Monday, April 23, 2018

Faculty, staff celebrate employment milestones

by Susan Fish.

The annual recognition reception for new members of the University community celebrating milestone employment anniversaries takes place tonight, with a twist: rather than joining the 25, 35, or 45-Year Club, employees will be celebrated for their 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, and yes, even 50-year anniversaries with the University.

The 25-50 Year Dinner takes place from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at Federation Hall, where 95 faculty and staff members will be presented with an award for their dedication and years of service.

The expansion of the event's focus comes as part of a pilot project based on feedback from employees and retirees.

In honour of the celebration event, the Daily Bulletin has asked a few of them to reflect on their time at the University:

  • Rita Cherkewski, Administrative Coordinator, Arts Graduate Studies and Research, 25 years

Rita Cherkewski.Rita Cherkewski may be celebrating her 25th anniversary working at Waterloo, but her history extends much further, including four years working at St. Jerome’s. Prior to that, she earned an MA in French and a BA in French and Italian Studies, also from Waterloo.

Today, she works as the administrative coordinator for Arts Graduate Studies and Research.

Rita says that her career has been “a joy” in many ways: she has enjoyed the balance of administrative work and working one-on-one with students, serving as the primary point of contact for applicants. She valued the flexibility of her role when her children were young.  Rita spent 21 years in the psychology department, and the satisfaction she gained from that role paved the way for her next venture to a short-term secondment, and then finally to her current role. She has also enjoyed the many non-work opportunities her work has given her, including serving on the staff association, the arts staff advisory committee, and being involved with United Way events.

She reflects that the biggest change in the university has been the ongoing shift in student needs. “Unlike when I first started, we really have to pay attention to the whole person now, not just their academic needs. The departments that are the most successful are those that take an interest in supporting students in their mental health, their financial pressures, ultimately their whole self.”

  • Neime Cahit, HR Office Coordinator, 30 years

Neime Cahit.Neime Cahit first came to Waterloo as a sibling. Her older sister was taking computer science at the University, and Neime—a fast typist—was enlisted to help her type programs on the little cards that were necessary in the early 1980s. As she looked around, Neime decided she admired this university and wanted to work here.

Neime began her career in the Human Resources department, a department she still works for 30 years later, today as the Office Coordinator.

“I’m the kind of person who likes to help and have contact with people,” she says. Of her staff recognition awards, she says, “It gives me satisfaction that I am helping people.”

Although Neime’s work is primarily with unionized staff, she also posts job descriptions and processes new hires, transfers, promotions and reclassifications for everyone on campus. She also is the first person people meet when they come into the HR office. While she says “time flies” as she reflects on her milestone anniversary, she also notes many changes in programs and systems, remembering how she used to give typing tests to potential employees.

Outside of work, Neime also enjoys people. She taught Turkish folk dancing for years, and enjoys dinners with friends. She highly values her colleagues: “What keeps me in HR are the people I work with. We are more than coworkers—we are like family, supporting each other in good and bad times.”

  • Kumaraswamy ”Ponnu” Ponnambalam, Professor of Systems Design Engineering, 30 years

Professor Kumaraswamy “Ponnu” Ponnambalam.When Professor Kumaraswamy “Ponnu” Ponnambalam came to Canada from India via Ireland in the early 1980s, he had heard of the University of Waterloo and its Fortran compiler, but what brought him to our country was a combination of Pierre Trudeau’s arguments against Quebec independence, and a lack of desire to work in the US.

Still, he found the cultural adjustment, the cold winter and the heavy teaching workload as a PhD student at the University of Toronto to be a challenge. “For the first four months, I wanted to go back.”

But coming to Waterloo—working with faculty members first in civil engineering, then in systems design and then electrical engineering—Ponnu noticed significant differences from the more traditional universities at which he had studied: “Here I could knock on any door and work together with anyone.” He currently works in systems design engineering.

While Ponnu is excited by the university’s well-deserved reputation for innovation, he still balks at bureaucratic systems, which frustrate him and take him away from the work he wants to be doing, such as turning a programming textbook he wrote into an online interactive version.

Ponnu and his wife Tiuley, an engineer originally from Venezuela, raised their four children in Waterloo. He is delighted that one of his children not only went to UWaterloo but studied in his department.

  • Ric Soulis, Professor Civil and Environmental Engineering, 30 years

“My work is my hobby,” says Civil and Environmental Engineering professor Ric Soulis, before remembering that his interest in water and climate goes beyond his work in hydrological models to include sailing, both in Toronto and as part of the Conestoga Sailing Club.

Professor Eric Soulis, wife Carol, grandson Brendan, and son Neal.While Ric is celebrating his 30th anniversary working at Waterloo, his connection to the University goes back to his childhood, when his father was one of the institution's early hires in 1959, when Ric himself was only 10. While his father was a founder of the systems design engineering program, Ric developed an interest in hydrology during his undergraduate degree at Waterloo. He went on to study Ocean Engineering at Memorial University, before returning to Waterloo to do a PhD in Water Resources and then beginning his career here.

