Thursday, February 9, 2023

What do you do when it seems like there's nothing you can do?

Overhead image of earthquake-damaged neighbourhoods in Turkey.

As University of Waterloo systems design engineering postdoctoral scholar Ilknur Umay was getting ready to go to bed earlier this week, she happened to look at her phone. What she saw scared her. There were multiple missed calls and texts from her brother in Türkiye telling her to turn on the news.

When she did, Umay immediately saw what was happening and where. A 7.8 magnitude earthquake had hit the region where her hometown is located – shifting the tectonic plate it sits on a whopping three meters from its original position. Her parents had recently retired back to the family home there.

Umay’s immediate family is safe, but with the death toll for this disaster currently at 11,000 people and rising, we know that many others are not.

“What I want people to understand is that this isn’t just one town – this earthquake and the aftershocks that still continue are affecting an area as a big as Ontario,” said Umay. “My hometown isn’t located in the most damaged region, and still my parents’ home has collapsed. It’s like this for many hundreds of thousands of people, that’s why I’m trying to help – the need is so great.”

Rescue efforts have been hindered by damage to roads leading to the affected areas and by the political situation in Syria. When Umay tried to send supplies to her parents, she was told there was no way to get what they needed to them directly.

“It’s cold in eastern Türkiye right now and because the earthquake and aftershocks have made buildings so unstable, the government is telling people not to go inside,” she said. “People are in the streets, and they need winter gear to keep warm until they can find a different place to go. I thought, if I can’t send my parents supplies directly – I can bring people together to send supplies to everyone who needs them.”

Umay started small – with her close circle of friends at Waterloo, some of whom also have families affected by the earthquakes and some of whom are from places like Iran and have a keen understanding of what it’s like to be far from home when family and friends could be in danger.

Thanks to this group and to a wider and growing circle of people on campus who have come together to talk to each other about how to help, Umay’s efforts are growing.

“There is power in the collective,” said Umay. “Alone, I could not directly help my parents, but with this group, we can help so many people. I’m asking everyone at Waterloo to be part of this effort with me.”

If you would like to help with this effort, please donate new items before Friday, February 10 at 12 noon to E7 – 6332.

The items most needed are:

  • Winter gear including coats, boots, hats, mittens/gloves
  • Warm clothes for all sizes
  • Diapers, sanitary napkins
  • Tents, air mattresses, blankets, flashlights

The items will be delivered by Umay to the Turkish Embassy in Toronto which will be sending these items to those most in need. Please be sure that you are donating new, unused items as there is a lack of staff to sort through used items at this time.

Please also consider a monetary donation if you are able – the Government of Canada is currently matching donations made to the Red Cross campaign.

Mastering her voice

Bertha Bridget Kankam, AKA Yaa Yaa.

By Charlotte Danby. This article was originally published on Waterloo News.

Bertha Bridget Kankam (MBET ’22) recently completed her master’s degree in business, entrepreneurship and technology (MBET) at Waterloo Engineering’s Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business. 

That is a worthy success in and of itself, but Kankam is not your typical MBET student. Better known to many as Yaa Yaa, she is an award-winning singer-songwriter from Ghana.   

The 33-year-old crossed the stage to receive her degree at the University’s fall convocation ceremony last year. No stranger to stages and spotlights, Yaa Yaa radiated success as she stepped out in full academic dress robes — a new look for many of her fans. 

Entrepreneurial beginnings 

Yaa Yaa always loved singing, but her first time performing on stage was in 2009 when she participated in the Ghanaian reality singing show Stars of the Future. She was 19 years old and won the competition.  

Her singing career quickly took off with growing fan bases in Africa and the U.S. But when her two-year contract with Stars of the Future ended, she had to fend for herself in a tough environment. 

“Everything was suddenly on me,” says Yaa Yaa. “I had to lead meetings, develop my own marketing strategy and build a trusted network. I was young and didn’t have a lot of business experience, so a lot of people tried to underpay, short-change or overwork me. It was a massive learning curve, but I stayed strong. By taking charge of my brand, I became an entrepreneur long before I knew that I was an entrepreneur.”  

