Wednesday, April 15, 2009

  • 'Hectic' co-op jobs at Queen's Park
  • Web site aimed at immigrants to K-W
  • And now, the rest of the story
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

'Hectic' co-op jobs at Queen's Park

from an article by Adrienne Raw in the Inside Scoop newsletter for co-op students

Sitting in the heart of downtown Toronto is Queen’s Park, home of the three political parties that make up the Ontario government and, this past term, of more than one UW co-op student. Third-year students Cole Atlin and Daphne Liu spent the four months of their fall 2008 work terms with political parties; Liu spent her term with the Liberal caucus, while Atlin spent hers with the NDP.

[Liu][Atlin]“My job title,” says Liu (right), “is Communications Assistant for the Liberal Caucus Services Bureau in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, which entails a variety of tasks that range from helping out with the website to collecting and transcribing press statements from opposition members.”

Atlin (left) spent much of her day doing similar work — recording and reporting what government MPPs have said and what the general climate of the Press Gallery is, which informs NDP leader Howard Hampton of what he might be questioned about later in the day.

In addition to their media work, both Atlin and Liu have worked on other projects. One of Liu’s major projects of the term was updating the Liberal website, including new templates, banners, icons, and layouts. Atlin’s work included writing speeches — one of which, a speech on Women’s History Month for MPP France Gelinas, was the subject of an article by columnist Jim Coyle — and research for campaigns and party policy.

Liu, an Honours Applied Economics student, chose to work with the Legislative Assembly because, she says, “I was interested in seeing more of the political side of economics.” Atlin, who is doing joint honours in Environment and Resource Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies, also chose this job to expand her political horizons. “I’ve always been interested in politics,” she says, “and when I saw the position available on JobMine, I threw my resumé in. It had a large applicant pool and I didn’t think I had a chance. But then, I got the interview!”

A developing interest in politics is one trait that both Liu and Atlin have discovered while working with the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. “I think the biggest thing I took away from this work term is just the knowledge about the importance of politics in our everyday life,” Liu says. “To be honest, before this placement I had little interest in political science; however, after seeing how much impact government has on my life, it makes me want to be more informed and involved with current issues.”

Atlin calls herself “a political junkie” and reports: “The most rewarding part of the job was knowing that every day, you are going to work trying to make the world a better place.”

So what is it like working in the provincial legislature? “Hectic and fast,” says Atlin. “If you stop moving, you’ll be trampled. Either you love the environment or you absolutely despise it. I love it.”

Liu focuses on the people that defined the experience. “The environment is generally a friendly one, where everyone is very social and most people have a good sense of humour.”

Both say they have learned that politicians are just people and that the legislature really isn’t that different than any other business: there are still rumours and funny stories, long days and hard work, colleagues and friends. “This term has been an incredible experience,” says Atlin, “and, in retrospect, I am so happy I chose Waterloo so that I could experience life at Queen’s Park.”

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Web site aimed at immigrants to K-W

by Steve Smith, department of recreation and leisure studies

Winter, health cards, bus routes, unemployment, Canadian currency, childcare, housing, education — all these and more are familiar to long-time Waterloo Region residents but can be utterly baffling to a new immigrant or refugee. Although it has been decades since I immigrated into Canada from the US to accept a position at UW, I recall my bewilderment at Canadian customs, traditions, laws, and regulations. For potential immigrants from developing economies, even the process of deciding where in Canada to settle can be overwhelming.

While federal and provincial governments offer information sources for potential immigrants, these do not provide sufficient detail about individual communities. Nor do they offer the practical advice newcomers need to begin the long process of becoming settled in their new community. There are numerous local organizations that can help newcomers, but unless someone already knows who they are and what services they provide, immigrants may not know how to reach out to them. A better way of reaching newcomers and potential newcomers has long been needed.

Local employers also continue to struggle to attract highly skilled workers. While the current recession has softened the job market, jobs for persons with specialized skills remain unfilled. Further, the recession will not last forever. The Region needs to ensure its reputation as a place that is welcoming to attract skilled workers and entrepreneurs who will create new businesses. At the same time, it is essential that potential immigrants have a realistic understanding of the Region and do not come with unachievable expectations.

