Wednesday, December 15, 2021

President, Provost provide update on Omicron precautions

Masked students in a lecture hall.

"Recent news about the rise of COVID-19 cases in Ontario, driven by the emergence of the Omicron variant, means that 2021 is ending with a great deal of uncertainty about the future, once again," says a memo written by President and Vice-Chancellor Vivek Goel and Vice-President, Academic & Provost James Rush circulated to employees and graduate students yesterday. "Scientists around the world are learning about Omicron every day. The keys to controlling this variant continue to be the same: masking, avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated spaces, and most importantly, vaccinations, particularly to reduce the risk of severe illness. Getting vaccinated – and getting a booster shot when you are eligible – well help Ontario mitigate the effects of this new variant."
"It is also clear that we need to act to protect the things that are most important to us like keeping schools open and allowing our students to take exams and learn together in person."
"To do this, we must limit all non-essential personal contacts to reduce levels of community transmission."
"Our plans for end of term exams will remain in place, but we are urging everyone to observe the latest guidance from Region of Waterloo Public Health and limit all other non-essential contact."
"This means we are cancelling all non-essential in person end-of-year gatherings and meetings on campus. We strongly urge you to cancel all work-related end-of-year gatherings off-campus, too. Please find ways to use virtual meetings and gathering tools."
"We’re also asking managers and supervisors to allow people to work from home immediately, where it is possible. Maintaining flexibility to work from home now will help us keep our contacts down while we increase vaccine levels and booster shots."
"We will continue to monitor the situation and public health advice and plan to share guidance about the next term before the University closes for the Winter break. While we can hope for the best, we must plan for the worst." 
"Please keep watch on your email, our social media channels, and the COVID-19 information website for more help and information."

Thank you for supporting United Way's 2021 Campaign

The University of Waterloo sign wrapped in red.

A message from the United Way campaign.

Our 2021 United Way Campaign has wrapped up and we are so grateful to everyone who helped make this year a success. Whether you donated through e-Pledge, supported a department fundraiser, attended an event, or helped spread the word about the United Way, you made an impact, and we are so thankful for you.

Please enjoy this video from the United Way Campaign, with an appearance from our President Vivek Goel. Check it out below.

Despite our campaign once again being virtual and in a pandemic, we’ve raised vital funds for United Way Waterloo Region Communities.  By coming together, our campus is helping families through difficult times and building a stronger Waterloo region by providing mental health services, combating social isolation, and ensuring people can meet their basic needs.  

Thank you again, our community is a better place because of you.

Reminders of ongoing advances in science instil trust in changing COVID-19 guidance

A street sign encouraging physical distancing.

This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

Officials could boost public trust in COVID-19 health recommendations by including reminders that changes to recommendations are expected as science evolves, a new study has found.

The research team first predicted and found that reminders of the frequent changes in safety guidelines caused people to judge experts negatively.

“People have often suggested that the revisions to safety practices might lead to distrust in the experts who are providing the guidance,” said study co-author Derek Koehler, professor of psychology at Waterloo. “Our goal was to examine the effects of salient changes in COVID-19 guidance—such as changes regarding mask-wearing—on trust in health experts, and to test interventions for enhancing trust.”

For a group of study participants in Canada, highlighting the frequent changes in guidance also lowered their intentions to download the COVID Alert contact tracing app.

To conduct the study, participants in Canada and the United States completed an online survey asking them to rate the perceived expertise and trustworthiness of public health officials and scientists during the COVID pandemic.  Before completing their ratings, they were reminded of ways in which public health guidance on COVID had stayed the same or of ways in which it had changed over the preceding months. 

Compared to reminders of consistency, reminders of changes in public health recommendations led people to rate public health authorities as having less expertise. 

To test an intervention, the participants were presented with a “forewarning” message to accompany public health updates that emphasized how change in science is expected and is a good thing. It encouraged the study participants to take the perspective of a public health official who communicates this changing guidance.