Yaa Yaa, award winning singer-songwriter and Waterloo MBET alumnusYaa Yaa, award winning singer-songwriter and Waterloo MBET alumnus

Working closely with other artists and performers, she realized there was a lack of local support for aspiring singers looking to improve their vocals.

In 2017, she branched out from managing her brand, Yaa Yaa, to start a vocal training practice called Vocal Hub. It was a huge hit from the start and demand for its services soon skyrocketed. 

“My excitement at my new venture soon turned to panic,” admits Yaa Yaa. “Clearly I had started something good, but I didn’t have the business skills or the tools to manage it, let alone grow it. So I started looking around for a school that could teach me what I needed to know.” 

Oh Canada 

Yaa Yaa knew that she didn’t want to enrol in just any MBA program, she wanted one that specialized in entrepreneurship. With family in the U.S. and Europe, she considered both for her studies. But her online search for the ‘best innovative school for entrepreneurship’ introduced her to some Canadian options, which soon led her to Waterloo’s MBET degree. 

“I was a little worried about the cold,” laughs Yaa Yaa. “But the course ticked all my professional development boxes, so I applied. And I’m happy I did – it was the right one for me for sure. I’m really interested in venture creation and I came away with the practical learnings I need to help startups in the creative sector develop innovative solutions to their business problems.” 

That said, leaving her home and career to study in a foreign country was not an easy decision to make.  

“I knew the course would be good, but would it be worth the stress of uprooting myself for over a year? There was only one way to find out,” says Yaa Yaa. “As it happened, my class was full of international students so I wasn’t on my own.  

“I really appreciated how the University pays attention to diversity and mental health. It was a full-on, demanding year, but the on-campus counselling services were always available to us. Plus there were lots of planned social activities to help us acclimatize, make friends and feel welcome.”  

Some of her highlights were trying to ski, canoeing the Grand River and introducing her classmates to West African cuisine at a class cultural event. 

“I spent most of the ski day on my bum!” laughs Yaa Yaa. “But my jollof rice was a hit.” 

Pass the mic 

Like many entrepreneurs, Yaa Yaa has multiple irons in the fire at any one given moment. Top of her list is evolving Vocal Hub, now called Voplug, into an international, community-driven platform that connects voice talent – from singers and actors to public speakers – with the resources they need to improve their vocals. 

Singing and songwriting will always be driving forces in her life. In fact, while studying, Yaa Yaa won the Best Ghana/Canada Act at the 2022 Ghana Entertainment Awards USA in New York. Needless to say, her fans are clamouring for more music and live performances. 

Yaa Yaa can’t wait to get back on stage, but has been busy behind the scenes. She recently served the KW Glee team as a guest voice teacher and songwriter to prepare the youth choir for the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony 22/23 season. The choir’s musical theatre performance in January included an original song written by Yaa Yaa called ‘Remember Today.’ 

'No Running' is Yaa Yaa’s title track from her album Agoo.

How one voice can make a difference on the University's Senate and Board

Jack DeGooyer

By Sam Charles.

An affinity for university governance isn’t typically something that undergraduate or graduate students are known for, but in the case of Applied Science Masters student Jack DeGooyer that is precisely what drew him to Senate. In fact, DeGooyer serves as a member of Waterloo’s Senate and the Board of Governors.

“When I did my undergraduate, a lot of friends were really interested in governance and so forth, and I knew that once I arrived at Waterloo, I wanted to get more involved with university governance,” says DeGooyer. He says that participating on Senate and the Board of Governors provides him with an opportunity to provide a voice for students.

“I think being a senator, being there and hearing how policies are going to be affecting the day-to-day life of a student, it's important to have our voices heard. It's important to approve and to discuss all the topics that impact students.”

Senate reviews and discusses a variety of topics including student costs, the evolution of co-op, and enrollment among others to ensure the institution’s academic mandate is being fulfilled. “It also seems to be one of the few places where the university presents its vision and presents and discusses its progress on a variety of topics.”

