newsletter for faculty and staff | virtual summer 2020
The Lost Summer of 2020
Well, here we all are – about to embark on the final academic term of 2020. The Lost Summer of 2020 seems to have raced past us, or at least that’s how it feels to me. Rather strange that a time when we’re coping with monotony should pass so quickly – maybe it’s all the time spent inside? I have been going out, of course, but less so than usual, and sometimes it feels as though the summer has simply been a video that I watch out my window. My new companion (as of a few months ago) certainly seems to think so – she spends a great deal of her time gazing wistfully out the window at the world to which I in my cruelty have denied her access.
Much of the rest of her time is spent under my desk, biting my ankles in retribution for paying her insufficient attention. I will say for her, though, that she’s the only cat I’ve ever had who actually likes to have her belly rubbed and who scratches only scratching posts (really).
In any case, the summer is pretty well behind us, and what lies ahead? I’d be less than honest if I failed to acknowledge that the fall term will probably bring us more challenges, although perhaps by now they are challenges that we’re becoming familiar with. Most of us will still be working from home for a while; we’ll be teaching remotely; our research activities will continue to be bumpy; and we’ll all be doing our best to serve a student body that is going to be facing its own set of unusual challenges. Our newest Associate Dean, Anna Esselment (AD, Graduate Studies), has a piece in this issue that offers some helpful perspective on that front.
Also in this issue is a piece on our 60th anniversary – the Faculty of Arts first opened for business in the Fall of 1960. As then President Gerald Hagey wrote, “The rapid development of the University through its previously established faculties of science and engineering obliges this institution to offer a fully balanced academic programme which meets the standards of other universities in this province.” The University’s Quarterly Report (September 1960) proudly proclaimed the hiring of more than 20 faculty – all male, all white, but oh well, it was a start.
And that brings me, more seriously, to an update on the diversity and anti-racism initiatives with which we’ve been charged and entrusted. As you might recall from an informal update that I sent out earlier in the summer, students, staff, and faculty in Arts responded to the request for suggestions with a plethora of excellent ideas (thank you!). Some, as I’ve remarked, will probably be better pursued at the institutional level. I’ve passed these along to the centre, and my fellow Deans and I will be following up on them, along with our Interim AVP of Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusion, Jean Becker (also Senior Director, Indigenous Initiatives). Others I think we can put in place at the Faculty level, and I’m currently considering and consulting on best approaches there.
One thing we will certainly be doing is creating an equity and diversity working group as we move into phase two of the strategic planning process. I’m very grateful to the strategic plan task force for all the consultation work they’ve done over the summer, and many thanks to all of you who’ve participated in these consultations. For those who still wish to offer comments and ideas, please do complete the 2020-25 strategic planning survey. As we move into the fall, we’ll be creating the working groups who will start the work of distilling what we’ve heard and learned in our consultations and carrying out further research as necessary.
Finally, your reward if you read through all the preceding serious stuff is some recommendations for silly viewing:
Happy 60th anniversary, Faculty of Arts!
It’s true! In September 1960, Arts became the third faculty, joining Engineering and Science, at the three-year-old University of Waterloo. The first Arts courses began with students recruited from the newly federated and affiliated St Jerome’s College and Renison College, along with students already enrolled at Waterloo. The largest Arts department was Mathematics (yup, Math made its home in Arts until 1965) and other departments included English, History, German and Russian, Political Science, French and Spanish, Economics, and Sociology.
Here is the announcement of the new Faculty in The University of Waterloo Quaterly Report, September 1960, and below is the transcript:
Transcript: Arts Faculty formed: First Courses in Arts to Begin This Fall
A third faculty - The Faculty of Arts - has now been formed at the University of Waterloo. The new faculty will offer the first of its arts courses this fall. Both a three year General Course and four year Honours Course will be available. The first year of studies will be common to both General Course and Honours students. Classes in the upper years will begin in 1961.