“We found that this intervention helped make people more receptive to changes in guidance. For example, without forewarning, reminders of changing (as opposed to consistent) guidance led public health authorities to be seen as less trustworthy, but the forewarning message eliminated this negative effect,” said lead author Jeremy Gretton, who was a postdoctoral researcher at Waterloo when the work was conducted.

The study suggests communication strategies for public health updates that emphasize the recommendations are based on the latest advances in scientific evidence and understanding and that these will continue to evolve.

The study, A brief forewarning intervention overcomes negative effects of salient changes in COVID-19 guidance, authored by Gretton, Koehler, Ethan Meyers, Alexander Walker and Jonathan Fugelsang, was recently published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making.

Waterloo Centre for German Studies announces 2020 Book Prize winner

A message from the Waterloo Centre for German Studies (WCGS).

The cover of the book "Mobilizing Black Germany."The Waterloo Centre for German Studies is pleased to announce the winner of its prize for the best first book published in 2020. Mobilizing Black Germany: Afro-German Women and the Making of a Transnational Movement, by Tiffany N. Florvil and published by University of Illinois Press, was selected from a shortlist of six excellent academic monographs. The prize includes a cash award of CAD $3,000.

In selecting Mobilizing Black Germany as the winner, jurors called it an “immensely important book” that breaks new ground in German social history. Florvil traces the modern history of Black German women, their struggle against discrimination, their important role in the transnational Black women’s movement, and their significance for the development of German feminism in the last forty years. This book will become indispensable to German studies scholars while also providing more general audiences with an accessible introduction to a less familiar chapter of German history.

Tiffany Florvil is Associate Professor of History at the University of New Mexico, where she has been teaching since 2013. She earned her BA at Florida State University, her MA at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), and her PhD at the University of South Carolina. Her areas of interest include race and ethnicity, gender, identity formation, social and cultural movements, Black internationalism, intellectualism, diasporas, and emotions.

The Waterloo Centre for German Studies takes great pride in sponsoring an award that celebrates the dynamic and engaging scholarship occurring in all fields of German Studies. The prize is adjudicated by a jury of German studies scholars chaired by James M. Skidmore, Director of the Waterloo Centre for German Studies. Members of the jury were Gary Bruce (University of Waterloo), Charlotte Schallié (University of Victoria), Kathryn Starkey (Stanford University), and Joachim Whaley (University of Cambridge). Over 20 books published in 2020 were nominated. In addition to Florvil’s book, five of the nominated books were named to a shortlist that illustrates the quality and range of German studies today:

  • Amstutz, Nina. Caspar David Friedrich: Nature and the Self. (Yale University Press) 
  • Eicher, John P.R.Exiled Among Nations: German and Mennonite Mythologies in a Transnational Age. (Cambridge University Press) 
  • Eyerly, Sarah. Moravian Soundscapes: A Sonic History of the Moravian Missions in Early America. (Indiana University Press) 
  • Fleischman, Thomas. Communist Pigs. An Animal History of East Germany’s Rise and Fall. (University of Washington Press) 
  • George, Alys X. The Naked Truth: Viennese Modernism and the Body. (University of Chicago Press) 

For inquiries, please contact the Waterloo Centre for German Studies ( For further information, please go to the WCGS Book Prize page.

Waterloo and NRC reaffirm partnership on future-facing technology

Two men work on a computer RFID tagging system.

By Sam Toman. This article originally appeared on Waterloo News.

If it makes you feel any better, robots get old too. Just like humans their joints begin to fail, and certain abilities fade or become less reliable over time. The difference (besides complaining about it) is humans naturally adjust or adapt their movement to compensate for decline.

Robots aren’t quite there yet, but research made possible by support from the National Research Council (NRC) is helping University of Waterloo researchers learn how the human brain processes decay over time, what adjustments it makes, and how that can help robots manage fading sensors and overworked joints as they wear down.