While clearly the university has changed in a variety of ways over this time, Ric believes one of the biggest changes is the accelerated pace at which students study today. Reflecting on his earlier years, he says, “There used to be more measures in place with rules about when exams could be scheduled, and people to go to when a student was having difficulties.” He adds, “I’d like to see more consideration for students added into our programs.”

Ric’s own two sons both studied at Waterloo, as did his wife, as did one daughter-in-law, while the other has been working at the University for eight years in the Plant Operations design office. Ric is pictured above with wife Carol, grandson Brendan, and son Neal. Today he and his wife are awaiting the birth of their second grandchild, who one day may become part of the fourth generation of Soulises to learn and work at Waterloo.

  • John North, Professor, English Language and Literature, 50 years

While computer science and engineering are often seen as the great strengths of the University of Waterloo, Professor John North points out that the Faculty of Arts represents perhaps the largest faculty, one which draws “outstanding people from every area.”

In the field of English literature, this includes North himself, who celebrates 50 years at the University.

Professor John North pictured in 1968 and in a more recent photo.Like many of his colleagues, John thought he might stay a year or two, but says, “It’s been wonderful and I couldn’t imagine anything better.” He reflects on his experience as president of the faculty association, at a time when the possibility of creating a faculty union was raised. Faculty rejected unionization in the years that followed and since then, he says, “Issues have come up between administration and faculty, but have been resolved in the best of manners, avoiding the tensions common at other schools.”

He also appreciates Waterloo’s unique encouragement of faculty to form companies for the marketing and development of their research, which policy has contributed to the economic development of KW. His own company, North Waterloo Academic Press, has published volumes by many scholars, as well as his own 69-volume Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals 1800-1900, reviewed as “the fourth great Humanities reference work of Great Britain, after Johnson’s English Dictionary, the Dictionary of National Biography and the Oxford English Dictionary.” This series now includes Scottish, Irish and Welsh periodicals. More than 400 students have worked with John on this project. The Directory enables scholars to identify primary sources, as well as the scholarship on each title, and then to read the full text by hyperlink from within the Waterloo Directory. This includes some 70,000 newspapers and periodicals, in all subjects, so readers can read press reports of the day, such as the coronation of Queen Victoria, the ravages of cholera, the première of Handel’s Israel in Egypt at the 1846 Birmingham Music Festival, and the Crimean War.

John also holds a Distinguished Teacher award from UW, volunteers in Spiritual Care at Grand River Hospital and welcomes refugees arriving in KW (being a second-generation immigrant himself). From a blue-collar family, he rebuilds wrecked cars and motorcycles, and enjoys time with his wife Roberta, their three sons, 14 grandchildren, and, most recently, a Border Collie puppy.

Proposals sought for WatPD course on workplace success

The Engineering Curriculum Committee (ECC) is requesting proposals for the development of a new course that focuses on tactics for workplace success. Development will take place August 2018 to August 2019.

This course will be the first core PD course that Engineering students take, and should develop an understanding that the workplace involves a lot more than just the application of technical knowledge. The course should emphasize the importance of soft/professional skills and help students to develop the habit of assessing and setting goals for their soft skills, just as they do for their technical skills. The course should be tactical rather than strategic, dealing with practical professional development topics that might be encountered in a first co-op term.

Some early course outcomes have been identified as:

  • Students will be able to define professional development and compare the nature of technical skill development with that of soft professional skill development
  • Students will be able to explain the importance of professional development in engineering 
  • Students will develop the habit of pro-actively assessing their workplace and professional skills to determine the type of professional development that is most needed

Additional information can be found in the Request for Proposals on WatPD’s website. In advance of submitting a proposal, interested applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Associate Director of WatPD Erin Smith by sending an email to

Proposals need to be submitted to Erin Smith by June 1, 2018.

WGSI Summit continues today

The Waterloo Global Science Initiative's Generation SDG Summit kicked off yesterday with an introduction by WGSI General Manager Julie Wright, Terrylnn Brant, a Seed Keeper from Six Nations of the Grand River, Waterloo Mayor Dave Jaworsky, WGSI chair Feridun Hamdullahpur and vice-chair Neil Turok of the Perimeter Institute, followed by a keynote address by Dr. Katharine Wilkinson of Project Drawdown.

Watch the livestream recording of the opening ceremonies on the WGSI website.

The next public event held as part of the Generation SDG proceedings will be on Tuesday, April 24 at 7:00 p.m. -  a public lecture by Dr. Ingrid Waldron of Dalhousie University on environmental racism and the politics of waste.

Get your free tickets to the event at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Link of the day

World Book Day

When and where 

UWAG presents MFA Thesis One, Thursday, April 12 to Saturday, April 28, East Campus Hall.

Waterloo Global Science Initiative: Generation SDG, Sunday, April 22 to Wednesday, April 25.

Vision Science Graduate Research Conference 2018Monday, April 23 and Tuesday, April 24, School of Optometry and Vision Science.

Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research presents "OMAFRA Information Session", Monday, April 23, 2:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., QNC 1506.

