Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday To-Do List: Things That Students Will Do During the Holiday Season

I am pretty sure that all of us have done at least some of these things during the holiday season. Hopefully you can relate to many of them but if not... well, BLAST!!

1. Count down the number of days/sleeps/exams/assignments until your Christmas holidays begin and post such information in real-time on all possible forms of online communication such as: MSN Messenger, Facebook, etc.

2. Travel back home via bus, train, or a ride in someone's car who you may or may not know. The further the drive, the more the excitement builds about Santa's night of annual delivery.

3. Get together with your old high school friends and try to one-up each other through the telling of various irresponsible feats accomplished at university/college such as: who drank the most in the shortest period of time, the best phallic-shaped snow sculpture, number of exams that were failed/slept through, and how you're so smart you don't even feel compelled to attend class.

4. Try and act all smart in front of your relatives during Christmas get-togethers while your father keeps asking what good a degree in philosophy will accomplish. Coincidentally, he'll call you a "dumbass" in true Red Forman fashion.

5. Warm up to your Grandmother and tell her about how much you're learning and experiencing new "things" at university. As soon as she's tickled pink with attention, you'll quickly sneak in a request for more money (because you love her).

6. Pack up lots of leftover holiday dinner in containers to take back to residence. You'll be sure to guard it with your life and attempt to ration it as far as possible (less original cooking for you that way).

7. Count down the number of days/sleeps until your Christmas holidays are over and post such information in real-time on all possible forms of online communication such as: MSN Messenger, Facebook, etc.

Happy holidays and Merry Christmas, everyone!

P.S. 3 more sleeps until Santa comes!

Friday, December 12, 2008

How You Study For Exams And What That Says About Your Personality

Students at Nipissing University have found many ways to study for exams. Here I'll give a breakdown of some of these strategies and what they might have to imply about your attitude toward life.

Cramming the Night Before
I'm sure we've all been here. But really, nothing says you'll be a life-long slacker like trying to absorb as much information as possible the night before an exam. Obviously you don't take life seriously. You'll end up being a workaholic trying to get that quarterly report done before it has to be on your superior's desk the next morning. Double trouble: you like to brag that you crammed the night before, know nothing about the material, and then somehow find a way to blame the professor for the irrelevance of the class. Nice try, Sally.

Studying in Groups
Obviously you have no individuality if you take part in group study sessions. You rely on others for not just support but to do most of the work. Your attitude in life is to take as much and give as little as possible. But, you'll conceal this fact by trying to seem knowledgeable about the material at hand. What you don't know: others in the group can see right through you and will try to cut you loose at the first opportunity.

Reading and Re-reading Lecture Notes Well Before Hand
OCD, anyone? It is apparent that you are too meticulous of a person to care about anything else. You like to do things repeatedly. You like to do things repeatedly. Even though you've gone through your notes numerous times, you still seem to forget a few pieces of information. The insecurity of knowing that you didn't absorb everything will drive you over the edge.

Highlighting the Important Points
Selecting the important stuff by using colour, are we? Well nothing spells Social Darwinism better than being a racist person now does it? Apparently you know so much about the material that you can distinguish between relevant material and "filler facts." Sorry, my friend, all you're doing is trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. You're one to make quick judgement of other people due to your superiority complex. Sorry about your insecurity, Truman.

If there is anything that you should have learned while studying for final exams is that they are bad things that create bad people. You don't want to be a bad person, do you? So tear up that exam paper and walk out the door with your head held high knowing that you are smarter than everyone else who things they know what they're doing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Students scramble with applications (less than 2 months to go!)

High school students and others have until January 14th, 2009 to have their applications received to attend Nipissing University next year. Students apply through an online application system and, like all great websites, it can be found on the World Wide Internet! I put myself through this online process again this year but this time to apply to Teachers' College. Apparently it is now known as the Faculty of Education and yesterday I had my hand slapped (figuratively) by an Education Professor (literally) for using the old Teachers' College term.

So, if you are one of those students like me who waits last minute for everything (really, why do something today when you can put it off and do it tomorrow?) and are still considering Nipissing as an option, here's a list of 6 reasons that might convince you to apply.

1) NU is located in North Bay, not Thunder Bay. That is 4 hrs, not 14 hrs your home depending on where you live in southern Ontario (most students who attend Nip come from S. Ontario). It is far enough away to escape those pesky adults you call your parents but not too far that you can't visit them if you miss them (read: to do your laundry, eat an actual meal, and get more money for "textbooks").