Recognizing these needs, the Waterloo Region Immigrant Employment Network (WRIEN), the Region of Waterloo, and the Waterloo Public Library, in partnership with the federal and provincial governments as well as numerous local agencies, collaborated to create a newcomers’ information portal for Waterloo Region. The site serves three groups: those considering immigrating to Canada, immigrants in Canada considering relocating, and immigrants and refugees already in the Region.

It was recognized at the outset that the content of the portal should be decided by the needs of immigrants and refugees themselves. To collect this information, I was approached by WRIEN and the Region of Waterloo to facilitate a series of focus groups with newcomers as well as potential employers. They came to me because of my previous focus group experience and my ability to tap into a network of recent immigrants. I have personal contacts with local immigrant groups and an extensive network of current and former international students.

Every person I invited to participate was excited about the project. Those who had been in the Region for only a few weeks saw this as a chance to learn more Waterloo. Those who had been here longer (up to three years) were eager to share their experiences so other newcomers could benefit from their insights.

We began by identifying basic types of information needed by newcomers. Over the next several months, we explored alternative architectures for the portal, various graphic designs and templates, and finally, communication strategies to publicize the portal. I also held a session with potential employers to identify their hopes for the portal and how they saw themselves working with the portal to reach out to newcomers.

The portal was launched earlier this month, and has already been well-received by the immigrant community. Other community agencies and employers also welcome this as a new tool to better reach the newest residents of the Region.

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And now, the rest of the story

Says a memo from Sean Van Koughnett, director of UW’s VeloCity high-tech incubator residence: “To help move VeloCity forward, I am pleased to announce the appointment of two new Associate Directors on one-year secondments from their current roles within UW. Virginia McLellan joins VeloCity starting June 1 from her current role as Assistant Director, International Marketing and Recruitment. Since 2001, Virginia has served UW as a key member of the Marketing & Undergraduate Recruitment team in international marketing and recruitment. Virginia’s marketing expertise, relationship building skills and knowledge of UW make her ideally suited to help attract the students and partners that will enable VeloCity to thrive. Jesse Rodgers is currently the User Experience Lead in IST’s Special Projects group and was previously the Web Communications Manager in Communications & Public Affairs and President of the Staff Association in 2007-08. Jesse also organizes Barcamp Waterloo, events that focus on start-up business issues and technology. Jesse will be transitioning to VeloCity over the Spring term. Jesse’s passion for, and knowledge of technology and his involvement within the entrepreneurial community will enable him to guide VeloCity students and build the VeloCity community on and off campus.”

Arts has become the first faculty to announce its valedictorians for June’s convocation ceremonies. Victoria Simpson, graduating in speech communication, arts and business will speak at the morning ceremony on Thursday, June 11, and Catherine Johns Ruta, of legal studies, at the afternoon ceremony the same day. There will be a total of eight sessions of UW’s Ninety-Eighth Convocation, June 10 through 13.

Margarida Fontes, a housekeeper in Ron Eydt Village who had been with UW since September 1996, retired as of April 1. • Retail services (the bookstore, UW Shop and Campus TechShop) are running a promotion for the month of April in which anybody who orders something online, using a UW 31-digit account number, is entered in a draw for a gift card or high-tech hardware. • Alternatives Journal, published from UW’s faculty of environment, is looking to hire an assistant editor; it’s a full-time job.

The engineering faculty’s online newsletter reports that Miguel Anjos, of the department of management sciences, “has received a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers to support his work in the development of mathematical optimization models and algorithms for a class of problems in science and engineering known as the maximum-k-cut problems. The fellowship allows foreign researchers to carry out long-term projects with German colleagues. Anjos’s project involves his Waterloo research group and two groups at the University of Cologne.”

A University of Toronto e-newsletter reports that a hockey team from Toronto’s faculty of pharmacy faced a team from the UW pharmacy school in a game sponsored by the Ontario Pharmacists’ Association the other day and (oops) won. • A draw for a gift basket, organized by staff in the UW finance office, raised some $200 for the Adopt-a-Family program last week, and Christine Knarr of the accounts payable office in East Campus Hall was the draw winner. • Online security experts warn that users who type carelessly could find themselves connecting to the server “”, with an extra O on the end of Waterloo, where usernames and passwords could fall into the hands of fraudsters.


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Link of the day

Serious fire at WLU

Voting ends tonight

Online voting to fill four seats on UW's senate (one faculty, one undergraduate, two graduate) and two seats on the board of governors (staff) continues until tonight at 8:00. Details appeared in Monday's Daily Bulletin.