Terry Stewart.“Figuring out how our brains process declining movement involves an incredible amount of computer simulations,” says, Terry Stewart, an NRC Associate Research Officer at Waterloo. “These simulations have helped us create a biological representation of how the human brain might manage decline and given us a pathway to apply that to intelligent machines.”

Stewart and his team hope that this knowledge, combined with machine learning, can provide Canadian manufacturing with tremendous benefits and efficiencies.

“Let’s say a robot in a manufacturing plant performs the same function many thousands of times a day. Regular wear and tear can lead to that machine making mistakes. Even if it’s just a millimetre or two off, that can compromise its work.” says Stewart. “But if it can understand and predict that decomposition as it’s happening it can modify its motion.”

That project is just one of a host of NRC-sponsored projects underway at Waterloo making breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, the internet of things and cybersecurity.

Those projects include:

Automated Material Synthesis using Deep Reinforcement Learning

  • Isaac Tamblyn (NRC)
  • Mark Crowley (UWaterloo)

Battery-free Touch Sensors for Internet of Things

  • Keiko Katsuragawa (NRC)
  • Peng Hu (NRC)
  • Omid Abari (UCLA)
  • Daniel Vogel (UWaterloo)

Reliable Gesture Recognition in Virtual Reality Environment

  • Keiko Katsuragawa (NRC)
  • Ed Lank (UWaterloo)

Neuromorphics for Vision-Based Movement Planning and Control

  • Chris Eliasmith (UWaterloo)
  • Terry Stewart (NRC)

A Secure Scalable Quantum-Safe Blockchain for Critical Infrastructure

  • Koray Karabina (NRC)
  • Srinivasan Keshav (Cambridge)
  • Michele Mosca (UWaterloo)

This second round of funding was reaffirmed by NRC President Iain Stewart as NRC and Waterloo come together on the development of five new upcoming projects, with Waterloo supplying matching funds bringing the total dollar amount to $900k. Those new projects will be decided on and announced March 31.

The NRC and Waterloo Collaboration will help position Canada as a global leader in these future-relevant areas and aid the NRC is its mandate to increase its collaboration with regional ecosystems like the one that exists in the Region of Waterloo and universities like Waterloo.

“The work being done thanks to the generosity of NRC is going to keep Canada at the top of the pile of universities on the cutting edge of technological research,” says Terry Stewart. “Advancements being made in our labs today will hopefully soon be deployed in Canadian Plants, homes and infrastructure to make our society more innovative and resilient.

Upcoming office closure

Counselling Services will be closing on Thursday, December 16 at 2:30 p.m. for a staff meeting.

Link of the day

Zamenhof Day

When and Where to get support

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

Instructors looking for targeted support for developing online components for blended learning courses, transitioning remote to fully online courses, revising current online courses, and more please visit Agile Development | Centre for Extended Learning | University of Waterloo (

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) is offering some in-person services for fall 2021. The Tatham Centre is open with front-desk support, limited in-person appointments and co-op consults. Services are also available virtually. Book an appointment online or Live Chat 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: or visit the SVPRO website.

The Office of Indigenous Relations is a central hub that provides guidance, support, and resources to all Indigenous and non-Indigenous campus community members and oversees the University's 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 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.

Co-op Connection all available online. Check 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.

GSA-UW supports for graduate students: 

The Graduate Student Association (GSA-UW) supports students’ academic and social experience and promotes their well-being.

Advising and Support - The GSA advises graduate students experiencing challenges and can help with navigating university policies & filing a grievance, appeal, or petition.

Mental Health covered by the Health Plan - The GSA Health Plan now has an 80 per cent coverage rate (up to $800/year) for Mental Health Practitioners. Your plan includes coverage for psychologists, registered social workers, psychotherapists, and clinical counsellors.

Dental Care - The GSA Dental Plan covers 60 per cent to 70 per cent of your dental costs and by visiting dental professionals who are members of the Studentcare Networks, you can receive an additional 20 per cent to 30 per cent coverage.

