Thursday, January 8, 2009

  • New software at last for alumni data
  • Gallery 'commissions' two more artists
  • Medic describes Forces' field hospital
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

New software at last for alumni data

Dozens of UW staff are joking that they finally have to use a mouse, as ancient keyboard-driven software in the development and alumni affairs office is being replaced with something more up-to-date.

The old Benefactor system, known by its users not-so-affectionately as Ben, “was still character-based, green-screen”, says Dave Kibble of information systems and technology. A product of software firm Datatel, Benefactor has been in use since 1991 to keep records of UW alumni, Campaign Waterloo donors, and other people and data for ODAA.

The three-year process of replacing Benefactor has involved more than 20 IST and ODAA staff members “in a core sense”, and many others in consultations about technical issues and user needs, says Kibble, who’s in charge of central computing systems for a selection of UW’s administrative departments.

He said a request for proposals brought interest from at least 10 software firms, and early in 2007 the contract was given to Blackbaud Inc., based in Charleston, South Carolina, for its software The Raiser’s Edge. (The name puns on “razor’s edge” and reflects a major role of institutional advancement staff as fund-raisers.)

A year and a half of detailed planning followed, Kibble says, as Blackbaud people and UW staff worked on “a lot of configuration” to make the system reflect Waterloo’s needs and terminology. He gives much of the credit to the information systems staff within ODAA, headed by Nigel Henriques.

Among the things that had to be done was designing the way Raiser’s Edge will interact with other UW systems. Alumni files are connected to student files, donor information is connected to financial records, and so on. And the software had to be customized to produce exactly the kinds of reports that UW staff and officials want to see.

By early November, a pilot version of the software was running in ODAA’s offices in South Campus Hall, and staff were getting the training they needed. Kibble notes that some staff members enjoyed an unexpected head start: because Raiser’s Edge is already widely used by nonprofit organizations (Blackbaud claims some 22,000 customers, from tiny arts organizations to Sick Children’s Hospital), a number of people in ODAA had worked with the software at their previous employers. As another way of building on expertise from elsewhere, IT staff at Waterloo were scheduled to have a teleconference yesterday with their counterparts at the Florida State University Foundation, which has also just installed Raiser’s Edge.

Data entry into Benefactor was stopped in mid-November, and Raiser’s Edge officially went live on December 10. Before the Christmas holiday, staff were successfully “processing batches of gift transactions”, Kibble reports.

That takes care of some 70 staff in the central ODAA offices, whose version of Raiser’s Edge runs under Windows right on their desktop computers. (The databases themselves are on an IST server in the Math and Computer building.)

Still to come is installation of a slimmer, web-based version of Raiser’s Edge that will be available to around 60 people outside South Campus Hall, such as advancement staff in the faculties and academic departments. That’ll be in place over the next few weeks.

The new system, replacing one that was close to twenty years old, is a big relief to users, Kibble says. “There was a lot of information people wanted to record that didn’t have a place in Benefactor,” he said. For example, “prospects”, possible future donors, weren’t contemplated when Benefactor’s categories were created.

But there are still things that Raiser’s Edge won’t do — yet. A future improvement is a “document management” function that will allow attachments to database content, such as a clipping about an alumnus’s achievements that can be made part of his or her online file.

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Gallery 'commissions' two more artists

Two new exhibits at Render, the UW art gallery, will be opened today with a reception from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the gallery space in East Campus Hall.

Both exhibits will run through February 14, and both are solo projects: ‘dogswalkme’ by Susan Detwiler and “Twilight of an Empire” by Crystal Mowry. Both, says a news release from the gallery, “continue Render’s strategy of commissioning artists to develop new works through an informal residency program, to critically engage with the history of gallery and museum practice, and to respond to social, cultural and environmental dynamics in the Waterloo Region.

“These new projects are the result of an ongoing dialogue that will continue with Detwiler developing a second site intervention for the University of Waterloo campus in the fall of 2009 and Mowry producing a new work for the atrium of the UW School of Architecture.”

