Celebrating 10 years of the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business
By Angelica Marie Sanchez.
It all began as a partnership between the city of Stratford and the University of Waterloo. The Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business opened its doors in 2012, with the first cohort to receive their Master of Digital Experience Innovation (MDEI) degree later that year. Now, the Stratford School celebrates a decade of social innovation, interdisciplinary teaching and research.
“At its heart, the Stratford School embodies the core University of Waterloo principle of taking a human-centred approach to technology while recognizing its social, cultural and environmental impact,” says Dr. Vivek Goel, Waterloo’s president and vice-chancellor.
In just ten years, the Stratford School has grown from only 16 students to a population of more than 700, including undergraduate and graduate programs in on-campus and online education. The School continues to grow at a rate of 20 per cent per year.
Today the School is home to 16 faculty members versed in interdisciplinary education and research, combining their expertise in design, business, user experience and computer science. Students are empowered to solve some of the most pressing global problems often found at the intersection of society and technology. With its growing research profile, the School helps strengthen national and global communities by improving interactions between users and products, customers and businesses, and citizens and governments.
“The Stratford School synthesizes humanities and social sciences’ insights with the perspectives of global business, recognizing that, in an increasingly interconnected world, we must design experiences, services, and products that promote, rather than undermine the overall health of civil society,” says Dr. Christine McWebb, director of the Stratford School.
“Our students are encouraged to make intentional choices about the meanings of designs, their social, economic, cultural and material impacts, and their sustainability for the people and communities who use them. The School leverages its strengths in different ways to serve as both a national leader and local incubator for innovations in higher-education.”
Christine McWebb appeared on the Beyond the Bulletin podcast to discuss the history and future of the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business.
Tom Jenkins, chair of the board at OpenText, a company founded by University of Waterloo professors, is a long-time supporter of the Stratford School. He reflects on its origins, “We had a need for individuals that were skilled both in media as well as computer science and the goal was to create in one graduate someone that was comfortable telling a story and writing code.”
Students learn how to combine these disciplines through two unique programs. Undergraduate students are enrolled in the Global Business and Digital Arts (GBDA) program — Canada's first undergraduate program to combine creativity, technology and business into one unique degree with mandatory co-operative education. And graduate students are enrolled in the MDEI program that offers superior professional education for students seeking careers in digital media.
The future of design and technology
Throughout the years, the Stratford School has maintained a strong connection with industry partners and continues to collaborate with business to ensure students gain the future-ready skills they need to succeed in a rapidly changing workforce.
In 2017, the Blend Design + Business Conference (BLEND) was launched to highlight how the power of design has become a secret to business success. BLEND brings together industry leaders and students to combine ideas and learn about business and design. BLEND 2023 conference is scheduled to be held in the spring term of 2023.
In 2019, Stratford students launched the Creator’s Collective a club to showcase the design and creative pursuits of their fellow classmates outside and inside the classroom. The Creator’s Collective hosts an annual Gallery which invites the public and industry partners to explore students’ creative and innovative work. With more than 150 attendees in its first year, the Gallery features student work ranging from live talks, podcasts and music to photography, paintings, video and books — plus opportunities for networking and a marketplace.
With 98 per cent of graduates landing jobs in technology, business or creative industries, the Stratford School is well-recognized by forward-thinking companies seeking designers who are digitally fluent, civic-minded and passionate about social change.
“After ten successful years with a proven track record of student and alumni success, I’m excited to see what the next decade has in store for the Stratford School as it continues to enhance and scale its programs while increasing the impact of its research,” Goel says. “They continue to be a leading resource for companies who need human-centred, civic-minded designers, who are passionate about creating solutions that positively impact pressing societal, economic and sustainability issues.”
Open Access Week Series: rare
By RJ McArthur. This article is one of a series celebrating open scholarship during Open Access Week. It is brought to you by the Open Scholarship Committee.
