Wednesday, January 21, 2009

  • Survey asks for comments on web site
  • 'Courage' of distance education grad
  • Lecture tomorrow on world food crisis
  • Parents' information night; other notes
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

Survey asks for comments on web site

A survey this week is asking for users’ opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of UW’s main web site through a short online survey, developed by web consultants Bob Johnson and Gerry McGovern. The goal: "Tell us what helps or hinders you most in achieving what you come to the web site to do."

Kelley Teahen, associate director of communications and public affairs, says the link to the survey, “which only takes a couple of minutes to complete”, has already been sent out to UW alumni through the January alumni e-newsletter, and a similar invitation has gone to a subset of UW students — all those currently listed in terms 3A and 3B. Yesterday, she says, the survey link was sent to faculty and staff members, and the final invitation will go out next week to students who have applied to come to Waterloo for fall 2009. The survey remains open for completion by all those groups throughout the month of January. Each invitation is signed by a UW official; the faculty and staff email comes from Meg Beckel, vice-president (external relations).

“The consultants are running the survey and providing results back to Waterloo free of charge, as the survey is in a testing phase,” says Teahen. Consultant Johnson adds that it is meant “to give ‘top issue’ information only about what are the best (and/or worst) things about an organization's web pages”. Some UW staff may remember Johnson's visit to Waterloo a couple of years ago to give a half-day "Writing Right for the Web" seminar through IST's Skills for the Electronic Workplace program.

Faculty and staff members who were in the first wave receiving the memo yesterday morning may have clicked on the survey link and received a “not valid” message. Teahen says there was a 10-minute outage at Survey Monkey, which is hosting the UW survey, around 9:15 a.m. The site was running smoothly for the rest of the day and should be open without further hitches through to the end of the month.

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'Courage' of distance education grad

by Sheila McConnell, from the Connections newsletter for UW distance education students

This fall, Jennifer Van Acker-Barlow was awarded the J.D. Leslie Prize, and “it could not be given to a better student,” one of her professors recently said.

“Jennifer is a quiet young woman, but her strong focus and her spirit of self-determination are truly remarkable,” says François Paré, the chair and undergraduate advisor for UW’s French Studies department. Paré also teaches several French courses through distance education.

[Young couple]In the year 2000, Van Acker-Barlow (right, with husband Ian) dreamed of pursuing a university education. It was more than ten years since she had entered the classroom and her dream seemed stronger than ever. “I was working as an administrative assistant in an elementary school,” she says. “One of my co-workers, who was an educational assistant, enrolled in UW's Distance Education program. Later in the year, another co-worker enrolled. Their discussions about their courses prompted me to do what I had been considering for years: to pursue a university degree. I started my first course in January 2001.”

She chose Waterloo, not to simply follow the footsteps of her coworkers; she simply wanted to get the best education she could get. “The University of Waterloo is one of the best distance education programs with the widest variety of courses, not to mention a great reputation,” she says — adding that the best is not always the easiest. “My first term as a distance education student was filled with uncertainty. I felt like I was exploring foreign territory as I pored over my assignments and tried to quell my nervousness at the thought of an exam.” She slowly began to see the academic adventure as a way to ‘find her own voice’ and says that this voice not only gave her the courage to express herself, it helped her overcome ‘one of the greatest hurdles of her life.

“My father was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2005,” she says, “and passed away in May 2007. The past few years were very difficult as I did my best to give as much support as possible to my family while working full-time and studying during many of the evenings.”

During these years, she listened to her heart and reached out to her husband, Ian, and her mom, Josephine, to keep her motivated. “They were both very encouraging and patient. I could not have achieved this accomplishment without their constant understanding and support.”

She continued to live with a rare sense of quiet courage while maintaining a connection to her community. “As a volunteer, I spent several years on my church's council, five years on our town's police advisory committee, and five as a member of my work’s school council, ” she says. She also started a chess club a couple of years ago that is enjoyed by several students during winter lunch hours.

Even when times seem tough, she just “kept on persevering” because she knew “the end result would be very satisfying.” And that it was. In spring 2008, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, first class standing, with a major in French. Today she is truly joyous about all her accomplishments and is “simply living in the moment”. She sees her academic journey as a courageous one, but also understands that true courage comes not only from within; it also comes from who those who surround you.

The James D. Leslie Prize is awarded to a graduate who has achieved first-class standing and who has earned at least half of the credits for the degree through distance education courses at UW. The prize is named in honour of James D. Leslie, who conceived and initiated the program, and who as its first director developed it into one of the largest university distance education programs in Canada. Graduates from both Spring and Fall convocations are eligible for the annual award, which is presented at the Fall ceremony.