Student Legal Protection Program - Your GSA fees give you access to unlimited legal advice, accessible via a toll-free helpline: +1-833-202-4571. This advice covers topics including housing disputes, employment disputes, and disputes with an academic institution.

The Graduate House: Community Space Open M - F @ 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. - We’re open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. The Graduate House is run by the GSA-UW. Graduate students get special discounts. We are hiring all positions. Bring your resume to the bar.

BIPOC Student Collective - The Collective is a safe space for BIPOC LGBTQ2+ students and aims to foster intergenerational and peer-to-peer support and mentorship. Join the online Discord channel for solidary chats and drop-in sessions.

When and Where (but mostly when)

Healthy Warriors at Home (Online Fitness).

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 account already. Questions? Contact

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.

NEW - Finance and Student Financial Services will be closed to in-person service in EC5 until the new year. Students, please visit The Centre in Needles Hall or contact Student Financial Services at our helpdesk.

Fall 2021 examination period, Thursday, December 9 to Thursday, December 23.

Portfolio & Project Management Community of Practice (PPM CoP) session, "Project and portfolio management tool demo" Wednesday, December 15, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Register for this event.

NEW - PDAG Seminar featuring Andrea Chappell: "So long and thanks for all the fish..."; an imminent retirement review, Friday, December 17, 9:00 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., Microsoft Teams.

Co-operative work term ends, Thursday, December 23.

University holiday closure, Friday, December 24 to Monday, January 3, 2022.

Positions available

On this week's list from the human resources department, viewable on the UWaterloo Talent Acquisition System (iCIMS):

  • Job ID# 2021-6993 - Special Projects Coordinator - Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion, USG 9
  • Job ID# 2021-7739 - Coordinator, International Student Experience - Student Success Office, USG 7
  • Job ID# 2021-7359 - Financial Systems Specialist and Accountant - WUSA, USG 9
  • Job ID# 2021-7675 - Account Coordinator - CEE - Co-operative Education, USG 5 - 6
  • Job ID# 2021-7707 - Analyst - Co-operative and Experiential Education Business Services, USG 8 - 11
  • Job ID# 2021-7670 - Career Advisor - CEE - Centre for Career Action, USG 8 - 10
  • Job ID# 2021-7687 - Financial Officer - School of Pharmacy, USG 10
  • Job ID# 2021-7731 - Lab Technician/Client Services Assistant - Earth and Environmental Sciences, USG 5
  • Job ID# 2021-7702 - Presentation Technologies - Implementation & Support - Information Systems and Technology, USG 6
  • Job ID# 2021-7501 - Admissions Coordinator - Office of the Registrar, USG 5 - 7
  • Job ID# 2021-7330 - Student Information Systems Coordinator - Office of the Registrar, USG 8
  • Job ID# 2021-7686 - Systems Operations Specialist - Office of the Registrar, USG 6 - 7
  • Job ID# 2021-7756 - Grant & Contracts Manager - Office of Research, USG 9 - 11
  • Job ID# 2021-7420 - Assistant to the Associate Deans - Faculty of Health, Dean's Office, USG 7
  • Job ID# 2021-7668 - Undergraduate Advisor and Program Coordinator - Kinesiology and Health Sciences, USG 6
  • Job ID# 2021-7749 - Project Manager - Plant Operations, USG 9 - 12

Secondments/Internal temporary opportunities

  • Job ID# 2021-7737 - Coordinator, Purchasing and Business Development - Print + Retail Solutions, USG 6
  • Job ID# 2021-7691 - Administrative Assistant, Co-operative and Experiential Education - Co-operative and Experiential Education, USG 6
  • Job ID# 2021-7751 - Admissions Coordinator - Office of the Registrar, USG 5 - 7
  • Job ID# 2021-7753 - Manager, International Agreements - Waterloo International, USG 12
  • Job ID# 2021-7724 - Research Assistant - Kinesiology and Health Sciences, USG 5

Affiliated and Federated Institutions of Waterloo opportunities