Archive for Josh Dehaas
Words of wisdom for Generation Me
It’s commencement season. For many Canadian students and their families, that means sitting in stuffy rooms listening long-winded speeches from important people of whose stature they have only just learned from the program in front of them.
For a lucky few Americans, this year’s ceremonies included advice from much bigger names—people who can afford speech writers like comedian Stephen Colbert, media maven Arianna Huffington and First Lady Michelle Obama.
There was a common theme among these celebrities addresses. Each talked of how the much-maligned Millennial generation can use their educations to make the world a better place. Here are some highlights from the speeches.
Colbert is a master of making hard news hilarious. He did something similar in his speech to the University of Virginia. After jokes about study drugs, Playboy and plagiarism, he quoted Thomas Jefferson, third president of the U.S. and author of the Declaration of Independence, to make the point that Millennials can, like the founding fathers, use tough times for good. The highlight was when he held up a Time magazine with a cover declaring Millennials the “me, me, me” generation:
Your generation needs everything to be about you and that’s very upsetting to us baby boomers because self-absorption is kind of our thing. We’re the original ‘me generation.’ We made the last 50 years all about us. We took all the money. We used up all the government services and we deep-fried nearly everything in the ocean.
New statistics counter the popular narrative
Since the recession, so the story goes, almost all 27-year-old university graduates are sitting in mom’s or dad’s basement playing Guitar Hero, firing off job applications and ranting on Facebook about how they’d be better off as plumbers.
This has become such accepted wisdom that when Allan Rock, president of the University of Ottawa, argued in a speech last week that it is, in fact, a myth, the Ottawa Citizen saw it as news.
Newly-released Statistics Canada charts of unemployment rates by education among 25 to 29-year-olds back up Rock’s point. Last year, university graduates were more likely than anyone else in that age group to be employed and just as likely to be working as the same age group was back in 2005 when no one fretted about jobs.
How to make the most out of internships and placements
I worked at least a dozen summer jobs and internships before landing a full-time job, so suffice it to say I’ve learned a few things about squeezing the most out of these fleeting experiences. I’ve also seen a whir of students come and go and noticed too many unwittingly break the unwritten office rules. Since these jobs are crucial for launching careers, I thought I’d share what I learned. Follow these seven rules to make the most out of your summer placement.
7. Cover up
Few bosses would point out inappropriate clothing, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t making mental notes about your choices. Men shouldn’t wear jeans or shorts on any day except casual Friday. For women, things are tougher, but the most common mistake is showing too much skin: open-toed shoes are out, mini-dresses are not approved and low-cut tops are frowned upon.
6. Don’t be late—ever
Sometimes traffic is bad, sometimes Starbucks has a long line and some days the boss herself saunters in at 9:45. It doesn’t matter; you need to be there at 9 a.m. sharp. Even after a true emergency (let’s say your apartment floods—this happened to a colleague) don’t just show up with soggy pants at 10:30. Call your boss so she can re-assign your work and not worry for your safety.
5. Keep that smart-phone hidden
Work time belongs to work, even if you’re an unpaid intern (I know right?). That means you shouldn’t be caught updating your status, Tweeting or having long text message conversations.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Bosses may assume you know how to do something unless you tell them otherwise. Although you should try to be resourceful and figure things out on your own, sometimes you just need to ask. It’s better to look dumb in front of your boss than to make her look dumb in front of clients.
3. Be sure to find a mentor
You may be passed around from project to project and boss to boss. While it’s great to meet plenty of new people, make sure at least one person gets to know you well. You will need that person to vouch for you when you’re asked for a reference. You also want them to think of you when a position opens up. I got my job because an editor with whom I worked closely recommended me.
2. Ask your boss for feedback
Go to your bosses before the summer is over and ask for constructive criticism. Tell them you want the truth, even if it hurts. You may be surprised by what you’re doing wrong. I certainly was.
1. Make sure to ask for what you want
I’ve seen interns come and go. The few who got hired full-time were those who made clear what they wanted to contribute. Consider Emma Teitel. While most interns would offer story ideas at our weekly meetings and then sit and wait, Teitel dared to propose opinion columns, something most interns feel too inexperienced to write. The bravery paid off. She was hired as a columnist.
