Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Waterloo will observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

"The University of Waterloo will observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 as a day of commemoration," wrote President Vivek Goel and Jean Becker, senior director, indigenous initiatives and interim associate vice-president, human rights, equity & inclusion in a memo circulated to campus this morning. "The federal government recently passed a bill creating a national holiday on September 30 for employees in federally regulated workplaces."

"This date coincides with Orange Shirt Day in observance of the Indigenous children taken from their homes and forced to attend residential school. Our community was sickened by the recent discovery of mass graves near the sites of several former residential schools. The last residential school closed in the 1990s, but the effects of this horrendous system are still deeply felt in communities today."

"Reconciling with Indigenous communities is our shared responsibility. As outlined in the strategic plan (Connecting Imagination with Impact), promoting and supporting Indigenous initiatives and a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusivity for all, is a high priority institutional goal. We remain committed to embracing and acting upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations and calls to action and building stronger relationships with local Indigenous communities." 

"While this is not a statutory holiday in Ontario, we should use this day to reflect on the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, as we work together for a better community for all peoples. Understanding Indigenous history, developing an awareness of the damaging and intergenerational effects of the residential school system, and taking responsibility are vital components of the reconciliation process." 

"The Indigenous Initiatives office and the President’s Anti-racism Taskforce (PART) have organized a series of events to recognize the legacy of the residential school system, honour the victims, survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that this tragic history is never forgotten," Goel and Becker write. "We look forward to participating in these events together with you all, as we commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation."

United Way Charitable Spotlight: Kind Minds Family Wellness

By Jessica Manarang. This is the third in a three-part series of articles on the charities supported by the University's United Way Campaign.

Kind Minds Family Wellness logo.The pandemic has affected us all, though some more severely than others. Ajirioghene Evi-Cobbinah, the executive director of Kind Minds Family Wellness (KMFW), explains: “we know from data and research that Black communities have been the most impacted with the pandemic by way of deaths”. Kind Minds Family Wellness is a Black-led, culturally inclined grassroots organization that launched amidst the pandemic and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, serving Black-identifying, racialized, and equity-seeking bodies in Waterloo Region.

Reflecting on one year of perseverance, progress, and promise

Just last August, KMFW was created by a group of black professionals working in local mainstream and euro-centric settings who recognized the gaps in social services for Black persons which have been emphasized during the pandemic. The tragedy of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent amplification of the BLM movement was their signal to actively address and attempt to close those gaps in our community. Initially, they targeted Black-identifying youth; however, Evi-Cobbinah explains they quickly realized that “if we’re supporting the youth, we need to support the people also supporting the youth”. Thus, they expanded to serve all members of a family and embodied their full name as Kind Minds Family Wellness.

Within one year, KMFW has offered and supported a variety of initiatives and programs. Particularly important is their Afro-centric counselling, because people “feel confident and more connected if they are with an organization, community, or professionals that actually do represent them… culturally or even racially,” explains accounting and operations personnel, Tafadzwa Takaendesa.  Similarly, its Klib Liv (Means ‘Book Club’ in Haitian Creole) Book Club celebrates Black excellence while promoting literacy. Other services include employment support, advocacy, community outreach, mentoring programs, and youth groups. A key component of each is upholding accountability through regular research. As Takaendesa states, “Kind Minds Family Wellness is committed to providing equitable and culturally sensitive programs within the context of an evidenced-based practice”.

A collage of staff, volunteers, and clients of Kind Minds Family Wellness celebrating the organization's one-year anniversary.

A collage of staff, volunteers, and clients of Kind Minds Family Wellness celebrating the organization's one-year anniversary.

KMFW has worked with other organizations, such as Carizon, to bring Black-identifying and newcomer seniors together. In collaboration with the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, KMFW provided cultural cooking classes. Essentially, KMFW aims to connect their clientele with other social service agencies in a way that understands and honours their cultural or racial backgrounds. “It’s been a long-time coming, to create a hub for Black persons and Black residents,” Evi-Cobbinah explains. “We know that there are other organizations that are doing amazing stuff – whether they are grassroots, Black-led, or mainstream – but we could be that bridge [for Black-identifying residents]”.

The United Way has been a crucial supporter of these achievements, not only by providing funding, but also a platform to meet and hear about other organizations in the community that are serving different needs. As well, KMFW has benefited from the exposure, information, and resources that the United Way has shared. “We’re so proud that as a young organization, we’ve actually felt welcome,” Evi-Cobbinah says. “Shout-out to United Way, they came through”.

Staff, volunteers, and participants posing outside together for a photo during one of their summer community events.

Staff, volunteers, and participants posing outside together for a photo during one of their summer community events.