25-50 Year Dinner, Monday, April 23, 6:00 p.m., Federation Hall.

Deadline to get Fees Arranged for Spring 2018 term, Tuesday, April 24.

Generation SDG public lecture featuring Ingrid Waldron, "Environmental Racism and the Politics of Waste," Tuesday, April 24, 7:00 p.m., Perimeter Institute.

NEW - Examinations end, Wednesday, April 25.

WICI Workshop: Leveraging Systems Approaches to Improve Human & Planetary health, Wednesday, April 25 and Thursday, April 26.

Staff Appreciation Luncheon, Wednesday, April 25 to Friday, April 27, 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., University Club.

Symposium on Aging Research (SoAR) Third Annual Conference, Wednesday, April 25, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., AHS 1689. Register by Friday, April 20.

GRADventure presents a Non-academic career conference, Wednesday, April 25, STC 0020.

Pharmacy Research Day 2018School of Pharmacy, University of Waterloo. Wednesday, April 25, 9:00 3:00 p.m., School of Pharmacy.

Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology (MBET) Information Session, Wednesday, April 25 10:30 a.m., Online Webinar.

Waterloo Women’s Wednesdays: A Conversation with Amanda Cook, UWaterloo’s Sexual Violence Response Coordinator. Wednesday, April 25, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., M3 3103.

10th Annual Teaching and Learning Conference, "Motivating Students and Ourselves", Thursday, April 26, Science Teaching Complex.

25th Graduate Student Recreation Leisure Research Symposium, Thursday, April 26, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Friday, April 27, 9:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., LHN 1621.

Hallman Lecture Series featuring Ron Zernicke, PhD, DSc, University of Michigan - Skeletal Adaptation: Synthesis and Beyond, Friday, April 27, 9:00 a.m., AHS 1689.

CBB Seminar: Mobile Keyboard as an example of large scale novel interface based on both classic human factors and modern machine intelligence: Dr. Shumin Zhai, Google Inc., Friday, April 27, 1:30 p.m, E5 3102. 

NEW - Fiscal Year End, Monday, April 30.

NEW - Spring Orientation Week, Monday, April 30 to Friday, May 4.

NEW - Co-operative work term begins, Tuesday, May 1.

NEW - Lectures begin, Tuesday, May 1.

Research Talks: Driving the future of autonomous vehicles and responsible innovation featuring Heather Douglas, Sebastian Fischmeister, a legal expert in the field of technology, and an innovation expert from General Motors. Tuesday, May 1, 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Please register as seating is limited.

Education Credit Union Rental Properties Seminar for University of Waterloo Staff Association members, Wednesday, May 2, 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m., DC 1302. Register online.

UWRC presents DIY Beeswax Wraps, Wednesday, May 2, 12:00 noon, Ecology Lab. Space limited; register by emailing

SERS PhD seminar featuring Meaghan Wilton, “A multimethod approach to characterize corn-soybean intercropping as a sustainable-intensive cropping practice,” Thursday, May 3, 1:00 p.m., EV2-2006.

Computer science PhD seminar featuring Daniel Recoskie, David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science, “Learning filters for the 2D wavelet transform,” Thursday, May 3, 2:00 p.m., DC 2310.

Engineering Explorations, Thursday, May 3, 6:00 p.m., Engineering 5.

The Role of the Imagination in German Educational Thought, Friday, May 4 and Saturday, May 5, Federation Hall.

ASA DataFest 2018, Friday, May 4 to Sunday, May 6, Mathematics 3.

Human Resources Lean seminar, Wednesday, May 9, 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., EC5-1111.

Waterloo Datathon, Saturday, May 12, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., M3 1006.

NEW - Course add period ends, Monday, May 14.

UW Blooms, Monday, May 14, 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Student Life Centre.

UWRC Book Club, featuring  "It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree," by A.J. Jacobs, Wednesday, May 16, 12:00 p.m., LIB 407.

Say it in your own words: Paraphrase & summary for graduate students, Thursday, May 17, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. 

PhD oral defences

Economics. Shernette McLeod, "Commodity Prices, Stock Prices and Economic Activity in a Small Open Economy." Supervisor, Jean-Paul Lam. On deposit in the Arts graduate office, PAS 2428. Oral defence Monday, April 30, 1:00 p.m., MC 2009.

Applied Mathematics. Tahmina Akhter, "Stochastic Effects and Fractal Kinetics in the Pharmacokinetics of Drug Transport." Supervisor, Siv Sivaloganathan. Thesis available from MGO - Oral defence Monday, April 30, 1:30 p.m., MC 6460.

Computer Science. Lesley Istead, "Towards Better Methods of Stereoscopic 3D Media Adjustment and Stylization." Supervisor, Craig Kaplan. Thesis available from MGO - Oral defence Monday, April 30, 1:30 p.m., DC 2314.

Electrical & Computer Engineering. Jonathan Eyolfson, "Enforcing Abstract Immutability." Supervisor, Patrick Lam. On display in the Engineering graduate office, DWE 3520C. Oral defence Monday, April 30, 3:00 p.m., EIT 3142.