A 60 per cent average in nine grade 13 papers will be required for admission to the new courses. An illustrated brochure describing the arts programme and the University’s facilities is available upon writing to A.P. Gordon, Registrar, University of Waterloo, Waterloo ON. Tuition and fees for the arts courses will be $418 annually.
Dr. Keith Thomas has been appointed acting Dean of Arts. Dr. Thomas was formerly chairman of the English Department at Acadia University. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto where he obtained his PhD degree and also served on the faculty.
“The rapid development of the University through its previously established faculties of science and engineering obliges this institution to offer a fully balanced academic program which meets the standards of the universities in other parts of the province,” said President J.G. Hagey.
“Previously, the University has made limited offerings of arts subjects mainly in relation to some of the arts courses taught to our science and engineering students. In this connection for example an outstanding mathematics Department has already been developed.”
“In anticipating the possibility of the University expanding its Faculty of Arts, numerous contacts have been made during the past year with prospective faculty members. This advance work has enabled the University to begin its arts programme with a highly qualified faculty of more than 20 members. This will be supplemented by the faculties of St. Jerome’s College and Renison College and by those members of our Faculty of Science who will lecture to arts students taking science options.
“During the past three years in which the University has been enrolling engineering and science students a reputation has been established for high standards,” stated Dr. Hagey.
“This reputation will be maintained in developing the arts program. The provision of arts courses fulfills an urgent need in this progressive section of the province. In addition, we are in a unique position as a new University to plan curricula in keeping with the challenge of living in a changing world.”
Watch for more Arts 60th content on our social media channels and share your own memories and photos tagging @UWaterlooArts and #UWaterlooArts60.
In the remotely pivoted spring, we proudly announced the recipients of the 2020 Arts Awards for Excellence in Service, Research and Teaching. While we have not been able to hold the annual Celebration of Arts event to present the awards, we want to shine a light on award recipients who were game for a Proustian Q and A with a pandemic twist. (Editor’s note: Respondents’ interpretations of “brief response” are their own.)
Gerry Boychuck - Excellence in Service
What is your idea of happiness? The prospect of a huge backyard barbecue party at the end of covid-19.
What is your idea of misery? A perpetual ‘remote pivot’.
Who are your favourite fictional characters? Jimmy Perez (Shetland). I’d like to be like him when I grow up.
What is your favourite food or drink? Coffee...from our Jura coffee-maker. Her name is Ena and she rides with me in the front seat to the cottage. (Don’t worry... she has her own seatbelt)
What new talent have you developed while staying home? Pretending that each day is somehow different than the one before. Well... ‘almost’ developed.
What do you like most about of WFH (working from home)? Having been with my kids ShanLin (13), JiaMei (12), and Kees (9) for an uninterrupted 23 weeks (...but, hey, who’s counting?)
What do you like least about of WFH? Over-emoting on Zoom. It’s exhausting really.
What do you miss most about being on campus? The frisson of excitement on campus at the start of the school year.
What do you miss least about being on campus? The irrational but constant nagging fear of being accosted by Spawn of Satan -- the murderous (no... really!) gander that lurks between the doors of Humanties Theatre and Parking Lot H. (Non-believer? Google it...he is literally a national news figure.)
Tim Bauer – Excellence in Research
What is your idea of happiness? What is your idea of misery? In the movie American Beauty, Kevin Spacey’s character looks for a job with as little responsibility as possible and ends up working at a fast food restaurant. That is my happisery. I would love to have that kind of job (again) – unimportant, unassuming, not a care in the world...except I did that job before and I hated it at times. I think that means my happiness and misery are never far apart, but then I never really hit the extremes of either emotion.
Who are your favourite fictional characters? I hear fiction and I think books, and I barely remember what literary fiction is – does Pete the Cat count? I guess I like those tortured, twisted souls. The Grand Inquisitor in the Brothers Karamazov, the whiskey priest in the Power and the Glory, Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde). And if I can pick fictional movie characters, Christoph Waltz’ SS Officer Hans Landa in Inglorious Basterds or Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men.