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Lecture tomorrow on world food crisis

from a news release issued by the UW media relations office

A top scientific adviser to the American government will discuss the global food crisis in a public talk tomorrow. Nina Fedoroff, science and technology adviser to the U.S. Secretary of State and USAID Administrator, will deliver the third annual Arthur J. Carty Lecture. Her talk, "Seeds of a Perfect Storm: The Global Food Security Crisis", takes place Thursday at 3 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre.

"We are honoured to have Dr. Fedoroff as a guest speaker," says Terry McMahon, dean of the faculty of science. "She is a leading geneticist and molecular biologist who has contributed to the development of modern techniques used to study and modify plants."

Fedoroff is the Willaman Professor of Life Sciences and Evan Pugh Professor in the biology department and the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences at the Pennsylvania State University. She has done fundamental research in the molecular biology of plant genes, as well as on how plants adapt to stressful environments, seeking to understand the genetic organization and molecular dynamics of plant stress and hormone responses.

A recipient of numerous awards, Fedoroff has written more than 130 papers and two books. One of her books, Mendel in the Kitchen: A Scientist's View of Genetically Modified Foods, explores the scientific and societal issues surrounding the introduction of genetically modified crops.

Fedoroff is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the European Academy of Sciences. She has served on the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation. She is a 2006 National Medal of Science laureate.

The lectureship is named after Arthur Carty, a former chair of the UW chemistry department who served as president of the National Research Council and the prime minister's National Science Advisor, and who is now back on campus as the executive director of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology. It presents an annual lecture in an area of science or science policy of broad general interest.

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Parents' information night; other notes

The marketing and undergraduate recruitment office is holding an event tonight aimed at an audience it hasn't previously addressed directly: the parents of Grade 10 students. Such students, currently aged about 15, are about to make decisions on their Grade 11 and 12 courses that will affect what university or college programs they're able to apply to for September 2011. "The evening," says Julie Kalbfleisch of MUR, "will help answer parents' questions about planning for your son's or daughter's university application process." The agenda includes some words about "student engagement, helping your son or daughter choose the right program for future success" as well as admission requirements and application information, "budgeting for your child's future", and "your child's personal portfolio — building experience now for a better resumé later". Close to 100 parents have preregistered, says Kalbfleisch, and there's plenty of room for more, as the event is being held in the Theatre of the Arts, from 6:00 to 8:00. Details are online.

Meanwhile, a “volunteer/internship fair” will run from 11:00 to 2:30 today in the great hall of the Student Life Centre. Says UW’s career services office, which is coordinating the multitude of agencies involved: “Come and visit with representatives from a variety of agencies to find out about volunteer opportunities. Agencies that work with children, health issues, seniors, arts and many more interest groups will be available to discuss volunteer opportunities. Also, talk with representatives about opportunities that may include: administrative work, event planning/ fundraising, marketing, boards and committees, special events and recreation — just to name a few. You may have the opportunity to be interviewed by some agencies. Volunteering is a good investment with big results. Not only do you contribute to building a better community, but you also benefit by enhancing your career development; increasing your personal development; getting practical experience; honing your skills while unemployed; connecting with your community and network; strengthening your resumé.” Participants in the fair include Big Brothers and Big Sisters, the Sexual Assault Centre, Sustainable Waterloo, the Children’s Museum, K-W Right to Life, and so on and so on.

The Centre for Teaching Excellence is running a three-hour session today on "Designing Courses with Strong Teaching-Research Links", led by Rachel Spronken-Smith of New Zealand. It starts at 1:00 in Dana Porter Library room 428. Says an abstract from CTE: "Teaching-research links can be manifest in three ways: teaching and learning from research, about research and through research. This workshop will explore each of these ways to strengthen teaching-research links by aligning the desired learning outcomes with appropriate teaching methods and assessment. The session will be relevant to faculty and teaching staff from a range of disciplines. Rachel Spronken-Smith comes to us from the University of Otago, where she is Senior Lecturer in the Higher Education Development Centre while continuing to teach and publish in her native Geography and Environmental Studies."

[Cupcakes]And . . . I know the mention of chocolate gets a lot of people's immediate attention, so heed this message from Krishna Mistry of UW's development office: "The Keystone Campaign treat-a-gram program is running again this February. This will be the last year that the treat-a-grams will consist of two chocolate brownie cupcakes with chocolate icing and gold decor (left). To mark the start of this year's program, 50 early treats will be delivered to randomly selected people across campus on Thursday." Then, organizers will be taking orders for delivery across campus on February 12, at a price of $3. ("Originally slated for delivery on Friday, February 13, the treats will now be delivered on February 12 to ensure that individuals taking extra long weekends due to Family Day can participate.") Order forms will be arriving in the campus mail tomorrow, and are also available online.