Students connect through Potter clubs and classes
Two summers ago when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 arrived at the cinema in Ancaster, Ont., Stephanie Kesler took the day off work and lined up for 12 hours to make sure she got a good seat. Afterward, Kesler, now 23, says she felt “a little bit sad.” Growing up she had eagerly anticipated each of J.K. Rowling’s books and films. “That was my whole childhood.”
But last semester, the third-year English student at Western University in London, Ont., realized that the end of the series didn’t mean saying goodbye. In her children’s literature course, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban was on the syllabus.
For her class assignment, Kesler presented to her peers on the symbolism of Rowling’s Dementors, dark creatures that suck the life out of people, and the Patronus Charm, the only thing that can fight them off. She likened the Dementors to depression and the Patronas to overcoming it through positive thinking.
Not far away at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., dozens of wizarding fans had a similar idea. Emma Morrison, a third-year Medieval Studies and Religion major, had started a chapter of The Harry Potter Alliance, a global network of campus and community clubs where Potter fans jointly work for social justice. The Laurier chapter’s first big project focused on Dementors and depression. After a social media campaign promoting awareness of mental health services on campus, the group held a Yule Ball (a Hogwarts-inspired formal) during February mid-terms. “We wanted to have something fun to allow people to let loose in their time of stress,” she says. More than 220 showed up for butter beer and dancing.
Professor Gabrielle Ceraldi, who teaches children’s literature at Western, is unsurprised by the focus on the Dementors. “Emotional states in the series are always represented through magic,” she says. Hogwarts, the school for witches and wizards, is bewildering, much like university, she points out. “The staircases never stay in the same place from one period of class to the next.”
Ceraldi, who has only just heard about the Harry Potter Alliance, will soon teach what she believes is the first Canadian course fully dedicated to the books. She has also just learned about the Quidditch leagues where students use broomsticks and throw Quaffles, yet another of the ways today’s university students are connecting to each other and to school through Harry Potter.
Harry helps them connect to school by introducing academic themes. One obvious example is the classism Hermione Granger highlights with her Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare (SPEW), a group she starts to fight for the underclass toiling in Hogwarts’ kitchens. Harry and Ron first turn up their noses at Hermione, “but, in the end,” Ceraldi says, “grasping the value of house elves becomes pivotal to the triumph of good over evil.”
Morrison, the Laurier student, suggests that the theme of classism was inspired by Rowling’s own life. “Before she published Harry Potter, [Rowling] was a single mom who didn’t have a lot of money and relied on the government for a lot of what she was able to provide her children,” she points out.
Racism is exemplified in the mudbloods, people who come from muggle (non-magic) families and end up being capable of magic. At one point in the series, the mudbloods are accused of stealing wands from true witches and wizards, which leads to (ironically) a witch hunt.
Classism and racism were both considered by the Laurier chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance this year when they learned about child labour on African cocoa plantations and then collected signatures on a petition demanding Warner Bros. use fair trade chocolate in all their Potter treats.
But the Laurier chapter isn’t just for humanitarian work. Morrison says it’s also a place “where fans can get together and nerd out.” One just-for-fun meeting offered tea leaf readings.
Ceraldi says the Potter books offer more than social justice lessons. In her upcoming course they will provide an entry to other genres of fiction, including Gothic, dystopian and detective. Students may be asked to compare one book to a Sherlock Holmes novel and another to a story by Victorian writer Elizabeth Gaskell who, long before Rowling, used a mirror to symbolize self-reflection.
Though it’s not until January, Ceraldi is getting many e-mails from students wanting to sign up. They’re keen, she says, writing things like, ‘I am the person I am today because of those books.’
That, she says, is unsurprising. “They know these stories have incredible power and meaning.”
Sportsnet & The Score will broadcast games to 2018-19
Fans of university sports learned Wednesday about a new six-year deal between Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) and Rogers (which also owns Maclean’s) that will bring games to more viewers on Sportsnet and The Score’s television, online and mobile platforms through to 2018-19.
Football’s Vanier Cup, which will be held on Nov. 23 in Quebec City, is one of 13 big events scheduled for the upcoming season, along with men’s and women’s hockey and basketball championships. The rest will soon be announced.
Andrew Bucholtz of the blog Eh Game sees the deal as a logical and positive partnership, writing:
The Canadian university basketball and hockey championships (both men’s and women’s) will be a far better fit on Sportsnet and The Score than on TSN, and when considered as an overall picture, this makes a lot of sense for CIS. It’s very beneficial that CIS basketball’s now in a place where it will be taken seriously.
Pierre Lafontaine, Chief Executive Officer of CIS, sounds excited too. He said in a press release:
“This expanded, long-term partnership with Sportsnet will help elevate the CIS brand and provide our 11,000 student athletes, 700 coaches and 54 member institutions the recognition they deserve. It will serve to shine a light on the many outstanding accomplishments of our student-athletes who will move on to become future leaders in this country and around the world.”
Eight universities’ departments among top 50 worldwide
The QS World University Subject Rankings 2013 are out now. The London-based company’s report offers a rare peek at how our school’s history, engineering and law programs—30 subjects in all—are viewed internationally.
Unsurprisingly, the top three universities from the Medical Doctoral category of the Maclean’s University Rankings—the University of Toronto, the University of British Columbia and McGill University—are also the top Canadian schools on the list. Those three are top five in Canada in 29 of 30 subjects and top 50 worldwide in many.
The highest ranked Canadian subject is geography at the University of British Columbia, which is tenth globally. There are also several subjects in the top 15: environmental science at UBC along with medicine, philosophy, linguistics, mathematics, sociology, geography, education, English and history at University of Toronto.
Universities face austere budgets from coast to coast
Last year, Quebec’s students were so angry when their government raised tuition that the ensuing protests helped topple that government.
After Ontario’s budget was tabled last week with a proposed increase in operating funding for post-secondary schools of roughly two per cent (slightly more than inflation), it’s safe to say no province’s universities have escaped austerity.
A closer look shows that, despite the anger, Alberta students may be better off than most.
Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Quebec are all cutting operating funding. It will be flat in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Newfoundland will offer small increases that will mostly be eaten up by higher-than-average inflation in those provinces.
‘U4 League’ highlights benefits of eastern schools
If you’re a high school student in Alberta or Saskatchewan, I bet you can’t tell me where Bishop’s, Mount Allison, Acadia or St. Francis Xavier are located. That’s a shame considering they’re all ranked in the top half of their category in the Maclean’s University Rankings.
The presidents of all four institutions have just announced a new group they’ve formed, the U4 League, which will spread the word out about these lesser-known campuses located in rural New Brunswick (Mount A.), Nova Scotia (Acadia and St. FX) and Quebec (Bishop’s).
The U4 isn’t just about spreading the word. These presidents want to provide more opportunities to their students than are currently possible with populations of fewer than 4,500 students apiece. They also want to share information to cut costs.
The plan, though short on details, seems smart. Small enrollments are both the greatest assets and biggest curses of these schools. The U4 will show off the benefits and counteract the weaknesses.
When a university is as small as these four (a rarity in Canada, though more common in the U.S.), there are obvious benefits. The bread and butter of undergraduate education—communication skills, critical thinking skills and group work skills—appear to be better delivered in small classes on small campuses, at least according to the results of the National Survey of Student Engagement.
These are truly universities where professors know most of their students’ names. (They’re also universities where students are unable to avoid past romantic partners, but never mind that.) As Michael Goldbloom, principal of Bishop’s, points out, many Canadian students are “living on transit.” The U4 students, meanwhile, are living on campus seven days per week. Seven days sounds impressive. At the University of Guelph, a school bigger than the U4 combined, my younger brother says it’s so crowded that he only went to campus a couple days per week last semester.
