Thursday, May 22, 2008

  • Student helped build Whistler run
  • All the changing scenes of life
  • Other notes in the chilly springtime
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Student helped build Whistler run

by Brandi Cowen, from the Inside Scoop newsletter for co-op students

When the Winter Games arrive in Vancouver in 2010, 3B civil engineering student Michael Chan will be part of the Olympic magic. But Michael won’t be competing in the Games; instead, he’ll be watching world class athletes from around the globe live their dreams at a venue he helped construct. Michael’s last work term was with the Vancouver Organizing Committee, the group responsible for planning and staging the 2010 Olympics. As a Construction Inspector/Junior Civil Engineer, he worked on construction of the Whistler Sliding Centre, where bobsled, luge and skeleton competitions will be held.

“Basically, I would go out to the site, make sure everything was within our specs and check that all the measurements were correct and everything was done right,” Michael explains, outlining his role in the construction process. “Also, I would go and meet with the contractors and make sure everyone was on the same page before we moved on to the next step.”

In addition to his tasks at the construction site, Michael also helped organize a site visit for VIPs. The guest list included British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell and various Olympians from past Games. “I was responsible for ensuring that all safety protocols were followed and ensuring that all the preliminary presentation set-up was complete,” Michael notes.

Despite all the amazing things Michael got to do during the term – including living at one of the world’s premier ski resorts, hobnobbing with gold medalists and working on the side of a mountain with a 25% grade – the most memorable part of the work term springs easily to his mind: “Being able to contribute to Canadian history . . . I’m constructing something that’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, and that’s going to stay with me forever.”

However, if it weren’t for Michael’s determination to land the job and his willingness to negotiate with the employer, his experience with the Vancouver Organizing Committee might have turned out very differently. “Originally, this job was scheduled for a one-year contract,” Michael recalls, “When I was applying to it, I was concerned, but it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.” He decided that he wanted to pursue the position, even if it meant he would graduate a year later than he’d originally planned. But before committing to an extra year of school, Michael discussed the issue with the employer to see if he could negotiate a four month term instead. “They said ‘sure, we can accommodate that’ and got me into the position.”

The lesson Michael learned from this experience is simple: “I don’t think people should ever be afraid of talking to an employer.” Although he won’t be returning for a work term, Michael is planning to return to the site in two years, just in time for the Vancouver Olympics. “I want to see [the Sliding Centre] in action. It’s a really unique opportunity to look at it and say ‘hey, I did that’.”

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All the changing scenes of life

Changes are being made today to the “dialup service” that allows off-campus users to connect to the UW campus computer network through phone lines, getting relatively low bandwidth and low cost. Earlier this spring, the service, which had charged a per-hour connection fee, moved to charging an annual subscription instead. Now, says a memo from information systems and technology, an upgrade “will involve changing the hardware and phone lines for the service, although the associated phone number will not change. The change should be invisible to users, with the possible exception that dialup speeds could be higher afterwards, depending on the user's phone line quality. New maximum connect speed will be 56Kbps.” The service will be out of commission from 10:00 to noon today for the upgrade.

[Shortt]Retirement is coming shortly for one of UW’s best-known staff members: Wayne Shortt (right), who has served as a sergeant and staff sergeant for the university police, and even for a time as acting head of the parking office. To celebrate Shortt’s 21 years of service to the university, there will be a retirement reception (with cash bar) on Thursday, May 29, from 4:00 to 6:00 at the University Club. RSVPs for the event should go to Cathy Mitchell at ext. 33630 by Monday, May 26.

As it does every term, the UW library is holding a series of tours and workshops to help students and researchers use its complicated resources more efficiently. Move fast, and you can get to today's session on "Smart Searching", which starts at 1:30 in the Flex Lab of the Dana Porter Library. ("Avoid the frustration of either finding too many references or absolutely nothing on your topic and improve your research skills. In this hands-on session you will learn search strategies and techniques that can be used when looking for books, journal articles, or searching the internet to help you with your research and assignments.") It'll be repeated on June 11. Other sessions over the days ahead include one on the RefWorks software for keeping track of information and reference, a couple on geographic information systems techniques, and one titled "Google Earth: More Than Imagery". Details are on the library's web site.

A team of nine Waterloo students was first runner-up in the undergraduate category in the recent 2007-08 Hydrogen Student Design Contest in Sacramento, California. Students were challenged to design an airport hydrogen system that would address noise, air pollution and groundwater contamination. A total of 23 teams from around the world registered for the contest, and Waterloo's team was one of five selected as semi-finalists.

The Taekwondo Club is alive and kicking, one might say: “We've relaunched for another semester,” writes accounting student Raymond Lai, “and we're always looking for students who are curious about picking up a martial art. Taekwondo offers a great cardio workout and is a fun way to condition both the lower and upper body. We have focused classes for beginners where they can learn the art with peers of similar experience. Classes are Tuesday and Thursdays (7:30 p.m. for beginners, 8:30 for upper-belts) and Sunday (1:30 for beginners, 2:30 for upper belts).” More information is offered online.