DeGooyer says the workload isn’t heavy, and is something he really enjoys. “It definitely takes time to prepare and read over the memos and the notes that are made beforehand, but it's also just very enjoyable to be in Senate because for better or for worse, there can be some quite fiery debates and it's engaging to be both part of that and to witness those interactions.”

A member of both Senate and the Board of Governors since 2022, DeGooyer describes the process of seeking his nomination as reminiscent of running for student council in high school. He presented to several classes and shared a QR code along with a sign-up sheet to generate interest.  “It's very much about talking to people one-on-one and winning them over slowly.”

Despite the relatively straight-forward nomination process, graduate student representation is low. It is a fact that disappoints DeGooyer, who feels that there needs to be greater graduate student presence. “I think at the university, voices of graduate students are not always being responded to, and that has resorted to graduate students trying to find other means of organizing themselves to ensure that their views and their time is valued at the university.”

An active member of the Waterloo community, DeGooyer also participates on the Graduate Student Association along with several clubs and student groups. While those experiences are very rewarding, he feels that his involvement on Senate is making the biggest impact.

“The more student voices that are heard and represented on Senate will lead to better experiences for all students at the university, not just for graduate students, but for undergraduates, professors and the like.”

Learn more about seeking a nomination to serve on Senate at

Registration open for Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology annual conference

Waterloo for Health, Technology and Society conference banner image.

A message from the Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology (CBB).

The Centre for Bioengineering and Biotechnology (CBB) is proud to announce that registration for the annual CBB Conference is now open. The forthcoming conference, Waterloo for Health, Technology and Society, will explore the use of technology for safe and accessible health care by examining the status of virtual delivery of care, enabling emerging technologies, and ensuring ethical and safe interventions for the betterment of our society and improved public health outcomes. In collaboration with leading experts throughout Canada, the conference aims to inform and educate, while encouraging constructive dialogue.   

The event will take place on March 8 and 9, 2023, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day; registration is free and open to all. We are happy to offer online, and in-person options and we hope you can join us from wherever you may be in the world. The conference will feature keynote addresses, panel discussions, student posters, and booth-style presentations for open collaboration between attendees.  Please visit the conference website to see the agenda and to register.   

Register today

Link of the day

35 years ago: America's Most Wanted

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 (

Faculty, staff, post-doc and graduate student instructors can find upcoming teaching and learning workshops, self-directed modules and recordings of previous events on Centre for Teaching Excellence Workshops and Events page.

Instructors can access the EdTech Hub to find support on Waterloo’s centrally supported EdTech tools. The Hub is supported by members of IST’s Instructional Technologies and Media ServicesCentre for Teaching ExcellenceCentre for Extended Learning and subject matter experts from other campus areas.

Supports are available for employees returning to campus. Visit IST’s Hybrid Work and Technology guidelines and workplace protocols to assist with the transition.

Students with permanent, temporary and suspected disabilities and disabling conditions (medical conditions, injuries, or trauma from discrimination, violence, or oppression) can register with AccessAbility Services for academic accommodations (classroom accommodations, testing accommodations, milestone accommodations).

Instructors can visit AccessAbility Services' Faculty and Staff web page for information about the Instructor/Faculty role in the accommodation process. Instructors/Faculty members are legally required to accommodate students with disabilities. AccessAbility Services (AAS) is here to help you understand your obligations, and to offer services and resources to help you facilitate accommodations.

Did you know that the Writing and Communication Centre offers many in-person and virtual services to support you with any writing or communication project? This term we've added The Write Spot: a new student space in South Campus hall, complete with bookable workspaces, drop-ins with our peer tutors, and free coffee and tea. We also have one-to-one appointments with our writing and communication advisors and peer tutors, email tutoring for grads and undergrads, drop-ins at Dana Porter Libraryonline workshopswriting groupsEnglish conversation practice, and even custom in-class workshops. For any communication project, the Writing and Communication Centre is here to support you.

Research Ethics: Find yourself with an ethical question, unsure if your work requires an ethics review, or need advice about putting together a research ethics application? Reach out to one of our friendly staff by booking a consultation or email us with your questions.