2) You actually know who your professor is by name. They are open to seeing you in office hours and actually acknowledge you outside of class. And the main difference from high school? Some will even take part in academic discussion with you while sipping on beverages at the local watering hole.

3) All your classes will likely be in one building. This means that you won't have to struggle with a 20 minute walk across campus to get from one class to another. High school students with a certain average are guaranteed a spot in residence (rated # 1 in Canada according to the Globe and Mail) and unlike shared dorms at other universities, you won't have to share your single room with some grime-covered stranger.

4) The landscape of the campus will change while you are here. With a new research wing half-complete and a new library and student centre on the way, you will witness a transforming campus that will see more buildings and better services.

5) There are endless opportunities to get involved in student life outside of the lecture room. Look ahead to a future blog entry about this subject and important aspect of the "NU Experience."

6) You will actually know some of your fellow classmates. NU is one of the smallest universities in Ontario, and unlike the behemoth U of T's, Yorks, and Westerns, you won't feel left out when you attend class. The folks who you meet on Day 1 might also be in your Intro English class. Now you have 2 things in common!

For even more information about NU, click here.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ontario Cracks Down on Carpooling

Drinking and driving is bad.

That is what the province of Ontario would have you think when it introduced new legislation last week to tighten the rules for young drivers in an effort to better improve the safety of our roads and highways. You can read about the story in various newspapers such as The Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail. Before I dive into my take on this issue, I must be clear that I am against drinking and driving for ALL ages and also believe that government should be active in drawing up social policy such as this. Essentially, the new legislation, Bill 126, as proposed would require that every novice driver and young driver (under age 22) not have any alcohol in his/her blood while driving. If these rules are broken, a heafty minimum fine of $60 will be imposed and a 30 day licence suspension as well.

But, is the government really interested in decreasing drinking and driving on our roads? I would argue that the government is not doing enough and should impose a rule requiring that no alcohol be in ANY driver's blood, regardless of age. By not doing this, the government is simply picking on young drivers and not addressing drunk driving in all age groups. As it stands, any G licensed driver can have a blood alcohol content of 0.08%. According to the SmartServe alcoholic beverage service training program, I could consume 5 drinks in an hour and still be under the legal limit. Would I do this and then drive? Absolutely not.

I would argue that the provincial government is trying to make political hay out of a tragedy that occurred this past summer and to save money. How is this plausible? I read comments made by Minister of Transport Jim Bradley. After introducing the bill in the Ontario Legislature, he states that "motor vehicle collisions in Ontario still add up to about $18 billion annually in health care and social costs." So forget about saving lives and making Ontario a better place to live; passing this bill will save money!! Before these statements, the Minister said that Ontario has the safest roads in Canada.

So, is the government going too far? I think the comments made by fellow MPPs regarding Bradley's comments have some substance. John O'Toole of the Progressive Conservatives calls McGuinty out on making political hay by saying, "I would say that this seems like a bit of a photo op in some respects." Gilles Bisson, MPP for the New Democratic Party says what people need to hear: "we can't legislate everything. There comes a point where individuals have to take responsibility."

If the government can't legislate everything, then what should be done?
Two things that can be done better:

1) putting more police officers on patrol is a great idea. It will create jobs and catch more drunk drivers and those driving while suspended under strong legislation that we currently have.

2) update the driver training curriculum. I remember when I took driver training we used this old textbook entitled Road Worthy published in 1985. The tests that we wrote were photocopies of old multiple choice tests that were written with a typewriter. Folks of Ontario will likely recall the Annual Report (2007) of the Auditor General of Ontario pointing out the lackadaisical approach to regulating beginner driver education in Ontario.

What implications will this new law have for students at Nipissing University and elsewhere? If you have a G2 licence, you would not be able to carry more than one passenger under the age of 19 in your vehicle all day and all night. This means that you would not be able to carpool with teenaged friends to and from school, sports events, the movies, or even on trips home during study weeks and other holidays. The licensing period would also be increased; it will take you 3 years to get a G licence instead of 20 months. Students can enter university as young as 17 upon graduation from high school (one of my first year roommates was 17) and this legislation will affect them.

The Ontario government can be doing a good job only if it focuses on fixing things that aren't broken.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Remembrance Day

Yesterday marked the annual celebration of Remembrance Day. This year marks the 90th Anniversary of the end of World War I (at the time known as the Great War) when the guns fell silent at 11:00am on November 11, 1918.