Moving forward with passion, purpose, and propositions

Although Kind Minds Family Wellness has developed impressively quick, there is still so much it needs to address and overcome. Accessibility is a consistent point of difficulty without an interpreter to help communicate with clients whose first language is not English. Using technology to access Kind Minds Family Wellness’ virtual services has also proved a challenge for some senior clients or clients without access to internet. Indeed, the pandemic has made it hard for KMFW to reach many of its clients. Caretakers struggle to balance both their own needs with their children’s, while victims of domestic violence are stuck at home with their perpetrator. Therefore, these clients have limited access to the services KMFW offers that could support them.

As social isolation restrictions are lifted, KMFW faces the challenge of transitioning to in-person service and strategizing new operations. Building new partnerships and collaborations with other organizations and institutions is a priority to reach as many people as possible, especially students. Zino Ojogbo is a Board Member and Treasurer at KMFW, but also a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo. “Speaking from both my experience with Kind Minds Family Wellness as well as a student, it would be nice if the University of Waterloo could partner with an organization like Kind Minds Family Wellness that provides cultural-inclined counselling for racialized students,” she shares. “Culture is an important factor to consider in counselling”. Other opportunities include student placements with KMFW, sponsorships, and simply amplifying their message and sharing their presence.

A group of people smiling in attendance of one of Kind Minds' events, an outdoor community picnic.

A group of people smiling in attendance of one of Kind Minds' events, an outdoor community picnic.

“We’re new, we’re growing, so our needs are huge,” Evi-Cobbinah admits. As is, Kind Minds Family Wellness is significantly reliant on passionate volunteers and contractors, and demand for their services is only increasing. More funding is required to provide the organization stability through hired staff and further development through increased resources. Donating to the United Way during this year’s campaign can help Kind Minds Family Wellness and other important agencies across the Waterloo region obtain the funding they need to support the people in our community who need them.

To learn more about Kind Minds Family Wellness, visit their website: https://kindmindsfamilywellness.org/. Stay tuned for content about our campus’ United Way Campaign in October to support Kind Minds and other important organizations in our community by donating.

Science names award for Herbert Fernando, diversity champion

This article was originally published on the Faculty of Science website.

Professor Constantine Herbert Fernando.In July 1965, Herbert Fernando, his professor wife Aggie and their two children – which quickly became three – departed Sri Lanka to embark on a new life in Waterloo. Herbert was eager to begin his tenure as associate professor in a newly created Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo. Over the next 33 years, he would go on to create an incredible legacy of teaching that put student experience and student success above all else. Herbert Fernando was a tireless advocate for all student education that incorporated experiential learning outside of the classroom.

Herbert’s love of fieldwork, and his belief that field courses play an essential role in the full education of biologists is shared widely by Waterloo’s current faculty members. Field studies allow students to gather their own data, learn through direct observation and allow for scientific research through field experiments. However, the rising costs of field courses, some in excess of $2,500 for a trip within Canada, or over $4,000 for field courses in Brazil or Costa Rica, left many students unable to participate. In fact, it was noted by associate professor and field course coordinator, Heidi Swanson, that participation levels were even lower in students of Black and Indigenous communities. After confirming within to her Ontario network of peers that there was an equity issue, she reached out to fellow Waterloo biologists to see what could be done to promote wider student diversity in field courses.

Lecturer and teaching fellow, Marcel Pinheiro and current biology chair, Kirsten Müller, are both strong believers in the value of experience gained by field courses and were quick to jump on board to establish an award to help Black and Indigenous students enroll in biology field courses. It was aptly named after Professor Herbert Fernando.

Professor Fernando in his office.“I think naming this award after Herbert would make him proud,” Pinheiro says. “He was a champion of diversity and equity for students and, of course, valued the type of education only a field course could provide.”

Kirsten Müller has been on her fair share of field courses from Newfoundland to Costa Rica, and describes them as critical to the student experience. She believes that helping the Black and Indigenous students enroll in these courses will ultimately be for the betterment of science and learning. “Right now we’re potentially missing out on people who could be great field researchers simply due to the financial barriers that currently exist,” she says. “Field courses are just too important to be limited for financial reasons.”

Herbert Fernando passed away in 2018 after an extraordinary full life. Those that remember him recall a generous, happy individual who was a marvelous cook, passionate educator and had a knack for breaking out into Russian song for seemingly no reason except to make others smile. His widow, Aggie, was touched by the establishment of this memorial award in his honour and has contributed on behalf of his family. His daughter Shanti spoke about his advocacy for racialized students: “He was their voice when they couldn’t find it. Education should be accessible for everybody and Dad would be very honoured to have his name associated with an award that helped provide that education.”