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) has services and programs to support undergrads, grad students, postdocs, alumni, and employees in figuring out what they value, what they’re good at, and how to access meaningful work, co-op, volunteer, or graduate/professional school opportunities. Questions about CCA's services? Live chat, call 519-888-4047, or stop by our front desk in the Tatham Centre 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.

Drop-in to in-person Warrior Study Halls on Thursdays from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in DC and DP. Join a Peer Success Coach 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 is here to help, both in person and online. Our spaces are open for access to book stacks, study spaces, computers/printers, and the IST Help Desk. For in-depth support, meet one-to-one with Librarians, Special Collections & Archives and Geospatial Centre staff. Visit the Library’s home page to access our online resources for anywhere, anytime learning and research.

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 Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism (EDI-R) works with students, faculty and staff across campus to advance equity and Anti-racism through evidence-based policies, practices and programs. If you have a concern related to Anti-racism and/or equity, please complete our intake form.

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 United 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 - MATESGlow CentreRAISEWomen’s Centre - Click on one of the links to book an appointment either in person or online for the 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. 

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

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 counselors.

Dental Care - The GSA Dental Plan covers 60 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 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 Tuesday 11:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. and Wednesday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. We’re open to all students, faculty, staff, and community members. The Graduate House is a community space run by the GSA-UW. We’re adding new items to the menu. Graduate students who paid their fees can get discounts and free coffee.

When and Where 

Warriors Game Day Tickets and Season Passes, on sale now. Cheer on your Warriors W/M Basketball, Football W/M Hockey and W/M Volleyball teams at home during the 2022-23 season. Purchase today.

Fitness and Personal Training - Registrations opened January 5 this winter with Personal Training and Small Group Training as well as a Free Warrior Workout Program.

Student Health Pharmacy in the basement of the Student Life Centre is now offering Covid booster shots (Pfizer and Moderna) and flu shots. Call 519-746-4500 or extension 33784 for an appointment. Walk-ins always welcome.

Takin’ It To The Streets: La Cartonera ExhibitThursday, February 2 to February 13, Dana Porter Library lobby.

Structures of Care and Accessibility, Thursday, February 9, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., online. 

Talk: Mental Health and Well-being for Students, Thursday, February 9, 2:30 p.m., Lyle Hallman Institute (LHI) 1621.

WIN Industry Speaker: Aaron Guan, Friday, February 10, 1:30 p.m., QNC 1501.

Quest will be unavailable for scheduled maintenance, Saturday, February 11, 4:45 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Women's Hockey vs. Windsor. Saturday, February 11, 2:30 p.m., CIF. Senior Day, Alumni Day. Buy your tickets today.

Waterloo Men's Hockey vs. Toronto Metropolitan. Saturday, February 11, 7:00 p.m., CIF. Senior Day, Residence Day. Buy your tickets today.

PhD oral defences

School of Planning. Niloofar Mohat, “Attaining climate justice through the adaptation of urban form to climate change: flood risks in Toronto. Supervisor, Professor Luna Khirfan. Available upon request from the Faculty of Environment, Administrator, Graduate Studies. Oral defence. Tuesday, February 14, 2:30 p.m.

French Studies. Sushma Dusowoth, "Représentation du sujet féminin dans les romans francophones de l’Île Maurice et l'archipel des Comores de 1990 à 2020 : entre soumission et désir d’agentivité." Supervisors, Professor Catherine Dubeau, Professor Valérie Dusaillant-Fernandes. Available upon request from the Faculty of Arts, Graduate Studies and Research Officer. Oral defence Friday, March 3, 9:30 a.m., PAS 2464 - hybrid.

School of Accounting and Finance. Kate Patterson, "Calibration Committees and Rating Distribution Guidance Effects on Leniency Bias in Subjective Performance Evaluations." Supervisor, Prof. Krista Fiolleau. Available upon request from the Faculty of Arts, Graduate Studies and Research Officer. Oral defence Wednesday, March 22, 11:00 a.m., remote participation.