But what exactly is Remembrance Day?

If you were to ask the Canadian government, Remembrance Day (now proceded by Veteran's Week) is a time for Canadians to develop "a deeper understanding of the sacrifices and achievements of those who have served and continue to serve our country." However, this language does not explicity state that we remember the war dead but rather individuals who have and continue to "serve." Is this a glossing over of the reality of war (soldiers shooting each other and dying) or some higher sacrifice of service to a nation?

Commemoration is a modern celebration. Historian George Robb argues that celebrating the heroism and sacrifice of soldiers predominated commemoration of soldiers through monuments. But, later on in the inter-war period a more cynical view of the First World War emerged that challenged the patriotic view of dying for one's country.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Britain was a controversial site during the Peace Day parade in July 1919. The British press was outraged that there was a lack of consideration given to the parents of soldiers who had died. Quite quickly British Members of Parliament and Lords gave up their front row seats during the ceremony for the mothers of dead soldiers.

Yesterday I attended the Remembrance Day ceremony at Memorial Gardens (the local arena) in North Bay, ON. This idea of respect for mothers of dead soldiers held some value and continuity at the wreath laying ceremony. The first individual to lay a wreath at the (portable) monument of a white cross was the daughter of a Silver Cross Mother. The Silver Cross, an award instituted by the Canadian government, was presented to all Canadian mothers who lost a son or daughter during World War II as well as to women who lost their husbands. In North Bay, the Silver Cross Mother was Mrs. Ida Beattie and saw three sons enlist and only one, Fred Beattie, returned. She lost two sons within six months. Ida's daughter, Mrs. Margaret Barker, was the first to lay the wreath today, even before government and other military and community dignitaries.

So what place does a higher institution like Nipissing University have amongst Remembrance Day? A wreath was laid on our institution's behalf at the ceremony mentioned earlier, but should it stop there? The world of academia and critical inquiry should seek to study remembrance and commemoration. As a part of this, I look forward to researching and writing a thesis paper on commemoration and remembrance ceremonies and the reporting of it in British newspapers during the inter-war period. This paper is for a fourth year seminar class in History and I look forward to presenting it at the Second Annual Undergraduate Research Conference, should it be permitted after submission.

I'll wrap up by asking you about the poppy. Did you wear one this year? If so, how come? There must be a reason for doing so. Perhaps you have a reason for not wearing one if you didn't. I look forward to your comments.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Welcome to Fourth Year

Welcome to the ritual; the rite of passage. After labouring through what seemed at the time like three long and unmanageable years of undergraduate study at Nipissing University, I have come to the point where the rubber meets the road. To be a adult male chauvinist: this separates the men from the boys. This is fourth year. This is university.

It was just three years ago, in June of 2005, that I left high school with my diploma in hand while simultaneously greeting the prospect of post-secondary education with open arms. I quickly accepted my offer from NU and tried to imagine what studying history at such an advanced level would be like. It wasn't quite what is expected. There was no determined memorization of facts or dates; although, these do come in handy during the History Club's trivia nights. The doom and gloom of taking 4th year seminar classes didn't occur to me at the time, but it is here now. And I love it.

Hopefully I can give you a sense of what 4th year seminar is like. I think I can sum up its activities in the following list:
1) Read books until your eyes fall out.
2) Research until your brain explodes.
3) Write a paper until your fingers seize up.
4) Repeat steps 1-3 for your other seminar (in all likelihood you'll have 2 to complete, and if you entered school before I did, 3).

Despite the trauma I have just put you through and that you may one day experience, I think that these seminars are the best academic experience I have had. It is not just preparation for graduate school. Fourth year seminar is the immersion into the world of academics. Reading and then debating the relevance of a document is what scholars do. There are no lectures but approximately 15 enthusiastic students who discuss some aspect of the topic at hand for three hours straight (with a break for coffee, of course). And with any luck, you'll be able to present your own original research at the Undergraduate Research Conference during the end of the Winter term each year. The second annual conference will be held this coming March. See you there!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

A Significant Memory at Nipissing University

One of my most significant memories at Nipissing University occurred when I was in first year. This memory didn't happen at a residence party where the jungle juice was passed around. It didn't happen in a classroom or lecture theatre. Really, this memory sort of pre-dates any activities that you would associate with the academic year itself.