Background about the new shows:

“Susan Detwiler lives in a rural area on the edge of a maple forest. Her art practice is based on her interactions and observations in the surrounding natural environment. For years she has maintained a daily walking practice which takes her through feral field, swamp and woodlot.

“With ‘dogswalkme’, Detwiler continues to explore the terrain at the fringes of development: the farm fields, fallow land and abandoned industrial sites often ignored or left idle within the intense suburban sprawl and urban infill of the region. Detwiler’s valuing of these places as sites of potent personal engagement runs in stark contrast to the dominant definition of land use ‘value’ in the area.

“Working with simple head-cam technology (carried by herself and her dogs) Detwiler’s multi-perspective video records the complex interactions between artist, dogs and the landscape they traverse. The placement of the head-cams frames part of their faces making them appear like peculiar creatures in a strange terrain. There's a magical, otherworldly quality as they manoeuvre through forest, field and quarry with no clear sense of purpose or destination.

[Dog on the periphery]“Detwiler offers a psychogeographic exploration that challenges current land use practice and positions the pace of the body, the cadence of unaided human movement through the landscape, as the critical platform for understanding the immediate environment.” (Left: a video capture from her work.)

Crystal Mowry’s “Twilight of an Empire”, meanwhile, “is inspired by a number of historical accounts of Ota Benga (later known as Otto Bingo), a Congolese Pygmy brought to the United States at the turn of the 20th century with the purpose of being in an anthropological display at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.

“But it was the month of September in 1906 when he lived among the chimps and orangutans in the Bronx Zoo that will always be the most curious part of his story. For that brief month he attracted thousands of visitors to the zoo and incited hot debates about race in America.

“’Twilight of an Empire’ is an open-back diorama comprised of essentially two versions of the same scene, separated by conflicting sight lines. There is the diorama/object version and the live video signal visible on a monitor. Neither the diorama, nor the video stream, aim to provide a factual account of the story. Rather, Mowry hopes to situate viewers somewhere between the lived event and a document.

“’Twilight of an Empire’ is a bit like a set for a film of overlapping moments in history that implicate ideas of savagery and civilization. As with her earlier works, Mowry is interested in the discrepancies between different accounts of historical events, and the room that can be created for uncertainty depending on how the event is framed. Within ‘Twilight of an Empire’ is an unlikely mash-up of architectural structures: a larger Victorian Glass House (inspired in part by a 1905 image of the Atrium at the Bronx Zoo) houses a modernist ‘monkey house’ which borrows characteristics from the architecture of Le Corbusier and a Robinson Crusoe inspired treehouse.”

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Medic describes Forces' field hospital

A former commanding officer of the Canadian Forces field hospital in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-Colonel Jim Kile, will give a public talk tomorrow about how a medical team copes during wartime.

Kile, a UW graduate, will deliver a lecture entitled “Building Trust: A Story of Canada's Field Hospital in Afghanistan”. His talk, followed by a question-and-answer period, is part of a seminar series hosted by the Centre for Knowledge Integration and co-sponsored by the Faculty of Environment.

"These talks feature a wide variety of prominent guest speakers discussing integrative practices and the nature of learning across disciplines," said Ed Jernigan, director of the KI centre. "Speakers tell their story and reflect on the process leading to their achievements, highlighting their experience with creativity, problem solving, communication and collaboration."

As the commanding officer of the field hospital in Kabul, Kile's mission was to provide first-rate care to Canadian and allied soldiers, along with meaningful support to humanitarian operations. A medical doctor with the Canadian Forces since the early 1990s, he served with missions in some of the world's most volatile spots.

He will tell the story of how he and his command team built and maintained an environment of trust within the newly formed hospital. With examples and photos he will illustrate how they handled the many difficult challenges.