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Other notes in the chilly springtime

UW has about as many women faculty members in some scientific fields as other Canadian universities, but is below the average in others, Susan Leat of the school of optometry reports in the latest issue of the faculty association’s Forum newsletter. “As far as Mechanical, Electrical and Civil Engineering are concerned, we seem to be in the middle of the pack,” says Leat, who has been involved in a subcommittee of the association’s board looking a “equity in hiring” of professors. “In Science and Mathematics we are behind other universities,” she continues. “Of the universities considered, UW has the lowest percentage of female faculty in Biology (13.3%), Chemical Engineering (10.3%), Computer Science (12.8%) and Earth Sciences/Geology (9.5%) and was second lowest in Physics (10.8%) and Chemistry (15.6%). In these areas, we are also not recruiting at the expected rate as compared with the percentage of female PhD students.”

A three-week study-abroad program sponsored by UW’s Renison College has been recognized as one of the official events marking the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Japan. In 1928, the first Japanese Embassy in Ottawa opened. It was followed one year later with the opening of a Canadian Embassy in Tokyo — the first in Asia. A series of events designed to highlight the Japanese-Canadian connection is under way, focusing on arts and culture, business, science and technology, and education. Says a news release: “Kazunori Kawada, Director of the Japan Information Centre, congratulates Renison College on having been selected to take part in the festivities hosted by the Embassy of Japan in Canada.” Participants in East Asian Studies 250, a “language and cultural exchange”, are visiting universities, industry and other sites in Japan between May 12 and June 4.

One way of saving money for UW’s employee health plan, says a memo from the human resources department, is the use of generic drugs. An explanation from the HR web site: “Generic drugs are the same drugs as brand name drugs but cost significantly less. When a drug company discovers a new drug, they are allowed a period of time to sell this drug without generics being allowed to compete. After that time is over, the drug can be manufactured by different companies under different brand names and sold at considerably less cost. Not all drugs have generic equivalents. UW has a mandatory generic drug plan which means that prescription drugs that have generic equivalents will be automatically dispensed. In situations where a medical doctor indicates no substitutions on the prescription or where there are no generic equivalents available, our plan will pay for the brand name drug. However, when you choose the brand name drug as your preference, you will only be reimbursed on the generic equivalent drug cost.”

UW’s manager of records, Carolyn Dirks, sends a reminder that procedures for shredding “confidential” UW records have changed. “To ensure that confidential paper documents are securely and completely destroyed in the most economical manner,” she announced a few weeks ago, “the University has purchased an industrial capacity shredder. Effective May 1, confidential materials will be shredded onsite in a secure area monitored by closed-circuit television cameras. Under normal circumstances, materials will be shredded within 24 hours of pick up by Central Stores. In preparation for the new system, the Shred-It boxes located in a number of University buildings will be removed.” A web page gives details on how to use the new service: pack the materials and call ext. 33935 to get “bright green labels” for the boxes. “At the point of shredding, Central Stores will enter the information from the label into a computer file, enabling them to tell you, if required, exactly when your boxes were shredded. Under normal circumstances, shredding will take place within 24 hours of pick up.”


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Link of the day

'The spiritual new year'

When and where

UW Sustainability Project general volunteer meeting 11:30 and 4:30, Student Life Centre room 3102.

Surplus sale of UW equipment at central stores, East Campus Hall, 12:30 to 2:00 p.m.

John Bullen, university secretariat, retirement open house 4:00 to 6:00, University Club, RSVP ext. 32749.

Career workshop: Basics of Starting a Business 4:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

Book launch and discussion: Robert Paehlke, founding editor of Alternatives journal, published at UW, Some Like It Cold, moderated by present editor Nicola Ross, 5:30 to 7:00, 215 Spadina Avenue, Toronto.

Dropping courses: no-penalty period ends (last day to withdraw with 100 per cent fee refund) is tomorrow, May 23.

Information systems and technology professional development seminar: Matt Erickson, conflict management and human rights office, “Responding to Complaints of Harassment and Discrimination”, Friday 9 a.m., IST seminar room.

Mayor of Cambridge hosts “Transforming TVO for a Digital World” with Lisa de Wilde, CEO of TV Ontario, Friday 10 a.m., Cambridge City Hall, information 519-740-4680 ext. 4623.

Bike Maintenance 101 workshop (bring your own bike) Friday 1:00 to 6:00, Student Life Centre room 101A, $15 deposit, information ext. 84882.

Centre Stage Dance Friday-Saturday, Humanities Theatre.

Waterloo Space Society general meeting Friday 7:00 p.m., Rod Coutts Hall room 308.

CD release event for “Notes Towards”, which includes work by Leonard Enns of Conrad Grebel University College and the DaCapo Chamber Choir, Friday 8 p.m., Music Plus, 5 Michael Street, Kitchener.

You @ Waterloo Day open house for students considering offers of admission from UW, Saturday, displays and booths in Student Life Centre 10:00 to 2:00.

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

Phoenix Lander party as Waterloo Space Society celebrates the meteorological station landing on Mars, Sunday 6:30 to 11:00 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

Career workshop: “Are You Thinking about an International Experience?” Tuesday, May 27, 3:00, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

Centre for Family Business, based at Conrad Grebel University College, gala awards night Thursday, May 29, details online.

UW Board of Governors quarterly meeting Tuesday, June 3, 2:30 p.m., Architecture building, Cambridge.

Conrad Grebel University College Lebold fund-raising banquet, speaker April Yamisaki, Tuesday, June 3, 6:30 p.m., Grebel dining room, information e-mail

Matthews Golf Classic for students, staff, faculty, retirees and friends, Monday, June 16, Grand Valley Golf Course, details online.

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