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Monday, January 24, 2011

  • Student ‘engagement’ survey about to begin
  • Former dean mourned; other notes
  • Ontario seeks to make transfers easier
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs

The dean of environment, Mark Seasons, was caught up in the spirit of the event at Friday afternoon's official opening of the Summit Centre for the Environment in Huntsville, Ontario. As well as speeches and tours, the event included a panel discussion with environmental researchers speaking on the Unity Plan developed last year to guide the future of the town and its population of 18,000. Refreshments served for Friday's guests included a locally produced cranberry-blueberry wine. The photos are by Joe Bevan, faculty of environment.

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Student ‘engagement’ survey about to begin

from Blair Clarance, office of institutional analysis and planning

Beginning on January 26, all undergraduate students currently in their first year of study, or their graduating year, will be given an opportunity to provide important feedback on the quality of their Waterloo education.

How much reading and writing is required? How often do students interact with other students who are from different backgrounds and cultures? How good is the academic advising? How many students work with faculty members on research and other activities? How can UW improve? These questions and dozens more will be presented to students through the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), an online survey available for completion until June 1.

NSSE is an undergraduate student survey administered by the Indiana University Centre for Post-secondary Research, and since 1999 has been administered at more than 1,000 Canadian and American institutions. Waterloo is participating in the NSSE survey this year along with all of Ontario’s universities, allowing for comparisons between UW and our peer institutions.

NSSE was developed on a body of research that shows that what students do while in university matters. Measuring activities that students take part in, and the degree to which they are “engaged” in their education, and with their institution, tell us about our success as an institution and the success of our students. Measures of engagement have been linked to higher student retention rates, graduation rates and student satisfaction.

Some examples of activities which we know contribute to student success are asking questions in class, working with a professor on a research project, or studying abroad. Consequently Waterloo is interested in knowing how and where students spend their time, the nature and quality of their interactions with faculty members and peers, and what they have gained from their classes and other aspects of their university experience. UW can use the answers to these questions to improve teaching and learning and other aspects of campus life. The survey also allows for students to submit comments on their experiences, giving UW insight into the student perspective. The survey takes approximately 15-20 minutes to complete on-line.

Waterloo last participated in the NSSE survey in 2008. We learned, for example, that by their graduating-year 41% of students reported that their experience here had contributed “very much” to their job or work-related knowledge and skills, compared to 26% at our peer institutions across Ontario. We also learned that 48% of first-year students reported “very much” for the question “to what extent does your institution emphasize spending significant time studying on academic work?” This compared to 35% for our peer institutions across ontario. When asked for the biggest obstacles to their progress, both first-year and graduating-year students reported academic performance and financial pressures or work obligations as the largest barriers.

Questions about Waterloo’s participation in the survey can be directed to Institutional Analysis & Planning at nsse@

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Former dean mourned; other notes

[Peter Nash]Peter H. Nash (left), the founding dean of what's now the Faculty of Environment, died January 19 and will be remembered at a memorial service this Saturday. The unit was the "division of environmental studies" when Nash, then a faculty member and dean at the University of Rhode Island, was named to lead it, but it was the Faculty of ES by the time he arrived on July 1, 1970. He had also taught at the University of Cincinnati and worked as a professional planner. Nash, who served as dean for five years and then continued as a faculty member and prolific writer, listed such academic specialties as "comparative epistemologies in the social and behavioural sciences", "evolution of geographic thought", and "alternative future environments". The memorial service will be held Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Erb & Good Family Funeral Home on King Street South, with visitation Friday from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m.