Kile holds a Bachelor of Science degree in kinesiology and a Master’s of Science in work physiology from UW. His MD was earned from the University of Toronto. In 2004, Kile was awarded UW's alumni achievement award for applied health sciences in recognition of his academic achievements, humanitarian work and community service.

The event begins at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow in the Clarica Auditorium, Hallman Institute building at the north end of campus. It is open to students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the public.


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The biology department is welcoming its new chair with a potluck lunch today. David Rose arrived January 1 from the department of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto, where he had an office in the Medical Discovery Tower of the MaRS Centre. He's a specialist in enzyme processes on carbohydrates.

Link of the day

Consumer Electronics Show

When and where

Bookstore, UW Shop and TechWorx, South Campus Hall, last day of extended hours for winter term rush, 9:00 to 7:00.

Canada Foundation for Innovation celebration honouring six recipients of Leaders Opportunity Fund research funding, 11:00 a.m., Matthews Hall room 2401, by invitation.

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

Chamber Choir auditions 1:00 to 5:00. Details.

White Coat Ceremony for new pharmacy students 5:00, Humanities Theatre.

Federal minister of state for science and technology and MP for Cambridge, Gary Goodyear, speaking on his portfolio and the political situation in Ottawa, presented by UW Conservatives, 5:00 p.m., Rod Coutts Hall room 307.

Warriors Band first practice of 2009, all welcome, 5:30, Physical Activities Complex room 2012.

Waterloo Public Interest Research Group introductory meeting ("how you can get involved") 5:30 p.m., Environment I courtyard.

FASS auditions continue through Friday 6 to 9 p.m., Humanities room 373. “Live FASS, Die Tomorrow” runs February 5-7. Details.

‘Language as a Complex Dynamic System’ at Renison University College 7:00 p.m.; guest speaker Diane Larsen-Freeman, University of Michigan; details e-mail jpwillia@

Orchestra@UWaterloo first rehearsal 7:00, Ron Eydt Village great hall. Details.

‘Green Computing’ presentation by Anne Grant and Lowell Williamson at weekly information systems and technology professional development seminar, Friday 9 a.m., IST seminar room.

Engineering Jazz Band meeting and first rehearsal (“bring instruments if you can”), Sunday 6:30 p.m., Student Life Centre multipurpose room, information e-mail info@

Club representatives meeting Monday 4:00, Student Life Centre multipurpose room.

‘Networking 101’ career services workshop, January 12 and 26, 4:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Peer leader positions in residence living-learning communities, information meeting, Monday 6 p.m., Student Life Centre multipurpose room, information vlehmann@

‘Back in Business’: Employee Assistance Program present Marilyn Perdue, counselling services, “A Mindful Approach to Ending Chronic Back Pain”, Tuesday 12:00 noon, Davis Centre room 1302.

Mumps immunization clinic organized by Ontario ministry of health, Waterloo Region public health, and UW health services, free, Tuesday 12:00 noon to 6:00 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall. Details.

International student orientation Tuesday 12:30 to 3:10 p.m., Needles Hall room 1116. Details.

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council president Chad Gaffield holds a town hall meeting, all welcome, January 14, 2:30 to 4:00 p.m., Theatre of the Arts.

Student exchanges to Baden-Württemburg (Germany) and Rhône-Alpes (France) for 2009-10, information session Wednesday 3:00, Needles Hall room 1101, information ext. 33999.

Clubs, Services and Society Days with tables and displays in the Student Life Centre great hall, January 15 and 16, 10:00 to 3:00.

Nominating committee for provost: nominations for committee seats due January 16, 3:00 p.m. Details.

Volunteer/Internship Fair with representatives from many agencies, January 21, 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Student Life Centre great hall.

Parents of Grade 10 students invited to an information session about planning for university application, organized by marketing and undergraduate recruitment office, January 21, 6:00 p.m., Theatre of the Arts. Details.

Fee arrangements for winter term: last day January 30.

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