I suppose that this event can be related to a rite of passage that many post-secondary school students go through. Now when I say rite of passage, I am making an assumption that many of my peers would be able to relate to this story and most would go through it at some point in their lives. In my attempt to be quite general, students leave their hometown and move to a new city and typically live in residence or sometimes off-campus. Move-in day is the big day. I loaded up all my personal belongings into a car and drove 4 hours from Walkerton, ON to North Bay, ON to assume responsibility for my living quarters for the next 8 months.

In true rite of passage form, I'm sure you are relating somewhat to this story already. Big arrival on campus. Move your stuff in. Go to the store and pick up a bunch of groceries. In the grocery store my Dad kept asking me if I needed this item or that. "When am I ever going to use an advocado or tin of escargo?" He replied, "Just say yes every time I ask you if you need something" as he kept filling up the cart with various items and increased his credit card bill in perfect correlation. I began to think that the university experience was more about him than me. But I digress.

When all the groceries were assembled and other belongings were half-arranged in my room, there came that moment. That goodbye moment that has seen many Mothers shed tears of joy/sadness to finally see their little ones off on their own in the real world. Kicked out of the protective nest, in fact.

Dad stuck his hand out and shook mine. A simple jesture, we'd shook hands before. He wanted me to keep in touch and I knew that I'd see him soon. But there was no crying. No tears of sadness or joy. No homesickness. There was more of an understanding between us. For him: "OK son, you're on your own. Let's see what happens." For me: "OK self, time to step up your game to this thing called life." After we hugged and he left, I began to realize that this was it. This was my chance. This was my life in my own hands. No parents around asking questions, no one staying up late at night waiting for you to arrive home, and no one scolding you for not eating breakfast. He's likely proud that I didn't go berserk with the imbibing of alcohol. I was still enrolled at Nipissing University after first year.

Pushing these thoughts to the back of my head, I met more of my roommates, neighbours, and eventually some classmates. I took part in Frosh Week activities, read some textbooks, and submitted assignments. This school thing was working out. And I have not turned back since.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Federal Election Round-up: fringe parties

Unless you have been living under a rock during the past couple of weeks, you have likely realized that there is a Federal Election upon us. It is our duty and right as Canadians throughout the nation to cast a ballot by October 14 in order to determine who will serve as our next government.

If you've read the papers and followed the news broadcasts, there is quite a bit of reporting based on the top parties in the nation: Bloc Quebecois, Conservative Party of Canada, Liberal Party of Canada, New Democratic Party, and the Green Party of Canada. Of course, the latter party has yet to elect a member to the House of Commons. However, the Greens have had one member in the House by the time the writ was dropped as a result of a member being forced from the Liberal caucus. But, enough about the big parties. There are actually more than 5 main parties in Canada who have candidates running in various ridings in this election. This blog entry is about them.

There are a total of 19 registered parties running for election this year. You can read more about them and view their websites here. I'm going to talk briefly about them now because really, this is the most press they may get this month.

In alphabetical order:

Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada: more than just a mouthful to say, they essentially run on the idea of protecting animals and the environment. Their biggest attack is against the Liberals who apparently caused the worst environmental record in Canada since 1993 and the slaughter of Canadian seals in the Arctic. Prediction: won't get elected.

Canadian Action Party: there is a candidate from this party running in the riding of Nipissing-Timiskaming who is also a graduate of Nipissing University. Essentially, the party is opposed to corporate rule and influence. The party believes in the "right to work" where every person who wants to work should be able to find a job; and that they have the right to do so. Prediction: no chance.

Christian Heritage Party: essentially an ultra-conservative party especially regarding social issues: they want to make abortions illegal, make homosexual marriage illegal, and abolish income taxes and move to a "fair tax" system. Prediction: elected to Heaven.

Communist Party of Canada: does it really need a description? On its website, the CPC promotes democracy! How odd. Essentially they want to limit transnational corporations and get rid of the NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Shifting more of the tax burden to corporations and have a smaller work week with the same amount of pay are other objectives. Prediction: this ship sailed more than 75 years ago; not elected.

First Peoples National Party of Canada: the Aboriginal issue in Canada has always been a sore spot. Recently there was an apology that took place in the House of Commons to the First Nations by the Canadian government that regretted the residential school system that Aboriginal children were forced to take part in. The party demands that the House of Commons represent the First Nations people (perhaps they propose a change in elections legislation??). Prediction: the apology stole their thunder. Not elected.