Being small is a weakness too, however. It means limited course offerings, fewer potential dates and fewer choices in general. The U4 might overcome this somewhat with their combined population of 12,500. If one school has a field trip to Malawi, students from the other three campuses might tag along. If one has a course in American history, students from other campuses could take that class remotely. Purchasing power and marketing expenses can be shared too, keeping costs down.
Marketing is especially pressing for the U4. Although they’ve managed to grow in recent years, they’re in regions like Nova Scotia where the pool of applicants is small and expected to decline. Each campus already gets about half of its students from other provinces and that ratio will need to grow just to maintain current populations. The U4 also wants to become better known internationally since foreign students pay big bucks that can somewhat offset declining funding.
Most interesting is that the U4 project trumpets a “teaching focus.” Students might assume all universities are teaching-focused, but that’s not exactly true. U4 professors participate in research, but it’s less of a priority on their campuses than at McGill or Toronto, where 600-seat lecture halls can make undergraduates feel like low priorities compared to research and graduate students.
Of course, some undergraduates are fine with big classes so long as they’re near the action of a research-intensive school. That makes the U4 League a good reminder that there are trade-offs when choosing a university. It’s best to consider all the options and pick what’s right for you.
Students and staff embrace an unofficial mascot
It’s Canada Goose nesting season at the University of Waterloo and that means students and staff are tiptoeing across campus avoiding sharp black beaks and mucky grey puddles.
“You don’t need to antagonize or even get near the nest for the alpha male to get aggressive,” says geography and environmental management student Alex Harris, who spent the past year studying the five-to-seven kilogram beasts.
Those alpha males and their pregnant partners take up residence in dozens of places at the sprawling Ontario campus every year where grassy lawns provide food, buildings offer shelter and there are few coyotes, foxes or wolves to keep them in check.
There’s enough to worry about right there on campus
Sean Wilson, a board member of the University of Regina Students’ Union, says that student leaders should be focused on things like tuition, residences and public transit. Recently, they’ve often been focused on the Middle East instead. Not on those killed by their own government in Syria, the sexual minorities mistreated by Iran or women subjugated by Saudi Arabia. No, they’ve been debating whether to join such international power brokers as Lenny Kravitz and the Teachers’ Union of Ireland in their commitments to not buy Israeli products or host Israeli academics.
Big deal right? I would argue yes, and not just because these student unions are taking sides.
Why those back-up schools may be worth a second look
In high school I couldn’t wait to get out of my little northern Ontario town (pop. 10,500) where the main preoccupation for most residents was the size of their snowmobile and tractor engines. I dreamed of a more intellectual milieu where I could debate politics over gin and dance to live music.
I knew university was my only hope and I worked hard toward that goal. I studied late, joined student council, volunteered. I even enrolled in a seventh Grade 12 course to ensure my ‘top six’ course average would be over 90 per cent.
By the time I applied to schools in January 2003, I’d worn out my copy of the Maclean’s Guide to Canadian Universities, having spent years agonizing over the options. I wanted to strike out on my own, eliminating Toronto since my dad was there and Ottawa since my sister was there. Nipissing and Laurentian were close to home—too close. I settled on McGill, with Western as my back-up. Since my Ontario application allowed me to pick three, I ticked off Wilfrid Laurier and Guelph too.
Analyzing the many reports of sexual assaults on campus
I’ve covered student news for two years now. Time and again, I’ve seen headlines that looked like this one from yesterday’s Toronto Star: Police investigate alleged sex assault at York University.
It’s less common to see headlines referring to sexual assaults at other schools, so it’s easy to assume York has a worse sexual assault problem.
But this conclusion is probably wrong.
As more students ask for extensions, profs ask: is this real?
I met Anna Drake, a University of Waterloo assistant professor, at recent event in Toronto and asked: what are professors talking about these days? She said they’re discussing how many students are presenting with notes from counsellors or doctors saying they’ve been mentally unwell or extremely stressed and are in need of extensions or exam deferrals.
Drake, a political scientist, doesn’t recall this being an issue when she was an undergraduate or when she started teaching as a master’s student in 2001. But a few years ago, a professor warned her and other teaching assistants at Queen’s University that, “it seemed to be fairly easy for students to get notes of this kind.” Too easy, perhaps.