"What process should be used to resolve issues when two organizations on campus want to use the same domain name?" That's the sort of question that was tackled last year by a committee chaired by veteran web weaver Terry Stewart of applied health sciences. Its advice has now been reviewed by various authorities, including the University Committee on Information Systems and Technology, and the rules are in force (and available online). A domain name is the basic string of words used to identify a computer address on the Internet such as, for example, "". The new rules give the authority to the associate provost (IST) to resolve conflicts over such names, or to deal with "misleading domain names" within the university's web space. The committee also reported that "the use of an external domain name," meaning one that isn't part of "", "leaves the University in a precarious and potentially liable situation", although exceptions "may be inevitable" and there are some already. It says research groups, in particular, "should use a name within the domain unless there are compelling reasons to do otherwise." If a unit does need an outside domain name, it's required to get permission from the secretary of the university and the vice-president (external relations).

Retail Services is holding a “Passport Contest” this week to encourage students, staff, and faculty to visit all its Media.doc locations across campus. Says marketing coordinator Ryan King: “If you visit all four Media.doc locations (Davis Centre, Dana Porter, Math and Computer, and Environment and Technology), have your passport stamped, and submit your full passport by Friday, January 28, at 4 p.m. you could win the grand prize of an iPad.” He explains that the newly renamed Media.doc locations are the former Campus Copy Centres across campus. “The change in name reflects expanded services [Copy centre behind glass in Dana Porter Library]available at each location and the evolution of the print industry. Students will be familiar with the Media.doc locations as a place to purchase course notes and other course material. Examples of expanded services available at the Media.doc location in the Dana Porter Library (right) include textbook rentals, iClicker sales and rental, iPad and laptop rentals. Media.doc at DP also provides free lookup for students misplacing their iClicker ID. Media.doc locations offer the traditional print, photocopy, thesis binding, finishing, and passport photo (Math and Computer) services. The expanded services will provide convenient services to all on-campus customers and focus on new services to help students succeed academically.”

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Ontario seeks to make transfers easier

A $73 million government plan to make student transfers among Ontario’s universities and colleges easier will be on the agenda today for a little-known committee at this university, with the possibility that Waterloo could apply for some of the funding.

Registrar Ken Lavigne says the province has issued a “call for proposals” in connection with its Credit Transfer Innovation Fund, announced last week. The university’s Undergraduate Operations Committee will discuss that invitation at today’s meeting. That committee includes the associate deans (undergraduate) of the six faculties, as well as a few other administrators, and generally deals with “operational matters such as scheduling and Calendar production” for undergraduate programs.

"Waterloo has not cultivated the college transfer market," says Lavigne, "and has little in the way of degree completion agreements. UOps is going to gauge the appetite for increased activity in this area and determine if we want to submit a proposal."

The government’s credit transfer announcement will, its news release said, “reduce the need for students to repeat similar courses or years at different institutions — allowing them to complete their studies sooner.” Such a change would also imply a saving for government, which on average pays about half the cost of undergraduate programs on Ontario campuses.

“Under the new system,” said the release, “colleges and universities will work together to develop more opportunities to transfer credits between institutions and provide on-campus advisors and orientation programs to help students transfer their credits. Students will also have access to a centralized website that will help them identify which credits can be transferred. In addition, the province will introduce a new Credit Transfer Innovation Fund to help universities and colleges develop more credit transfer options for students. This will make it easier for students to determine what programs and courses will work best for them.”

Some transfers take a student from one university campus to another. But more than 4,000 college graduates move on to a university each year, the government said, and the pattern of university graduates then taking an occupation-specific program at a college is familiar as well.

There are about 500 individual credit transfer agreements among colleges and universities, the provincial announcement said. The goal is to develop more, and especially agreements that embrace more than just two institutions. Such agreements often set out specific courses from one institution that will be automatically given credit towards a degree or diploma from another campus.

“I think it's a great step forward,” Federation of Students vice-president (education) Nick Soave told the student newspaper Imprint. “This is really a focus that allows students to move through the system with greater ease.”

The Council of Ontario Universities also welcomed the announcement. "Ontario universities have been working with colleges for many years to enhance student mobility and ensure student success," said Sheldon Levy, president of Ryerson University, on behalf of COU "We look forward to working with the government and our college partners in the development of this new system to maximize benefits to all our students."