Libertarian Party of Canada: one of the few fringe parties that has a stance on an array of issues. They hold central the right of the individual and having limitations of government. Some of their ideas are linked to the United States' Declaration of Independance and Locke's ideals regarding the protection of life, liberty, and property. They also believe that Canada should not participate in any foreign quarrels (not limited to wars). Prediction: no member elected to the House of Commons.

Marijuana Party: their main objective is to legalize cannabis. There are some interesting arguments here and some of them stem from the prohibition of alcohol in Canada during the late 19th Century. This party is essentially a "one issue party." Theme song: Smoke Weed Everyday. Prediction: not elected since most voting occurs at 4:20pm.

Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada: for those who don't know, Karl Marx was a famous revolutionary during the 19th Century. Lenin helped lead the first Russian Revolution in 1905. With no obvious party platform, the party seeks to shift cash from the rich to pay for social programs. The party also seeks election reform and a reduction of funding for registered parties. Prediction: once again, this ship has sailed. Not elected. The only party whose name and website are the same thing! More of a satire than anything else, this party has its roots in Quebec. The party wants to abolish the military budget, tax shelters, and transfer the newly freed cash to education (free for everyone), health care (encourage laughter), culture, and social programs. Prediction: completely out to lunch.

Newfoundland and Labrador First Party: could be considered one of the main sovereigntist parties (along with Bloc Quebecois and the Western Block Party). Their main objective is to protect the rich natural resources of the province and claw back this lost cash from the Federal government. Prediction: like cod, they're endangered (wait, I mean extinct).

People's Political Power Party of Canada: their first principle: promote alliteration (haha, I kid). But really, they have quite an ambitious agenda that includes removing poverty, removing the welfare system, pacifism, and reducing health care costs by 50% in 3 years. Prediction: no dice.

Progressive Canadian Party: The party supports small business, buying locally, and paying off the national debt. Promotion of access to post-secondary education is a key facet, but there are no clear goals about it. The party also supports the Kyoto Accord. Prediction: not elected, some of these policies appear in other major parties.

Western Block Party: the party demands that the western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba separate from Canada and become their own country. This is an example of the issue of federalism in Canada. In Federal elections, the winning party must gain much of its support in Ontario and Quebec due to the large number of seats; Ontario has 103 out of 308 seats itself (most Canadians live in these two provinces). Prediction: not elected, Harper's already got the support of these western provinces.

Work Less Party: their main objective is promoting a 32 hour work week that will apparently benefit all of society. They also want to reduce unemployment and increase the minimum wage (which is different in each province). Prediction: not elected since we're all workaholics.

Well that about does it for the fringe party round-up of the Federal election this year. Here is a new poll question that you can answer in a comment on this blog: If there was an election held tomorrow, which fringe party would you vote for?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Students flip at Flip-A-Cup Project

The free use of green plastic travel mugs to hold your hot beverage in. Not having to worry about cleaning the cups. Decreasing waste on campus. These are not just sentence fragments but are pieces of a larger puzzle that is one solution to an astronomical garbage problem. Introducing the Flip-a-Cup Project.

Wait. Let me back up and explain more of the story of this idea and how it got off the ground.

Back in June of this year Melissa Lacey, a student here at Nipissing University in the Environmental Biology and Technology program, approached me with an idea: get some cash together to purchase reusable mugs that folks can use to drink coffee out of without having to use paper cups and plastic lids that are normally provided by Tim Horton’s. Folks could use the cups during the day and drop them off in return bins that would be strategically placed throughout the school. These cups could then be picked up, washed, and used by the next consumer. This brilliant idea for a cup sharing program was identified and I was flabbergasted; the Flip-A-Cup Project was born.

So, after putting together a proposal and circulating it through various departments at Nipissing, sufficient funding was secured to purchase 400 reusable travel mugs, 4 return bins, and some signage to promote the Project. The launch for the project occurred this past Tuesday.

In an ever increasing environmentally conscious world, it is more important than ever to not only make conscious choices about our actions but to also change our behaviour. With customer convenience in mind, the Flip-A-Cup Project could not be an inconvenience for the consumer and still be successful. This is where the helpfulness of Aramark (the main cafeteria food provider on campus) in committing to wash the reusable cups and lids assists with the Project. They are willing to collect the cups, clean and sanitize them in their dishwashers, and set them out for next use beside the main Tim Horton’s location at the main cafeteria. Now coffee and other hot beverage drinkers don’t have to worry about washing their own cups, taking them home, or dragging them all over campus. Even though these seem to be small inconveniences, making the Project as efficient as possible was a main goal.