What natural talent would you most like to possess? To play the guitar. My fingers aren’t very nimble so G chords or bar chords effectively killed my will to go on.
What do you miss most about being on campus? I miss the smell (it conjures up a variety of memories). And the energy of inquisitive minds at work.
Andrea Charette – Excellence in Service
What is your idea of happiness? Playing games! (cards, board games, sit around and laugh games….)
What is your idea of misery? Humidity!
Who are your favourite fictional characters? Edna Spalding, Brooks Hatlen
What is your favourite food or drink? Coke ZERO! (and maybe gin …but not together, those are separate drinks. And one of them is a daily must!)
What natural talent would you most like to possess? Oh, to know when people are kidding me… I ALWAYS think you’re serious!
What do you like most about of WFH (working from home)? Being able to hang laundry outside in the morning and get it in before the afternoon rain!
What do you miss most about being on campus? My people! Office mates, drop-in visitors, fellow commuters on the ION!
George Lamont – Excellence in Teaching
What new talent have you developed while staying home? Learning to plan all my activities into my calendar.
What do you like most about WFH (working from home)? Seeing my family for breakfast and lunch, and no commute!
What do you miss most about being on campus? Meeting and connecting with students in person.
Elise Lepage – Excellence in Research
What is your idea of happiness? Reading a good book at a lake nearby or a muddy run under pouring rain.
What is your idea of misery? Elevators
What is your favourite food or drink? Homemade bread + dark chocolate + glass of milk = Proustian experience – instantly brings back my childhood’s snacks
What do you like most about of WFH (working from home)? Work schedule flexibility
What do you like least about of WFH? Work schedule flexibility, and the amount of screen time WFH requires
What do you miss most about being on campus? Spontaneous conversations in corridors and my bike commute.
What do you miss least about being on campus? Blind classrooms (no windows)
Kiera McMaster - Excellence in Service
What is your idea of happiness? Sharing happiness with others.
What is your favourite food or drink? Fresh Ontario peaches!
What do you miss most about being on campus? Believe it or not – in-person meetings!
Seda Oz – Excellence in Teaching
What is your idea of happiness? Happiness is debits = credits
What is your idea of misery? Not finding coffee when I wake up. “Sometimes I wake up and think, ‘Maybe I won’;t have coffee today’. And then I laugh and laugh because it’s good to tell yourself funny jokes in the morning.”
Who are your favourite fictional characters? Captain Marvel. “Higher, further, faster, baby.”
What is your favourite drink? Coffee. “With enough coffee, anything is possible. And even if not, at least you have coffee”
What natural talent would you most like to possess? Being able to fake New Zealand accent
What do you like most about of WFH (working from home)? Attending meetings in my pyjamas.
What do you miss least about being on campus? Geese. They are vicious.
P.S. To whomever is reading this, never hold your head down. Never say you cannot. Never limit yourself. Be awkward, be you, get coffee, and cake. Also remember that the total amount of debits must equal the total amount of credits.
Christopher Bennett – Excellence in Teaching
What is your idea of happiness? Walking across a frozen lake in Algonquin park
What is your idea of misery? Monotony (or falling through)
Who are your favourite fictional characters? Falstaff, Basil Fawlty, Foghorn Leghorn
What is your favourite food or drink? Chianti and pizza, cherries, crossing the bridge noodles … I like food a lot
What natural talent would you most like to possess? I’d like to smell better
What new talent have you developed while staying home? Attension to detail
What do you like most about of WFH (working from home)? Unlimited baby time
What do you like least about of WFH? Not having places for tasks
What do you miss most about being on campus? Some people
What do you miss least about being on campus? Other people
A different Fall, but just as valuable
When I was accepted to do my MA at Dalhousie University, I was beyond excited.I applied to be in the residence reserved for graduate students – located close to the Arts building that housed the Department of Political Science - because I wanted to be surrounded by students working just as hard as I was. Shortly before I left, I checked with housing services about my arrival time and learned, to my horror, that my application had been lost. There were no rooms left in the coveted grad residence, but they did manage to find me a residence room on campus. It was an undergraduate residence, full of engineering students, a far walk from campus, and it came with a roommate to boot.