About the Herbert Fernando Memorial Award

Two awards, valued at $500 each, are available annually for Black or Indigenous undergraduate students enrolled in a field-based course in the Department of Biology, in the Faculty of Science. Selection is based on academic excellence in ecology-based courses (minimum 3 courses taken). To be considered, interested students are asked to self-identify their eligibility by completing an on-line form by January 15 of each year. This award is made possible by donations from faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University and of Professor Herbert Fernando, who supported diversity and equity for students in the Department of Biology. To learn more about this award visit the Student Awards and Financial Aid listing of the Herbert Fernando Memorial Award.

Help us continue the legacy of Herbert Fernando by supporting his memorial fund. Your donation will help create a more diverse scientific community by ensuring that Black and Indigenous students can access these critical biology field courses.

Tuesday's notes

W3+ banner."Waterloo Womxn + Nonbinary Wednesdays is putting a twist on its annual September meet and greet," says a note from W3+. "Whether you're still at home or back on campus this fall, we invite you to give us a quick live virtual tour of your workspace, or share photos in the chat, and get to know other womxn and nonbinary members of the UWaterloo community. This event is open to womxn and nonbinary graduate students, staff, postdocs, and faculty."

Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion (HREI) will be hosting 2SLGBTQ+ Fundamentals on September 14 (that's today) from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. "This is an introductory workshop to help Waterloo students and employees develop greater understandings of 2SLGBTQ+ identities, gain knowledge about protected rights, and, identify and explore barriers to develop and foster actions that create a more welcoming campus environment and offer meaningful and relevant support," says a note from HREI. "All are welcome."

The online workshop, held on Microsoft Teams, will be facilitated by Sarah Grzincic.

Also today, the Waterloo Warriors Athletics and Recreation Virtual Open House will be taking place at 3:00 p.m. Attendees will have an opportunity to view the amenities and programs Athletics is offering this term and will have a chance to ask questions. Attendees will also be entered to win prizes including a $25 gift card from Freshii.

"Dr. Susan Horton retired from the University of Waterloo on September 1, 2021," says a note from Carol West-Seebeck in the School of Public Health Sciences. On Wednesday, September 22 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., the School is hosting Professor Horton as she gives some reflections on her University career. Please contact Carol West-Seebeck at cwestsee@uwaterloo.ca for more information and the link to the virtual event.

A picture of the Optometry Rack Pack team.The 2021 Optometry Rack Pack team will again be participating in the 'CIBC Run for the Cure' virtual run on Sunday, October 3 to support the Canadian Cancer Society," writes Marie Amodeo. "Our current total is $5,700. As a breast cancer graduate and the team captain, I know how important research to find a cure is. We are gratefully accepting donations to our team online."

"Every amount makes an impact," Amodeo writes. "Together we can make breast cancer beatable."

Link of the day

35 years ago: How Transformers: the Movie traumatized a generation

When and Where to get support

Students can visit the Student Success Office online for supports including academic development, international student resources, leadership development, exchange and study abroad, and opportunities to get involved.

Instructors can visit the Keep Learning website to get support on adapting their teaching and learning plans for an online environment.

Course templates are available within your course in LEARN to help you build and edit your content and assignment pages quickly.

The following workshops, webinars, and events are offered by the KL team (CTE, CEL, ITMS, LIB):

Employees can access resources to help them work remotely, including managing University records and privacy of personal information. Here are some tips for staying healthy while working from home.

Stay informed about COVID cases on campus by consulting the COVID case tracker.

The Writing and Communication Centre has virtual services and programs to help undergrads, grad students, postdocs and faculty members with academic writing.

Co-op students can get help finding a job and find supports to successfully work remotely, develop new skills, access wellness and career information, and contact a co-op or career advisor.

The Centre for Career Action (CCA) will be expanding some in-person services for fall 2021. The Tatham Centre will be open with front-desk support beginning September 7, with limited in-person appointments and co-op consults beginning September 20. All services will continue to be offered virtually this term. Book an appointment online or visit our Live Chat to connect with our Client Support Team. The CCA is here to help.

If you feel overwhelmed or anxious and need to talk to somebody, please contact the University’s Campus Wellness services, either Health Services or  Counselling Services. You can also contact the University's Centre for Mental Health Research and TreatmentGood2Talk is a post-secondary student helpline available to all students.

While the Library continues to focus on digital resources and consultations, our spaces are open for the fall term. Dana Porter Library is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Davis Centre Library is open Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for drop-in individual study space, bookable individual study rooms, drop-in access to computers and printers, book pick-up services and IST Help Desk support. Special Collections & Archives and the Geospatial Centre will be accessible by appointment. Library staff are available for questions via Ask us. Full details on current services and hours are available on the Library’s COVID-19 Update webpage

The Faculty Association of the University of Waterloo (FAUW) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the FAUW blog for more information.