When and where

Winter term examinations continue through April 24. Unofficial winter term grades appear in Quest beginning April 27. Grades become official May 25.

Inventory clearance book sale outside UW bookstore, South Campus Hall, last day, 9:30 to 4:30.

UW Book Club. Coraline by Neil Gaiman, 12:05 p.m., Dana Porter Library room 407. Details.

Columbia Lake Health Club “lifestyle learning” session: “Foundation of Health” by Sports Nutrition Depot, 5:30 p.m., 340 Hagey Boulevard.

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

UW-ACE instructor user group Thursday 1:30, Flex lab, Dana Porter Library. Details.

Green Energy Forum sponsored by Alternatives Journal, Thursday 6:30 p.m., Kitchener Public Library main branch.

Grant-writing workshop with Nicolas Germain, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Friday 9:00, Needles Hall room 1116; individual appointments available afterwards; RSVP uwsshrc@

Pharmacy building community open house Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 10 Victoria Street South, all welcome. (Official opening ceremony, by invitation, Friday.)

Warrior rugby clinic for boys and girls grades 9 to 12, Saturday 10:00 to 3:00, Columbia fields, cost $45. Details.

Conrad Grebel University College Convocation Sunday 2:00, Theatre of the Arts.

QPR suicide prevention presentation Monday 11:30 to 1:00, Math and Computer room 4068, register ext. 33528.

Friends of the Library Lecture by Prem Watsa, chancellor-designate of the university, Monday 12:00 noon, Theatre of the Arts.

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

Alumni in London, Ontario: networking event April 21, 6:00, Aroma Mediterranean Restaurant. Details.

UW Retirees Association spring luncheon Wednesday, April 22, 11:30 a.m., Luther Village, speaker Mike Sharratt (department of kinesiology) on “Optimal Aging for Older Adults”, tickets $25, information 519-885-4758.

Smarter health seminar: Neil Gardner, Saskatchewan Health, “Advancing Health Informatics as a Profession” April 22, 3:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

St. Jerome’s University presents “Beyond the Barriers: A Community Forum on Healthcare in a Multicultural City”, April 22, 7:00 p.m., St. Mary’s Hospital.

Public forum on the Middle East April 22, 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel UC great hall.

Alumni in London, UK: networking reception April 23, 6:00 p.m., Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill. Details.

Graduate Student Research Conference April 27-30, Davis Centre. Details. Keynote address: Howard Burton, former executive director of Perimeter Institute, “First Principles: The Crazy Business of Doing Serious Science”, April 28, 1:30 p.m., Davis room 1350, all welcome.

Fee payment deadline for the spring term: April 27 (cheque, money order or fee arrangements), April 30 (bank transfer). Details.

UW-ACE system will be down April 28, 6:30 a.m., to April 29, 12:00 noon.

K-W Symphony “Fearless Piano”, soloist Eve Egoyan, April 30, 7:30 p.m., Humanities Theatre.

PhD oral defences

Electrical and computer engineering. Andrew Robert Rae, “Augmenting Vehicle Localization with Visual Context.” Supervisor, Otman Basir. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Friday, April 24, 10:00 a.m., CEIT building room 3142.

Computer science. Thomas Richard Lynam, “Spam Filter Improvement Through Measurement.” Supervisor, Gordon Cormack. On display in the faculty of mathematics, MC 5090. Oral defence Friday, April 24, 10:30 a.m., Davis Centre room 2314.

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering. Babak Ebrahimi, “Development of Hybrid Electromagnetic Dampers for Vehicle Suspension Systems.” Supervisors, M. B. Khamesee and Farid M. Golnaraghi. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Monday, April 27, 10:00 a.m., Engineering III room 4117.

Mechanical and mechatronics engineering. Mohammad Amin Eshraghi, “Consistent Formulation of Large Strain Elastoplasticity: Lagrangian and Eulerian Frameworks.” Supervisors, Hamid Jahed and Steve Lambert. On display in the faculty of engineering, PHY 3004. Oral defence Thursday, April 30, 9:00 a.m., Engineering II room 2354F.

Positions available

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

• Technical curator, biology, USG 7
• Director, operations, co-operative education and career services, USG 15
• Freelance writers, office of research (time commitments vary)

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin