Everyone is working hard to ensure that our students are getting the best education they can during the pandemic. We’re also doing our best to make sure that people feel welcome and that we build a community, albeit online.

I want to thank everyone who has developed and participated in all our programming in the last month. We started with an online Orientation to welcome our incoming students, followed by Impact and Beyond to celebrate Profound Impact Day and the impact our faculty members have on the world. I would encourage everyone to activate their account on the Waterloo Math Digital Community. (Email jodi.szimanski@uwaterloo.ca for your personalized URL.) You can connect with your colleagues and our alumni and we can gather data on our collective impact – you can now upload your CCV for your profile.

On September 22, Women in Mathematics (WiM) held two virtual events to welcome students and make connections with each other. Two days later, the Cheriton School of Computer Science held their Distinguished Lecture featuring Moshe Y. Vardi, the Karen Ostrum George Distinguished Service Professor in Computational Engineering from Rice University, who spoke about dealing with the impact of technology on society. It was an engaging and truly relevant talk.

I had the opportunity to address our alumni at my first Alumni Black and Gold Day as Dean. Following my presentation, there was a panel about math and health care, a discussion with SnapTravel and a fun family-friendly math activity hosted by alumni and the Centre for Education in Mathematics and Computing.

While all of these events happened virtually, we do have more traffic on campus. As numbers continue to rise in Ontario, it’s more important than ever to follow the guidelines whenever you’re on campus. It is our shared responsibility to protect each other. Before coming to campus each day, take the COVID-19 self-assessment (available in the WatSAFE app or online. Keeping our campus community safe is the University’s top priority, and they have taken several measures to help you stay safe and limit the risk of COVID-19 on campus.

We recognize that people may be feeling overwhelmed and experiencing COVID-fatigue. There are resources available to you, should you need them. If you are struggling with your mental health during these changing times, reach out for support through Human Resources, Occupational Health, EFAP Homewood Health (1-800-663-1142), Here247, and Wellness Together CanadaThrive Week is happening in a month, and the organizers are looking to bring together members of the Waterloo community to share knowledge, connect researchers, and promote mental wellness for the Virtual Conference on Student Mental Health Research. If you have something to share, they’re asking for abstracts by October 9.

As the University continues its anti-racism work, we have established the Anti-Racism Working Group within the Faculty of Math because we believe that all members of the University of Waterloo community have a right to study and work in an environment that values equity, diversity, and inclusion. Cultivating an inclusive environment requires recognizing and understanding our biases, and respecting and harnessing different perspectives. The Faculty of Mathematics expressly recognizes and commits to addressing the racism experienced by Black, Indigenous and racialized people. The goals of which are to promote an equitable and inclusive environment for our diverse members to learn and work in, and to coordinate the existing grass-root equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives within the Faculty.

We’re very pleased that Mei Nagappan and Anita Layton are chairing the working group and note that they are still looking for an undergraduate member and a graduate student member. This work complements the new Computer Science committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and our active Math participation in University-level initiatives on anti-BIPOC racism. I would like to thank all of our members for working together to make the Faculty of Mathematics a more inclusive, equitable community.

I would also like to take this time to celebrate the achievements of people in our community over the last month. Congratulations to:

  • Kathryn Hare (Pure Mathematics) and Jordan Hamilton (Mathematics Undergraduate Office) who both received the Faculty of Mathematics Award for Distinction in Teaching for this year 
  • Jordan Hamilton (MUO) who was also honoured with the 2019 Faculty of Engineering Sandford Fleming Foundation Teaching Excellence Award
  • Jeff Shallit (Computer Science) who was elected to the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
  • Raouf Boutaba, Samer Al-Kiswany and Martin Karsten (Computer Science) who are all members of one of the first 5G smart campuses as part of the Rogers 5G project  
  • Five Computer Science and Software Engineering students who were named 2020 Schulich Leaders
    • Anish Aggarwal (Computer Science)
    • Jacob Mausberg (Computer Science)
    • Jason Xiong (Computer Science)
    • Peter Zhu (Software Engineering)
    • Yashvardhan Mulki (Software Engineering)
  • Canada’s 2020 International Olympiad in Informatics competitors who performed very well at this year’s virtual competition
    • Gold medalists: Thomas Guo in 18th place (Grade 12 at Phillips Exeter Academy and Zixiang Zhou in 20th place (Grade 11 at London Central Secondary School)
    • Silver medalists: George Chen (first-year Computer Science student) and Chris Trevisan (Grade 12 at William Lyon Mackenzie Collegiate Institute)
    • Ildar Gainullin, a first-year Computer Science student, who competed for Russia at the IOI and placed 8th overall

Celebrations were also happening for the family of a member of our Math Advancement team. Congratulations to Lauren Hartman and her family, who welcomed Eliza to their family on August 23. Within the Faculty we welcomed several new definite term lecturers in September - Faisal Al-Faisal (MUO), Rosina Kharal (Computer Science), Graeme Turner (MUO) and Stacey Watson (Computer Science). Today, Yizhou Zhang joins the Cheriton School of Computer Science as an assistant professor.

We’ve had staffing changes in the Faculty as well. Emma Watson, currently the Assistant to the Chair in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization (C&O), will split her time between C&O and the Math, Business and Accounting unit until the end of the year. She will then work full-time in Math Business while Marcia Taylor is on a two-year secondment with the Cheriton School of Computer Science. Jake Riesenkonig (Admissions and Outreach team) heads to a new position off campus this week – best of luck to him.

And finally, we remember George Cross, who retired from the Department of Pure Mathematics in 1992. He passed away surrounded by his family on September 17. Our thoughts are with them.

Mark Giesbrecht

Dean, Faculty of Mathematics, University of Waterloo

Mark Giesbrecht