If I have not convinced you to take part in the program yet, hopefully I can by generally discussing the waste generated by disposable cups. In a waste audit that was conducted by the Environmental Action Committee (a student led environmental issues club) last year, they discovered that approximately 20,000 paper cups are thrown into the garbage each week at the North Bay campus. This amount translates to 33,000 lbs of unnecessary paper waste and 5,500 lbs of plastic waste (lids that can be recycled) generated each year from coffee cups alone. That is 142 cups per year per capita! So, if reusable plastic cups can be used over and over again it would result in less waste and a cleaner environmental conscience.

But, we need your help. Students, faculty, and staff must commit to the concept of the Project in order for it to work. This includes keeping the cups on campus, returning them to the bins when you are done, and most importantly not taking them home to keep. The Project is propped up by both university and student money and it would be a shame to have cups go missing that would lead to the eventual termination of the Project. But, I do have faith in my fellow students and colleagues and would hope that they participate in the program the way it is intended.

So grab a coffee or hot chocolate, tea or apple cider in a Flip-A-Cup. The cups are 16 oz in size (the equivalent of a large paper Tim Horton’s cup) so the taste will be the same (cream and sugar are usually proportioned to the size of cup). The travel mug insulates your beverage and keeps it hotter for longer. You’ll also save money at the point of sale since you need to pay for only a medium even though you’ll receive a large beverage in quantity. Most of all, you can rest assured that by taking part you are saving at least one paper cup and plastic lid from being carelessly thrown in the garbage.

The Flip-A-Cup Project is targeted at consumers who do not normally use a travel mug due to its typical inconvenience. As a consumer, I feel that this innovative idea is not only creative but practical. And hey, if the concept catches on, we can issue even more reusable cups in the future. So grab a Flip-A-Cup and take part in the latest trend to descend upon our campus. Our Earth will thank you for it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Whoops, You Just Lit The School On Fire

On Monday afternoon at approximately 1:20pm, students at Nipissing University and Canadore College were given an extensive 40 minute break from their classes and other activities that they were doing. Someone pulled the fire alarm. I should know. I was at Nipissing University at the time.

Well, that is not entirely true. I'm not sure if someone pulled the alarm (by accident or not) or if the loud sounding buzzer was set off by something else. But, I was in a class at the time. Having not experienced a fire alarm situation since high school, I was able to both participate and observe the situation at hand. Here is a brief breakdown of how it went:

Fire alarm sounds. Not unlike a shrieking banshee, the alarm was beyond loud.

Students in my class begin to look at each other. First with the look on their faces of "is that the effing fire alarm?" followed quickly by "yup, that's the fire alarm so we better stand up."

It is this point of the situation that baffled me the most. Instead of quickly walking out into the hallway and to the nearest exit after hearing the alarm, what did my fellow colleagues do? Pick up their stuff, of course! This includes packing away laptops, putting on coats, shutting books and binders, etc.

Students finally proceed into the hallway with what seems like their last worldly possessions in tow aside from the family cat.

Once outside, I recall seeing a sheet of paper posted beside the doorway in the classroom that outlined Emergency Evacuation procedures. My wish is that occupants of the building had read these procedures BEFORE HAND rather than reading them during the actual drill (which I nearly did). The thing about the notice by the door was that it was multiple words in length, perhaps more than 100. It outlined in detail what to do regarding various types of alarms. If I had my way, the sign would read:IF YOU HEAR THE ALARM, GET THE HELL OUT OF THE BUILDING."

1:30pm (approximately)
I saw only 2 firetrucks arrive on scene. However, I was at the side of the building beside the townhouses so I didn't get the greatest view of the big shiny red trucks due to that eye-sore of the brown portable that was blocking my line of sight.

This fire alarm experience has raised a couple of questions for me that perhaps deserve answers:

1) Why are there different levels of alarm? To me, an alarm is an alarm. If you hear it, get out.

2) How come students (and professors!) gathered up their belongings prior to evacuating? You would think that in a potential life-or-death situation that personal belongings would be found at the bottom of the priority totem-pole.

3) What about students who are Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing? There are a couple of flashy lights (in the hallways), but what about elsewhere? What if they don't hear the alarm if they are in the library? A washroom? A residence room?

4) How should students who use wheelchairs be handled in this situation? Elevators are not to be used during emergencies, but what if they are on the 3rd floor of H-wing? How are they to evacuate while still maintaining their sense of dignity? Why are some evacuation signs in classrooms not at eye-level for someone in a wheelchair?

I'm not sure if anyone else has had a similar experience or thoughts, but I'd like to know.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Who is that middle aged person talking to me and why am I listening…?

Professors. Teacher assistants. Post-graduate students. Doctors of Philosphy. Academics. Writers. These are the individuals who stand in front of many students beginning every September to lecture them about what they (may) need to know. So who exactly is that middle aged person talking to you as you scribble down notes during your three hour lecture sessions? As it turns out, they are not just teachers; they are researchers and writers.

When moving from high school to university, this change was one of the most notable ones that I didn’t notice immediately. Although there is some demand for respect, not all professors require you to call them Dr. _______ (actually, not all of them have a PhD). But, calling this middle aged person by using the designation doctor or professor is not a bad start.

University professors are not teachers

Not to be mistaken, university professors are not LIKE elementary or secondary school teachers. The latter folks make their money and promote the growth of their careers by teaching young adults, preparing lesson plans, and sometimes taking additional courses. University professors do these things AND conduct research. I suppose that an accurate description is that university professors lecture classes of students in order to make money but the reason that they are there is to conduct research. But really, they’re not making copious amounts of cash when their royalty cheque comes in when their most recent publication sells out of the 1,000 copies initially released for publication. While other teachers promote the growth of their careers by teaching, university professors do so by seeking to “publish or perish”; the idea that you must continue to research and publish your findings lest you lose your authority – and potential for tenure – for not continuing to do so.

So what sort of research do university professors do?

Well, to say that their research is ground breaking is an understatement. Really, I would expect that all research would be ground breaking during its time; if it wasn’t, then either the researcher didn’t do a thorough job or the research topic has been beaten to a bloodier pulp than a beaten dead horse.

Research that is conducted by professors is quite diverse. Nipissing University’s Dr. Nathan Kozuskanich (say that 10 times fast without mistakes!), originally from the Barrie area, studies American history and specializes in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution. Many of us will recall it as the right to bear arms. He is particularly interested in what the Founding Fathers of the 18th Century meant by a person’s right to bear arms; obviously, this issue has present day application regarding gun laws in the wake of many gun related crimes. Dr. K tells all here.

Dr. Dana Murphy has research interests regarding the elderly adults and is the overseer of the Northern Centre for Research on Aging and Communication that is located in the halls of Nipissing University. Students can also volunteer their time to be research subjects and receive a small honourarium for their time and effort. And no, this does not involve putting shampoo in your eyes and measuring the amount of tears that result. Learn more here.

Dr. Jim McAuliffe, current chair and professor of Nipissing’s new Bachelor of Physical Health and Education (BPHE) degree has studied athletes. Particularly, his recent study attempts to measure reaction time out of the starting blocks for runners. He can be read about in the Washington Post here.

So how does someone go from being a high school student to university professor? Well, mainly two things: lots of education and lots of money. Consider this equation: Education = Money. I think that my point is clear.

But really, after obtaining a 4 year undergraduate degree, students then pursue education at the graduate level in a 1 or 2 year program with the idea of developing and performing some original research that could be published as an article in a peer reviewed journal. After that, a PhD (which stands for Doctor of Philosophy – I didn’t know this until 2nd year university) can take upwards of 3 years to complete, and that is fast-tracking. Many professors take these latter degrees as part time study. Why? Well, they’re already up to their ears in debt and must work at an actual job before having the highest academic designation bestowed upon themselves. Do you think that you are so sick of your 3rd year university research essay that you want to punch it through the Milky Way? Well, try working on the same paper for multiple years! Welcome to the life of a university professor.

So after all of this education, you are actually a doctor! Well, not a medical doctor at this point and, you may have to watch yourself. As Dr. David Tabachnick, professor of Political Science at Nipissing University, once said, “If I’m on an airplane and someone yells that they need a doctor, I usually just keep my hand down so that I stay out of trouble.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

How to Make Friends at University

If there is one thing to be sure about when moving away from your now hometown to university it is that you are going to meet new people and lots of them. Some will be your roommates, some your classmates, and most will eventually become your friends. There are a few tips that Nipissing University may have told you about meeting others, such as:

- everyone is a stranger, but you’ll make friends
- roommates are hand selected to live with each other (hopefully you filled out that form for residence yourself and not your Mother)
- there are lots of activities to take part in

However, there are some lessons that you were not told about in all those mail outs that you have received. The learning begins now, grasshopper.