COU’s president, Bonnie Patterson, added: "The most important outcome for a well-developed credit transfer system is student success. We recognize that students desire an improved credit transfer system so they can graduate as quickly as possible and so resources from grants and tuition are used efficiently."

The new system, a long-time priority for student advocacy groups, comes amid evidence of an increasingly mobile student body. According to a 2008 study by University of Ottawa professor Ross Finnie, reported in the Globe and Mail,  nearly half of college and university students across the country do not graduate from the program and school where they begin.

“Students really know what they want to do,” colleges and universities minister John Milloy told the Globe, “and we should get out of their way.”


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Orientation is recruiting leaders

"Orientation leader applications are now open!" writes Cora  Dupuis from the student life office in Needles Hall. "We are currently looking for great leaders who want to welcome our new students to campus for September 2011. All six faculties are now recruiting for leaders, team leaders, coordinators and more — go to the web site to apply. Most applications close February 5, but some have sooner deadlines — be sure to apply early!"

Link of the day

Skirmish 200 years ago today

When and where

Fall term grades become official today.

Drop, no penalty period for winter term courses ends today; deadline for 100 per cent tuition fee refund.

Federation of Students election campaign begins today; candidates’ debates January 31 and February 1, 12:00 to 3:00,  Student Life Centre; voting February 8 (9 a.m.) through February 10 (9 p.m.). Details.

Career workshop: “Career Interest Assessment” 2:00, Tatham Centre room 1112. Details.

Employer interviews for spring term co-op jobs (“main” group of students) January 25 through February 16; pharmacy students, January 28. Details.

Career workshops Tuesday: “Thinking About Law?” 9:00, Tatham Centre room 1208. “Preparing for the LSAT” 10:30, Tatham 1208. “Foreign (Non-Canadian) Lawyers and Law Graduates” 11:30, Tatham 1208. “Teaching English Abroad” 2:00, Tatham room 1112. “Interview Skills, Preparing for Questions” 2:30, Tatham 1208. Details.

Volunteer and Internship Fair organized by Centre for Career Action, Tuesday 11:00 to 2:30,  Student Life Centre.

Engineering exchange programs information session Tuesday 11:30, Rod Coutts Hall room 206.

‘Facebook Tips and Tricks’ sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, Tuesday 12:00, Math and Computer room 2009.

Library workshop: “Find Books and More” Tuesday 3:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library; repeated February 15, February 23 and March 1 at 10:00. Details.

Engineering alumni and friends reception at Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, D.C., Tuesday 5:30, Marritt Wardman Park. Details.

Part-time master’s programs: information session on graduate opportunities at Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier U for working professionals, Tuesday 6:00, Davis Centre room 1301. Details.

Design at Riverside gallery, Architecture building, Cambridge, opening reception for “Next North: Internet Lab, Lateral Office” Tuesday 6:30 p.m., exhibition runs through February 27.

Colour Me Educated promotion, proceeds to Pathways to Education, kickoff event with student leaders in a dumpster in Student Life Centre great hall, Wednesday from 10:30 a.m.

Employee Assistance Program presents “Handling Difficult Conversations” led by Matt Erickson, conflict management and human rights office, Wednesday 12:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Payday for faculty and non-union staff members, Thursday, January 27.

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

Howard Armitage, founding director of Conrad Centre for Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology, “thank you celebration” Thursday 4:00 to 7:00, Communitech Hub, Kitchener, RSVP.

An Evening with David Morrell celebrating 50th anniversary of the department of English, Thursday 7:00, Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome’s University, tickets $10. Details.

Fantastic Alumni, Faculty, Staff and Retirees Day at Warrior basketball games vs. Western, Saturday, Physical Activities Complex: women’s game 1:00, men’s game 3:00, family activities including Monster Hoops Showdown and paper airplane toss. Details.

Friday's Daily Bulletin