I was devastated. But I got on the plane and headed for Halifax. I ended up having one of the best years of my life – I loved my courses and professors, my roommate was wonderful, and it turns out engineers know how to have a good time. My initial trepidation was warranted, but I embraced the disappointment and quickly found all these unexpected delights during my time in Nova Scotia.
The SOLA co-op experience: making meaningful work in the midst of a global pandemic
Working in creative arts is always full of surprises. My experience working primarily in theatre has shown me the importance of expecting the unexpected. As a stage manager, I have had to fix costumes, replace lost props, handle venue cancellations and so much more. Others working on creative projects will undoubtedly have similar stories of unanticipated obstacles they faced.
That being said, no one could have predicted the challenges faced by the global community this past March. When the University closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of co-op students did not have a placement. Many of us were left without a light in the dark.
The first flicker of hope for us came a month after the pandemic began. The University announced they were hiring more than 300 students from across all faculties as either Senior Online Learning Assistants (SOLA) or Online Learning Assistants (OLA). Both roles involve assisting professors to create course content suited to online learning this Fall. My role as a SOLA also involves a managerial element as peer leaders for a group of OLAs, working alongside their faculty supervisors.
Becoming the digital content experts
The beginning of the term was full of rapid changes. Over a period of a few weeks, I went from unemployed to learning university policies to training others online. I was then leading a group of fourteen OLAs and working with them to shape their work term. This process of mentoring and answering questions increased my own knowledge about the process of course design. Becoming the digital content experts puts all of us a step ahead as the world moves evermore online. Our expertise also eased the minds of the professors we supported, especially those who were apprehensive about the change in their course delivery.
Online learning is a daunting world that all of us are diving into headfirst. We are all working toward creating an engaging experience for the students studying this Fall term. A sense of camaraderie has emerged between the co-op students, professors, and supervisors as we work toward this massive goal. There is a deep-rooted understanding that our work will be in the hands of students mere months from now. The Arts community at the University of Waterloo has banded together to make a significant change – and it’s working.
Across the three teams I am working on, the OLAs and I have worked with over 30 professors on their Fall courses. We have created assignments, edited content, redesigned course layouts, and creatively solved a variety individual challenges faced by each professor. We were able to utilize our unique perspective as students to advise professors on which online approaches will be best for their students this Fall.
Each and every one of us has made an impact on what academics will look like for Arts students and instructors. Though our names may not be on some of the content, we will know the significant impact we have had. We know our work is meaningful, which is an incredible opportunity for a co-op student. I am looking forward to utilizing the skills of digital design, leadership and teamwork from my time as a SOLA as I move forward in my Arts career.
We know our work is meaningful, which is an incredible opportunity for a co-op student.
Even though I never imagined myself as a Senior Online Learning Assistant this Spring Term, I could not have asked for a more supportive environment. This term has shown the Faculty of Arts at its best – adapting, improvising and incorporating a student voice. Showcasing the collaborative, creative and resourceful nature of Arts as a whole is the ultimate result of this term long experiment.
Special thanks to Alexandra for writing about her co-op experience this summer. Her story was originally published in Arts & Letters.
Ideas and priorities wanted: Arts strategic plan survey (almost the last call!)
The 2020-25 Arts Strategic Plan survey will be open for one more month. If you have not yet completed the survey, please do! The task force members are eager to receive your input.
The survey is comprised of 7 big-picture questions, which are intended to get you thinking about the future of the Faculty of Arts and opportunities for positive change. Under the umbrella of these questions, the task force members hope to learn about your diverse perspectives on issues such as teaching, research, co-op, diversity, equity, indigenization, public outreach, organizational structure, internationalization, and community. Please add your essential voice to the conversation!
Inside Arts is published each term. Comments, ideas, and submissions are always welcome. Please contact Wendy Philpott.