsored by new faculty recruitment office and Waterloo International, Thursday, April 24, 2:00 to 5:00 p.m., Arts Lecture Hall room 116, register online.

UW alumni in Hamilton networking reception Thursday, April 24, 6:30 to 8:30, Canadian Warplane Heritage, details online.

Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry and Biochemistry annual general meeting Friday, April 25, 1:00 p.m., CEIT room 1015; seminar, “Small Contributions to the Emerging Field of Sulfenic Acid Anion Chemistry”, by Adrian Schwan, University of Guelph, 3:00, then graduate student poster session and award presentations.

Fee payment deadline for the spring term is April 28 (cheque, money order, promissory note) or May 1 (bank payment or international wire transfer), details online.

Fire drills on main campus Tuesday, April 29, schedule to be announced.

‘The (Long) Tail of Waterloo Region’ leadership conference sponsored by Communitech, Thursday, May 1, details and registration online.

Learning about Teaching annual symposium May 12-14, details online, including Presidents’ Colloquium Monday May 12, 2:00, Humanities Theatre: Marilla Svinicki, University of Texas at Austin, “Changing Students’ Attitudes about Who’s Responsible for Learning,” reception follows, all welcome.

Spring into Song fundraiser for UW Well-Fit, with the Twin City Harmonizers and Grand Harmony, Sunday, May 25, 2 p.m., Humanities Theatre, details online.

Positions available

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

• Student services assistant, applied health sciences, USG 5
• Financial aid systems analyst, registrar's office, USG 7/8
• Pension information analyst, human resources, USG 7
• Coordinator of graduate studies and research, school of architecture, USG 6
• Information systems specialist, information systems and technology, USG 9-12
• Administrative assistant to associate dean, arts undergraduate office, USG 5
• Undergraduate advisor/coordinator, electrical engineering, E&CE, USG 5
• Library associate, library, Davis Centre, USG 6

Longer descriptions are available on the HR web site.

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