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Link of the day

Today in classical music

When and where

Electrical and computer engineering student design project symposium, Davis Centre great hall. Details.

Waterloo Lutheran Seminary presents David Seljak, St. Jerome’s University, “Religion and Ethnicity in Canada”, 10 a.m., Seminary chapel, WLU campus.

Free noon concert: Ben Bolt-Martin, “Music for Cello Alone”, 12:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel UC chapel.

Fine arts professor David Blatherwick speaks about his painting (“Cheese, Worms and the Holes in Everything”) 1:00, East Campus Hall room 1219.

Café-rencontre du département d’études françaises: Nicolas Xanthos, Université du Québec à Chicoutimi, “Le roman d’enquête contemporain,” 14h30, Tatham Centre salle 2218.

Computational mathematics master’s program, information session 4:30 p.m., Math and Computer room 5158.

Manulife employer information session with presentations by students who have worked there, 5:30, Math and Computer room 4058.

‘Understanding Low Back Pain’ Lifestyle Learning session 5:30 p.m., boardroom of TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard.

President’s New Year’s Luncheon for tenants in the Research and Technology Park, Thursday 11:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., TechTown, 340 Hagey Boulevard, remarks 12:15, raffle prizes to support R+T Park Tenants Fund at KWCF.

Computer Science Club presents Joel Solsky, software developer, “Computer Science Education and the Software Industry” Thursday 12:00, Math and Computer room 5136.

‘Law School Bound’ workshop organized by Career Services, Thursday 12:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1208, followed by ‘Preparing for the LSAT’ 1:30 p.m. Details.

‘Teaching English Abroad’ workshop organized by Career Services, Thursday 2:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 1208. Details.

Independent studies thesis project presentation (“formal game design including board games”) by Orin Bishop, opportunity to play original games, Thursday 3:00, Modern Languages room 104.

German film series: “Triumph of the Will” (1934), Thursday 6:00, East Campus Hall room 1220.

Faculty of Arts presents Anne-Marie Zajdliki, Masai Centre for Local, Regional and Global Health, “A Canadian Physician’s Dream for Africa” Thursday 7:00, Humanities Theatre, tickets $10 at Humanities box office.

Warrior men’s hockey at Laurier, Thursday 7:30 p.m.

Last day to drop courses with 100 per cent fee refund; drop, no penalty period ends, January 23.

International Olympiad of Informatics, to be held at UW in August 2010, launch celebration Friday 1:30 p.m., Davis Centre. Details.

Federation of Students election nominations close Friday; all-candidates meeting at 4 p.m., Student Life Centre multipurpose room. Campaign runs January 27 through February 9; polling February 10-12.

‘Medical School Interviews’ career workshop Saturday 12:30 p.m., Tatham Centre room 2218. Details.

Education Credit Union seminar on “Tax-Free Savings Accounts and Your RRSP” Tuesday, January 27, 12:15 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Employer interviews for spring co-op work term begin January 29.

QPR suicide prevention training sessions Thursday, January 29, and Monday, February 23, 11:30 to 1:00, Math and Computer room 4068, register with counselling services, ext. 33528.

Infusion Angels Innovation Centre present “Independents Day”: “mingle with fellow gamers, industry leaders, and explore the gaming world,” information about entrepreneurship, prizes, food, Thursday, January 29, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m., Federation Hall, register by e-mail: events@

Fee arrangements for winter term: last day January 30.

UW board of governors meets Tuesday, February 3, 2:30 p.m. (Pre-meeting briefing on academic progress, 1:15 p.m.)

The Three Cantors benefit concert celebrating 10th anniversary of the School of Social Work, Renison University College, Tuesday, February 3, 7:30 p.m., St. John the Evangelist church, Kitchener, tickets $25 (students $20), information ext. 28644.

Job Fair 2009 sponsored by UW and other post-secondary institutions, Wednesday, February 4, 10:00 to 3:30, RIM Park, Waterloo. Details.

Student drama production February 5-14 in Studio 180, Humanities building, details to be announced.

Chilly Dog Run (or walk) around the ring road, sponsored by Moods Assistance Through Educational Support, Saturday, February 7, depart from Student Life Centre 10:30 a.m. Chili follows.

Positions available

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

• Director, employment relations (core accounts), co-operative education and career services, USG 17
• Director, employment relations (integrated and international accounts), co-operative education and career services, USG 17

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