Monday, January 10, 2022

Special podcast episode features President Vivek Goel

Beyond the Bulletin logo and an image of President Vivek Goel.

In addition to leading the University of Waterloo as president and vice-chancellor, Vivek Goel is a public-health physician and researcher who has worked hard to help improve Canada’s response to COVID-19.

As we face Omicron, the latest variant of concern, he discusses the ways it has changed the pandemic, its impact on society, and what to do about it in a special episode of the Beyond the Bulletin podcast.

Listen to the podcast episode on Soundcloud or listen on YouTube.

New year brings changes to COVID-19 testing options on campus

Samples being tested in a lab.

Due to the rapidly spreading and highly transmissible omicron variant, Ontario has seen a surge in reported COVID-19 cases. As a result, the province, and the University, is changing its approach to testing.

On-campus testing centre

As of December 31, 2021, publicly funded PCR testing is only available for vulnerable individuals with significant medical issues, and residents and staff in the highest-risk settings. Because of these changes in eligibility, testing appointments at the on-campus testing centre are by appointment only. Individuals may be asked to show proof of eligibility before a COVID-19 test is administered.

Members of the general public who are experiencing mild symptoms are now encouraged not to seek testing. Before seeking out a COVID-19 test, please read the full list of individuals eligible for a PCR test per Ontario Government guidance.

Symptomatic individuals can do a self-assessment if they are exposed to COVID-19, have symptoms, and to seek guidance on their next steps. 

If you are showing COVID-19 symptoms, visit the local testing centres in Waterloo Region. As always, if you are unwell you are encouraged to connect with Health Services to discuss your options.

Please note: the testing centre is not able to provide testing for outbound travel. Testing for outbound travel can be completed at private labs and test sites.

Rapid antigen testing

Throughout the fall term, take home rapid antigen tests were available for eligible Waterloo employees and students. Due to a demand in rapid testing kits across the province, rapid antigen testing is now only available at the rapid antigen testing centre in the Student Life Centre and is prioritized for those on an approved medical or religious accommodation from the University. Take-home kits are no longer available for those at satellite campuses.

Individuals who would not otherwise access their campus are strongly discouraged from attending main campus to access the rapid antigen testing centre only. 

Case tracking

Given the recent changes to case and contact management by the Government of Ontario, we are not receiving official notifications of COVID-19 from our local public health unit. Region of Waterloo have prioritized testing for only the highest-risk settings. As a result, we will no longer be tracking or reporting on our case tracking dashboard.

The residence wastewater surveillance program will continue, and positive wastewater detection will be reported.

Chance favours the prepared mind

Richard Xie

By Joe Petrik. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

Richard Xie, an enterprising undergraduate student at the Cheriton School of Computer Science, is changing the way we interact with today’s housing market. A fourth-year student, Xie has brought artificial intelligence to real estate through his company Manorlead and is actively working on a metaverse for preconstruction real estate. 

While Manorlead was developed during his university years, Xie’s concept began in elementary school.  

“My dad got into real estate around the time I was ten years old,” he recalls. “As a kid I would help him set up the open house signs when he had properties to show and I collected them afterwards. Later, when I was 13, I was helping him with real estate contracts. A contract has a lot of legal terms and I didn’t understand them at the time, but the more involved I became the more I learned and the more I understood how real estate works. But I also saw how real estate sometimes doesn’t work‚ the rigidness and inefficiencies in the industry.” 

Even though Xie obtained his real estate licence at age 18, the inspiration to launch Manorlead, a novel way to buy a property, didn’t fall into place until he had a few co-op placements — work opportunities that gave him not only real-world experiences but perhaps even more importantly the confidence to launch a business. 

“During my second co-op placement I worked as an AI software developer at the National Bank of Canada,” he said. “I worked with other interns and an AI lead at National Bank to build an app that provided financial advice using AI. It was then that it hit me — building an AI tool being used at a bank didn’t require a large team of senior software engineers. It was created by a small, but enthusiastic team.” 

Xie also saw how Airbnb was changing hospitality, and how Uber was disrupting the taxi industry. He wondered if similar technology could be brought to real estate. “Buying and selling properties is something we can change for the better,” he said. “All these things came together and gave me the inspiration to launch Manorlead.” 

Manorlead — a team of software engineers, real estate agents, and mortgage specialists — has been in operation for more than a year now, and its AI technology has helped people buy and sell more than $100 million of real estate. 

“We’ve built the Manor AI platform and a mobile app for both iOS and Android devices,” Xie explains. “Once you’ve downloaded the app you can begin to search for new developments and residential listings, though we’ve focused mostly on new developments — preconstruction or unbuilt properties such as condos that are typically sold to buyers before or during their construction.” 

The Manorlead app includes various features that serve as an asset management platform for real estate. It has an integrated mortgage and payment calculator that helps buyers determine how much money they need to save for a down payment and what their monthly mortgage payment will be. “The app also has a school area boundary feature that lets people see if a property they’re considering falls within a school’s catchment area,” Xie said. “No other platform does this.” 