The theme of this year’s International Open Access Week, sponsored by the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition (SPARC), is “Open for Climate Justice.” Working from the understanding that “tackling the climate crisis requires the rapid exchange of knowledge,” one of the stated goals of this week is to “encourage connection and collaboration” (openaccessweek.org). Some of these connections and collaborations are already happening at a local level in Waterloo Region. rare Charitable Research Reserve, a “community-based urban land trust and environmental institute” headquartered in the former Lamb’s Inn building on the banks of the Grand River in Cambridge, has been working with both the university and the wider community for over 20 years as part of their stated goal to “to make the world a more sustainable place” (raresites.org).
rare began in 2001 as a charitable organization dedicated to preserving what were once the lands of the University of Guelph Cruickston Park Farms “for [their] inherent ecological value.” Since 2016, the raresites Land Securement team has worked to “creat[e] a land securement strategy for the entire upper Grand River watershed, focused on ecological integrity and connectivity” (raresites.org). Jenna Quinn, a Program Scientist with the organization, notes that rare currently “protects over 1,200 acres of highly sensitive lands across 7 properties in Waterloo Region and Wellington County.” The group also “manages over 12 kilometres of trails [that are] free and open for the public.”
In addition to land protection and stewardship, Quinn notes that “[e]ducation is a core priority for rare” and they “are always looking for partnership opportunities to ensure data collected [on their land] can be applied and learned from as much as possible.” This sharing takes a number of forms. Quinn notes that rare contributes “to data sharing sites and programs like iNaturalist, eBird, eButterfly” and others, but they also “create opportunities for researchers to share their work with the wider community and general public via community engagement events, youth engagement programs, blogs, newsletter, and conference/symposium style showcases.” A quick glance at rare’s Events Calendar for this month shows community workshops, children’s camps (pictured), and volunteer sessions.
Another way rare contributes to education is through providing financial support for graduate student research. Quinn states that their “Ages Foundation Fellowship & Bursaries program has awarded over $100,000 to graduate students conducting research and inquiry on wide-ranging environmental topics.” Interested students are encouraged to consult the group’s website at raresites.org for details, but also to reach out to discuss their potential projects with rare directly.
Building on their three main focuses of conservation, research, and education, rare believes that “[b]y working together, we can protect our natural spaces for our enjoyment and well-being, today and into the future” (raresites.org). As such, their work contributes to the principles of sharing knowledge to help the environment set forth by this year’s Open Access Week.
Collaborative book project looks at the Germans of Waterloo Region
A message from the Waterloo Centre for German Studies (WCGS).
Waterloo Region is known for its German heritage. But how much do we know about the immigrants who brought that heritage to the region? A new book being published by the Waterloo Centre for German Studies (WCGS) offers some insights into their story.
Germans of Waterloo Region contains 14 essays co-authored by graduate students and faculty members associated with WCGS. Edited by Centre members Mathias Schulze, Grit Liebscher, and Sebastian Siebel-Achenbach, the book focuses on those German speakers who migrated to the area after the Second World War, primarily from the late 1940s to the early 1960s, and whose presence powered much of the region’s economic growth, particularly in the automotive, machinery, and property development sectors.
The idea for the project came from local community members who wanted to mark and record their presence in Waterloo Region. The Centre organized a team of students and faculty members to record, transcribe, and study interviews with almost 120 German-speaking residents. The chapters investigate many of the issues common to all immigrants, for example the difficulty of adjusting to a new society (at a time when communication overseas was much more difficult than it is today), coming to terms with their children and grandchildren being “more Canadian than German,” and figuring out how to create a cultural identity that can embrace more than one culture.
For more information on the book, and to find out how to order a copy, please visit the Waterloo Centre for German Studies website.
WE Accelerate presents unique pipeline of talent for industry collaborators
By Matthew King.
The Waterloo Experience (WE) Accelerate program was born out of the need to support unemployed co-op students, amplified by COVID-19 so that they had an option for their co-op work term. The importance of being flexible and staying current with in-demand skills as industry shifts was also amplified by the pandemic. The University of Waterloo analyzed over 74,000 job postings to see what skills employers were looking for the most in students from all faculties and all levels and built a program around it.