Later, teaching her own course at the University of Victoria, she was surprised when four students out of roughly 40 presented with notes near the end of the term asking to defer their semesters.
What students are talking about today (April 16th)
1. Canadian Business has published its annual 50 Best Jobs list, which is based on 2012 median pay, past growth and projected growth. The list includes some obvious titles—number one is ‘oil & gas drilling supervisor” and there are also three types of engineers in the top 10 alone. But there are also some less obvious jobs in the top 50, like dental hygienists, 18th on the list and with an average salary of $70,000 last year. In addition to the best jobs, CB also offers lists of worst jobs and the top 10 jobs by projected demand in 2020.
2. McGill University is considering shutting two libraries to deal with budget cuts. The Faculty of Education’s Library and the Life Sciences Library, used by medical students, could be merged with another library. “We have to consider everything,” Dean of Libraries Colleen Cook told CBC. A Facebook page titled Save the McGill Life Sciences Library from closure has 1,487 likes.
What students are talking about today (April 15th)
1. It’s almost April 20th, the annual day when marijuana smokers gather, often on campuses, to smoke pot, throw Frisbees and in some cases protest cannabis laws. One such protest, Fill the Hill, happens on Parliament Hill in Ottawa each year. Kyle Walton, a second-year student from Carleton University, told The Fulcrum student newspaper that marijuana is particularly important this year following the Conservative government’s omnibus budget bill, which toughened penalties for marijuana possession. Pot could become an election issue ahead of 2015. Justin Trudeau, who was elected leader of the Liberal Party on Sunday, favours decriminalization. The NDP’s Thomas Mulcair once said he believes legalization would be a mistake, “because the information that we have right now is that the marijuana that’s on the market is extremely potent and can actually cause mental illness.” He later clarified that he does not believe anyone should go to jail for possessing small amounts.
2. Speaking of marijuana, a student at SAIT Polytechnic in Calgary told CBC News she plans to continue using marijuana during class despite the administration’s view that she’s committing academic misconduct. Lisa Kirkman has a medical marijuana license and uses a vapourizer once per hour, including during classes. She says she wants the school to provide a ventilated room.
Canadian Federation of Students head talks transparency
The Canadian Federation of Students is a national network of student unions known best for its lobbying to make post-secondary education more affordable. The group is funded mostly through mandatory fees tacked on to students’ tuition bills whether they like it or not. The CFS is sometimes accused of not being transparent or worth the cost. Although it’s possible to leave the group through a petition and referendum, the CFS won’t let members go without a fight. In a 2010 referendum at the University of Guelph, 73 per cent of students voted to leave but the CFS never recognized the vote, resulting in at least $407,000 in legal bills for Guelph students. This month when it became clear the local student union was planning to give up and settle, the university stepped in and surveyed students, who once again indicated—70 per cent to 29 per cent—that they want to stop paying the fees. Carleton University Students’ Association may be the next student union to attempt to leave. Adam Awad, whose term as CFS National Chairperson ends in June, sat down for a chat during a recent trip to Toronto.
What students are talking about today (April 12th)
1. The city council of Kingston, Ont. has been accused of disregarding university students as it redraws electoral boundaries. Council voted that three of the 13 municipal electoral districts near Queen’s University will be merged into two, which means students will be represented by fewer councilors. This is despite a staff report that recommended taking into account the student population, which the city knows exists, even though they’re unlikely to be counted in official tallies that require voters to register themselves. Queen’s Alma Mater Society has expressed disappointment. “The AMS is dismayed by the attitudes that many of the Councillors expressed at the meeting, which reflected an aggressively anti-student attitude that is all too familiar—one which the AMS has been working for a decade to eradicate.”
2. A McGill University professor allegedly harassed a Muslim student from Cairo, an accusation that spread on social media and resulted in protesters chanting, “Hey, hey. Ho, Ho. Racist professors have to go,” outside of his lecture, reports the Gazette. The protest followed a Global News report that included an audio recording student Amr El-Orabi secretly made during a conversation with professor Gary Dunphy before El-Orabi quit school and returned to Egypt. In the recording, Dunphy accuses El-Orabi of cyber-stalking, refers to both the student’s God and his own God in unkind terms, and says, “don’t think for a minute that your culture is the be all and end all.” When El-Orabi asks,”is there anything else that you want from me now?,” Dunphy responds, “your death.”
