For the last couple of weeks I have been ill. There have been no blogs. I now feel 100% better. Sorry - to make up for the silence - I think that is four blogs today! It is a relief to feel better and have my energy restored. (Readers may not agree).
October 30, 2006
In 2005, the Masai Centre for Local, Regional and Global Health opened. It currently serves Guelph, Waterloo Region and the Grey-Bruce Counties with high quality care, education and research for those affected by HIV/AIDS. But its reach extends beyond our own communities. In 2006, the centre launched its “Masai for Africa Campaign”, with a goal to raise $1,000,000 for an AIDS clinic in Lesotho, Africa.
As part of the campaign to raise these funds, the University of Guelph is sourcing simple red and white beaded HIV/AIDS bracelets from the Inina Craft Agency in South Africa. The Inina Craft Agency is operated by the leadership of rural craft producers which comprises entirely African women. Inina is supported in its business efforts by the Centre for Environment, Agriculture and Development at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the largest contact university in South Africa.
It is a simple but elegant business model. Inina sources the raw materials locally at a cost of R 1.50 per bracelet. Rural African women and youth who are affected by or infected with HIV and Aids manufacture the bracelets in their spare time at home. They receive R 2.00 per bracelet (net of costs). To see this in context an individual can easily manufacture 50 bracelets in a day providing a return of R 100.00 and a fifty kilogram sack of maize meal costs R 50.00. It is estimated that this can sustain a family for a month. Inina co-ordinates the distribution of raw materials, collection of finished product, packaging and onward distribution for approximately R 1.50 per bracelet and their success also drives the local economy.
Through its involvement the University of Guelph is making a difference: a difference to the Masai project supporting HIV/AIDS in Lesotho; a difference in leading other universities and local community groups to be involved; a difference to the local economy in South Africa and our university partner the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and a real difference to the lives and families of the women who are making the beads.
Join the students, faculty and staff at Guelph and wear the beads in support of this amazing project.
How many times do you hear the phrase "universities move at glacial speed"? How many times do we poke fun at ourselves for moving slowly? Well last week, the University celebrated an event which some might categorize as happening with undue haste! Last week, the University officially launched the new College of Management and Economics and technically it took less than a year for the internal and external community to discuss and decide to act on the idea that it was about time to create a new College. Not only did we act with speed (in university terms) but we did so on a tide of approval - approval from the students and alumni of our management programs, approval of the faculty and staff associated with management, commerce and economics and approval of the external community. In fact at the official launch, we attracted over 350 people to celebrate the occasion and there was a considerable 'buzz' in the room about the concept. Building on our strengths in management, particularly in the service and not for profit sectors, in economics particularly relating to sustainable and development issues and the future unique place that graduates from the programs and research in this area can build - this was an auspicious day for the University and for the new College. Congratulations to those involved.
As president of the University I spend a considerable amount of my time traveling around, talking to people about the University of Guelph or reconnecting with people who are past graduates or friends of the University. We often talk about areas of strength at the University, of which there are many, and it is an opportunity for me to learn how other people see the University of Guelph. For many parents, employers and recent graduates, the reputation and prowess of our Centre for Students with Disabilities and our focus on assisting people with challenges in learning often comes up. There is no doubt that from students and parents who are seeking an institution which has expertise in this area and for employers who want to be assured that students with learning disabilities have been fairly and appropriately treated and have mastered skill set necessary to the workplace, it is clear that the Centre at Guelph is held in very high regard. A couple of weekends ago, at a meeting with parents of current students, the topic arose again and there was a lively discussion about the integrity of the professionals at Guelph in judging when and how to provide support and intervene in the learning process versus making unreasonable concessions which might unfairly disadvantage one student over another. It is clear that making this judgement call is one of the strengths of the professions in the Centre at Guelph: making concessions and supporting learners can readily be misinterpreted as created an uneven playing field – it can also be seen as creating a level playing field for those who struggle with the process of learning. This is not an art or exactly a science but it is something for which we are fortunate at Guelph in having professionals who can make that judgement. And they have to make those calls in the light of some substantial pressure from those advocating for or against the concessions and a particular student.
Next time you are counting the strengths of the University, take a moment to remember the staff and professionals in the Centre for Students with Disabilities at Guelph. They are a remarkable group of people who daily make a difference in the lives of students and do so from a professional standpoint and with great integrity. It makes me proud to know that we have such a reputation.
October 04, 2006
Just as a new school year begins with the influx of students, it seems strange but there are many people in the institution who are thinking about next year !
This past weekend was the Ontario Universities Fair - an amazing event, that has been running for many years, that seeks to provide in one venue (the Metro Convention Centre) a place for universities to advertize their programs programs to prospective undergraduate students. Each year, tens of thousands of students attend, asking questions, taking literature away and thinking about which university they will attend.
The display put on by the University of Guelph is impressive but perhaps more impressive are the numbers of faculty, staff and students who give their time voluntarily to stand in front of the display and simply talk about the University. For anyone who has not done this - I would encourage you to sign up for next year. It is, at the same time, both exhilerating to be among the sea of interested and somewhat anxious faces and utterly draining as you are asked questions about the University and the programs that we offer.
I would like to thank all of those people who gave their time for the two and a half day event and entreat those of you who have not done so before to sign for next year. Whilst some of us are dealing with the new cohort who entered in 2006, staff in Admissions is not only recruiting for 2007 but is now thinking about the recruitment fair to attract students for 2008.
October 03, 2006
Travel broadens the mind - or at least that is what we are told. Recently I have been travelling and I am moved to comment about an incident at an airport that I find disappointing and distressing: namely the lack of respect we show towards each other. This incident happened at an international airport where there was an exceptionally large queue to pass through the security check point. Like ants in a row, we lined up and duly followed the instructions from the "helpers" marked in yellow. "Please move forward and close up the gaps" was their constant refrain and we huddled toward the check point.
I first noticed the man, smartly dressed in a suit and carrying a bag that was clearly larger than permitted according to the new regulations, when he raised his voice and said to one of the attendants dressed in yellow, that he was disappointed that not all the check-points were open. His demeanour was aggressive: his voiced raised and agitated. Although he kept saying "I realize that you cannot do anything about this" to the attendant, he persisted in explaining in an agitated way that this was unreasonable. Minutes later he tackled a second man in yellow - his voice just a little more raised and his demeanour a little more agitated. A few moments again, as he was bobbing back and forth, a more senior official approached him and asked if he was alright. He started by saying "Well - no I am not" and began to relay his concerns. The official, this time a woman who was relatively small in stature, responded by asking the man to calm down. The fuse was lit and he exploded into a diatribe of rage about his anxieties. He was beligerent, unpleasant, aggressive and in my view threatening. Within a few moments he was calling out "Are you trying to suppress my freedom of expression?" and threatening the woman with statements like "I am a journalist - do you want me to make this an issue?".
How is it that people become so agitated? Why do we need to express frustration in the wrong way? And if we can become so exercised over such a small matter, I suppose it is no wonder that major conflict arises in the world.
I do not know how the situation ended. When the individual started raising his voice again and saying that he was not being aggressive or unpleasant and resented such accusations from the official, I have to say that I interupted and left my business card with her if she wanted to call on an independent witness over the event.
I then spent the time in the airport waiting lounge checking to see whether he was going to come and make an issue with me.
Of course, it would be nice to think that airport security would operate at full capacity at all times and I am the first person who hates to wait in line but surely we can find better ways to communicate with each other in such circumstances.