Based on this skills data, Waterloo approached long-time community and industry partners of Co-operative and Experiential Education to help develop a program that would target those skills that were in-demand for students from all faculties. Microsoft, Manulife, Deloitte, D2L, Vidyard and Velocity each worked the curriculum development experts at WIL programs to co-create a skills stream.
The streams offered during the pilot offering in Spring 2021 were:
- Microsoft Azure Artificial Intelligence
- Modern Web Application Design (Manulife)
- Human-centered Design (Deloitte)
- Innovation (Concept, Problem Lab)
- Brightspace Training (D2L)
- Digital Bootcamp (Vidyard)
Although each of the WE Accelerate streams vary slightly, they all focus on future-readiness. The project experience component delivers interdisciplinary collaboration opportunities to students through their project teams.
“It’s thrilling to see this innovation in work integrated learning take root. It's been an incredible experience helping students gain their work-ready experience through WE Accelerate at the University of Waterloo,” says Elka Walsh, national education and skills lead for Microsoft Canada. "We are so excited to have the chance to meet the new group of students joining the program to develop their digital skills as well as hone their innovation and "learn it all" skills."
Beyond helping students, WE Accelerate presents yet another way for employers to expand their relationship with the University and with co-op.
“Manulife has this amazing partnership with the University of Waterloo as part of our co-op program so being asked to be a part of the WE Accelerate program for us, it just simply was a no brainer,” says Naveed Zahid, assistant vice president, engineering transformation at Manulife. “In addition to that, it gave us the ability to give students that head start in their career by offering them the ability to learn these very valuable technology skills. A lot of our students know what academics is, and they know what work is, but WE Accelerate, is a mesh between that gray area, between work, and school.”
The opportunity also brings our students' skills to companies that previously may not have found it feasible to hire a co-op student.
“At first, it sounded a little daunting. You get like five students at once for one month. And we're like, how are we going to survive?” says Martin Ochwat, chief marketing officer for Dundas Life. “But yeah, it really piqued our interest, like being a small startup, we really need all the resources and help we can get to grow the business.”
The WE Accelerate project and curriculum teams are currently working with industry on the development of course improvements and potential new streams to offer students now that the program will be a permanent offering for first-work term students.
Registration is open for WatITis 2022
A message from the WatITis conference organizers.
The annual WatITis conference will be held in person at the Science Teaching Complex (STC) on Wednesday, December 7, 2022. Registration is now open and will remain open until Thursday, November 24. Sign up early to get a spot in your favourite sessions! On the registration page, University of Waterloo employees may need to log in before registering.
Network with other IT professionals and learn more about information technology initiatives at the University of Waterloo. Hear from a variety of presenters including two keynote speakers:
- Mat Thijssen – Director of Sustainability at University of Waterloo
- Frances Edmonds - Head of Sustainable Impact at HP Canada
"Are you interested in incorporating sustainability into your courses but not sure where to start?" asks the Centre for Teaching Excellence (CTE). "Join us for the Sustainability-Themed Assessment Showcase. This 1-hour webinar will explore ways to incorporate sustainability into assessments using examples from University of Waterloo instructors, including Dr. Andrew McMurry (Arts), Dr. Nadine Ibrahim (Engineering), and Dr. Steffanie Scott (Environment). Mat Thijssen, Director of the Sustainability Office, will open this event. See the CTE Event page for details and the link to join this Teams webinar."
This is a reminder that Plant Operations and the Sustainability Office will be hosting a Zero-Waste Fair from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. today in the DC fishbowl. The first 150 people get free coffee, so make sure to bring your reusable mugs, otherwise you'll risk scalding your hands when they pour it out. You can check out the fair to learn about waste reduction and diversion initiatives that are currently offered on campus. The Zero-Waste Fair is being held as part of Zero Waste Month 2022.
Here's today's Keeping Well at Work Daily Inspiration:
Do a kind deed for someone today – surprise someone with a small gift card, pay for a stranger’s drive-through order, deliver flowers to a neighbour, send an unexpected thank-you note to a colleague, drop off a treat at a friend’s house! Could you make this a weekly task and commit to spreading kindness every Friday?