Student union, CFS want administrators to butt out
More than 70 per cent of University of Guelph undergraduates who responded to an unusual survey last week from their administration said they were opposed to paying student fees to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS). That’s not surprising considering 73 per cent of voters were opposed when asked in a 2010 referendum.
Still, don’t expect the CFS, a student lobbying organization, to accept either poll anytime soon. Despite what appeared to be a strong mandate to stop funding the CFS in the 2010 referendum, the group has never accepted the result, arguing that there was something fishy about the vote.
And the CFS has support. Guelph’s Central Student Association (CSA)—the very student union that ran the referendum and vigorously defended it to the tune of $407,000 in legal bills as of August 2012—has switched sides and says it would rather stick with the CFS than fight on. That could mean paying roughly $250,000 per year retroactively plus $250,000 annually going forward.
What students are talking about today (April 11th)
1. Legally Blonde, the film starring Reese Withersoon as a California girl who conquers Harvard Law School, is now officially a classic. Most of today’s undergraduates would have been too young to watch it back in 2001, but they’ve apparently downloaded it somewhere. This spring there have been successful stage productions on campuses from Trent University to Western University. The Neptune Theatre in Halifax is staging it from now until May 26th. Saint Mary’s University’s Journal gives it a good review.
2. This week may be the last chance students get to gather and protest recent provincial budget cuts to universities before they disperse for the summer. Approximately 300 people marched on the Alberta legislature on Wednesday to protest a 7.3 per cent cut there, reports The Edmonton Journal. Students also protested on the other side of the country in St. John’s, Newfoundland, reports The Telegram.
3. Dr. Donna Cave, Director of Wellness Services at the University of Alberta, has a weekly advice column for readers of The Gateway student newspaper. I suggest checking it out this week’s submission. She offers scientifically sound (and hilarious) advice for acing your exams. In case you don’t have time to read it, here’s a summary. As little as 20 minutes of exercise daily reduces anxiety and depression, so hit the gym. Sleep deprivation can cause as much impairment as being drunk, so avoid the all-nighters. Oh, and eat properly or your brain won’t work so good.
4. A new Mexican Barbie has offended some Latin American professors in the U.S. She’s “dressed for a fabulous fiesta in her vibrant pink dress with ruffles, lace and brightly coloured ribbon accent,” according to toymaker Mattel. The pet Chihuhua—and passport—are also raising eyebrows. Jason Ruiz, an American studies professor at Notre Dame University, told ABC that passports are a point of “great sensitivity for people of Mexican origin, especially Mexican immigrants.”
5. Medical students at the University of Alberta have released a Disney-themed musical video—not a Lip Dub but something original that they actually wrote and performed. With their notorious workload, it’s amazing they found the time. Then again, there’s a reason they got in. Check it out:
What students are talking about today (April 10th)
1. Alex Harris, a student at the University of Waterloo, and his dog Molson are calling themselves the “Geese Police.” The pair are patrolling the southern Ontario campus twice daily. Molson, a border collie-golden retriever cross, disperses the nuisance birds while Harris takes notes for his undergraduate thesis project. Canada Geese dominate the university’s campus, making a big a mess and scaring humans while trying to defend their territory. During mating season they get especially aggressive. It’s such a commonly discussed problem that the university’s bookstore now sell t-shirts that read, “I survived nesting season.” See CBC News for more.
2. Today is International Day of Pink, which means students everywhere are showing their opposition to bullying, homophobia and other discrimination by wearing, you guessed it, pink. It was started after high school students in Nova Scotia to support a pink-loving gay student who was bullied. It has high profile support from the likes of Rick Mercer and the Day of Pink Gala in Ottawa will be attended by former governor general Michaëlle Jean and radio host Jian Ghomeshi.