In the coming weeks, Manorlead will have a new feature that lets buyers track the value of their preconstruction property. “If you’re buying a unit in a preconstruction development, you’re buying at a projected price, what the unit will cost in, say, 2025,” Xie said. “The way many people decide if a condo is worth buying is seeing if the unit’s value will exceed the 2025 price, which the website’s value-tracking function will allow them to do. Ultimately, it will be built up like Wealthsimple or Robinhood, apps that let you buy stocks and to track your portfolio from your smartphone. We want to provide that same experience for real estate — to easily buy property using your phone and to check how much your real estate portfolio is worth.” 

The app also has an upcoming recommender system, which will use AI to predict preferences. “Based on a user’s search behaviour, the recommender system will suggest new developments and floor plans based on preferences and financial needs.” 

But Xie’s grand goal for his company, admittedly a few years away, is to create what he calls the Manor Metaverse, a full AI-driven experience coupled with 3D virtual reality to imagine, interact, and buy real estate. 

“Let’s say you’re interested in buying a unit in a condo in downtown Toronto that hasn’t been built yet. You put on VR goggles and say, ‘I’d like to check some new units in the downtown area.’ You then see a virtual Manorlead advisor appear who takes you along with your family through property options. And you have a slider that lets you picture what the development will look like in five years. And not just the one you’re considering. Others that will be built, too.” 

“That’s the customer-focused experience we would like to move towards. This is Manorlead’s vision and it’s attainable. We’re at the stage where we’re seeking funding, so we think we can fully realize this experience soon.”

IST announces Professional Development courses for winter

Registration for the IT Professional Development (ITPD) courses in January and February is now open, according to a message circulated by Information Systems & Technology (IST).
The ITPD program offers courses in technical and computing skills to University employees. ITPD courses are open and available to staff, faculty, and graduate students. 
The ITPD course schedule is as follows:
ITPD course schedule
Course name Date Location Time
Using M365 Collaboration Platforms: OneDrive/Teams/SharePoint January 12, January 26, February 9, February 23 Online via Microsoft Teams 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
Intro to OneDrive January 20, February 22 Online via Microsoft Teams  10:30 a.m. - 12:00 noon
Intro to Project Management (two day course) January 31 to February 1  Online via Microsoft Teams 1:30 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Writing for the Web February 10 Online via Microsoft Teams  10:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
Web Analytics for Marketing & Communications February 15 Online via Microsoft Teams 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

All courses will be held online using Microsoft Teams Meetings. Registering for and dropping a course will continue to be done through Workday. Registrants will receive an email from your instructor a few days before their course date with complete details for accessing courses online.

For more information visit the ITPD brochure.

Monday's notes

PJ Friendly Writing Groups bannerThe Writing and Communiation Centre (WCC) has announced that PJ-Friendly Writing Groups for Undergrads start today at 2:00 p.m. on Teams. Visit the Writing and Communication Centre’s website to sign up.

The Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies, in collaboration with the Kitchener Public Library and the Spanish Film club are co-presenting the third annual Latin American Film Festival that will run from January 19 to March 23, 2022. The lineup of films includes:

Theatrical poster for the film Alice Junior.

The first film will be screened live online and will include a brief introduction by Professor Mario Boido, who will facilitate a post-screening discussion of the film. As Covid restrictions allow, subsequent screening will take place at the Kitchener Public Library theatre.

Additionally, all films will be available to stream on demand from the Festival website for a period of one week. To learn more, and to register for the online screening, please visit the Latin American Film Festival website.

Link of the day

Sidney Poitier, 1927-2022

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.

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

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 currently offering virtual services only. Questions about CCA's services? Live chat or call 519-888-4047 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. EST, Monday to Friday.

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

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.

The Library will continue to focus on digital resources and consultations as we start winter term with classes primarily online, though spaces will be open 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. 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: Open Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. The Graduate House is an essential component of graduate student life, and we're working hard to make it available to students. The quality food with local ingredients you love is available for takeaway. And graduate students who paid their fees can still get discounts and free coffee.

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)

Warriors vs. Laurier Blood Donation Battle. Join our “Waterloo Warriors” team on the website or app. #ItsInYouToGive

Healthy Warriors at Home, free online programs including Nutrition Guides, Personal Training Consults, Health Webinars, Mindfulness Courses and On-demand Fitness. Sign up now.

NEW - PJ-Friendly Writing Groups for Undergrads begin, Monday, January 10, 2:00 p.m. on Teams. Visit the Writing and Communication Centre’s website to sign up.

Warriors Athletics and Rec Virtual Open House, Tuesday, January 11. Find out how to get active online with Warrior Rec to start the winter 2022 term. One lucky attendee will win $50 from Jimmy’s Feed Co. Register in advance today.

Master of Taxation, Virtual Information Session, Friday, January 14, 11:00 a.m. 9:00 a.m. Please note the new time. To register visit