The University of Waterloo Staff Association (UWSA) continues to advocate for its members. Check out the UWSA blog for more information.

The Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) supports all members of the University of Waterloo campus community who have experienced, or been impacted, by sexual violence. This includes all students, staff, faculty and visitors on the main campus, the satellite campuses, and at the affiliated and federated Waterloo Institutes and Colleges. For support, email: svpro@uwaterloo.ca or visit the SVPRO website.

The Indigenous Initiatives Office is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the university Indigenization strategy.

The Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre, based at St. Paul’s University College, provides support and resources for Indigenous students, and educational outreach programs for the broader community, including lectures, and events.

WUSA supports for students:

Peer support  - MATES, Glow Centre, RAISE, Women’s Centre - Visit https://wusa.ca/peersupport to book an appointment either in person or online for the Fall term!

Food Support Service food hampers are currently available from the Turnkey Desk 24/7 in the Student Life Centre. Drop off locations are also open again in SLC, DC, DP, SCH and all residences.

Bike Centre – Open for drop in and Rentals

Co-op Connection all available online. Check https://wusa.ca for more details.

Centre for Academic Policy Support - CAPS is here to assist Waterloo undergraduates throughout their experience in navigating academic policy in the instances of filing petitions, grievances and appeals. Please contact them at caps@wusa.caMore information is available.

WUSA Student Legal Protection Program - Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time facing a legal issue. The legal assistance helpline provides quick access to legal advice in any area of law, including criminal. Just call 1-833-202-4571

Empower Me is a confidential mental health and wellness service that connects students with qualified counsellors 24/7. They can be reached at 1-833-628-5589.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Healthy Warriors at Home (Online Fitness)

Warrior Rec Registration. Starts September 7. A wide range of programs are being offered this term. Intramural deadline: September 13, 11:00 a.m. Instructional deadline: September 19, 11:59 p.m. Register online.

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join your fellow Warriors, donate blood and help us win the Blood Battle against Laurier for a second year in a row. Set up a profile or add the PFL code: UNIV960995 to your account if you have a blood.ca account already. Questions? Contact WarriorsInfo@uwaterloo.ca.

Drop-in to Warrior Virtual Study Halls on Wednesdays from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Come together in this virtual space to set goals and work independently or in groups each week.

Renison English Language Institute continues to offer virtual events and workshops to help students practice their English language skills.

WUSA Welcome Week, Monday, September 13 to Friday, September 17.

2SLGBTQ+ Fundamentals, Tuesday, September 14, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. This is an introductory workshop to help Waterloo students and employees develop greater understandings of 2SLGBTQ+ identities, gain knowledge about protected rights, and, identify and explore barriers to develop and foster actions that create a more welcoming campus environment and offer meaningful and relevant support. All are welcome.

Indigenous Employee Virtual Social, Tuesday, September 14, 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. The Indigenous Initiatives Office invites all Indigenous employees and retirees of the University of Waterloo and the Affiliated and Federated Institutions to a virtual social. All of Turtle Island’s First Nations (Status/Non-Status), Métis, Inuit employees and retirees are welcome.

Athletics and Rec Virtual Open HouseTuesday, September 14, 3:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Find out how to get active and engaged with Warriors Athletics and Rec this term. One lucky participant will win $25 to Freshii. Registration required.

Waterloo’s Equity Survey: Ask Us Anything About Data Collection & Security, Tuesday, September 14, 3:00 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. Virtual event open to all campus community members to learn more and ask questions about Waterloo’s Equity Survey. All are welcome.

NEW - Athletics and Recreation Virtual Open HouseTuesday, September 14, 3:00 p.m.

NEW - W3+ Meet and Greet, Wednesday, September 15, 12 noon to 1:00 p.m.

Women in Mathematics (WiM) virtual welcome event, “What I wish I knew then…” Thursday, September 16, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. RSVP today.

Take Back the Night, Thursday, September 16, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Knowledge Integration seminar: “Knowledge Integration and public service for the digital age”, featuring speakers Skaidra Puodziunas and Sukhi Chuhan, Ontario Digital Service, Government of Ontario, Friday, September 17, 1:00 p.m

Warriors Football Home Opener. Saturday, September 18, 6:00 p.m., Warrior Field. Minor League Day, Residence and Employees Day, The Alliance “We Are One” Game. Purchase your tickets in advance (coming soon).

University Senate meeting, Monday, September 20, 3:30 p.m.

Anti-racism book clubWhite Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson (2018), Tuesday, September 21, 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m.

GEDI Exchange Webinar - A 30 Minute Exchange with HueX and Tim Hortons, Tuesday, September 21, 1:00 p.m. Join this discussion with HueX and Tim Hortons as they discuss improving the customer experience with technology by bringing voice-enabled conversational AI to the drive-through.