Here is how a typical conversation between university strangers will go:
Person A: Hi, I’m Person A, what’s your name?
Person B: I’m Person B. What are you studying here?
A: I major in the Bioethical Chemical Physics program with a minor in Nerd.
B: Cool, I take History. Where you from?
A: I’m from Wyoming… Ontario, not the United States. It is close to Sarnia.
B: Neat. What year are you in?
A: First.
****awkward silence***

Now, this moment in the conversation is key. You must avoid awkward silences like the plague and at all costs.

The key to meeting and remembering new people is to get to know them more than the basics in the first two minutes. This means getting to know the person beyond the conversation above by doing things such as drawing connections to others, e.g. “Oh, Wyoming! My roommate is from Sarnia. Maybe you guys/gals know each other.”

It is also helpful to repeat the person’s name to yourself numerous times while studying their facial features. This way you can easily recognize someone and recall his/her name based on facial recognition. Be sure to use the person’s name in conversation. E.g. “So Person B, you’re taking history. Why did you decide to take History, Person B?”

This question leads me to my final point: ask the person “why” questions to learn more information about him/her. Ask why they chose to study something, why they chose Nipissing, why they live in a particular residence, or why they dyed their hair a particular colour. But, don’t ask stupid why questions such as “Why did your parents name you Svetlana?” (refer to awkward silence above). These questions help to generate conversation and ensure that you are not doing all of the talking yourself.

Hopefully these suggestions will help you make friends at university this year (so that your Mom doesn’t do it for you).


Friday, August 22, 2008

Nipissing University wins gold medal; defends provincial championship

For Immediate Release

For the 3rd year in a row Nipissing University has won the coveted gold medal in the province’s most controversial event among post-secondary students: tuition fee increases. Incoming first year students will be drinking fewer Tim Horton's coffees in order to pay $195.00 more in first year tuition fees than their now second year colleagues compared to one year ago (based on 30 credit course load).

Tuition increased from $4,315.00 to $4,510.00 this year. This fee increase is the maximum allowable under the provincial funding rules (approximately 4.5% each year). This maximum increase has occurred each year since Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the removal of the freeze on tuition fees during the 2005/06 academic year. Since this announcement, tuition fees have increased by $560.00 at the maximum rate permitted each year.

Professional Students Paying More

Students who are in professional schools such as Business, Nursing, Computer Science, and Graduate studies will be paying significantly more for their education. Tuition fee increases of approximately 8% will be experienced by these folks. As it turns out, deciding to get an education earlier in life than later actually is cheaper.

Future Outlook Bleak

There are no signs that tuition fees will be decreasing in the near future. A press release issued by Nipissing University in May 2008 announced the approval of a near $58.4 million deficit budget for the upcoming year. You can read the release at In the release it is quoted that “the approved budget will allow the university to sustain the quality of education that it provides to students and, at the same time, continue to grow its capacity.”

In other words, more students will continue to be accepted to Nipissing University at an increased rate in the near future, but the quality of education will not be increasing at the rate of 4.5% or 8% like tuition fees are currently.

Monday, August 18, 2008

9 Things to do Before Moving to University

With only a couple of more weeks before university begins, there are a few things that you should do before making the trek to North Bay to begin your university career. There are many helpful hints and tricks out there. Here you’ll find the checklist to end all checklists. Well, maybe you’re not as convinced as I am. But before hugging Mommy and Daddy goodbye, ensure that you have the following bases covered.

Do the following things to prepare yourself for your first year of university.

1. Hoard all of the toilet paper that you can. This stuff is worth more than gold and vanishes like hotcakes in your suite in residence. Bonus trick: hide a couple of rolls at random (truly random that is - every spot gets an equal chance) places in your room. This way a final search for TP will not end in vain. Simply brush off the lint and reshape that roll from flat to round after you find it under your bed, and you’ll be Ruler of the Throne. The same goes for dish soap and sponges.

2. Write your name on everything you own. This includes the black marker that you used to do this task. Don’t skimp on this one. Individual eggs and slices of bread are not to be ignored. Always remember the golden rule of residence life: if there’s no name on it, it is free game.

3. Buy the most unique yet personality-matching beverage container that you can. Sometimes the price is not worth it, but in this case the end justifies the means. You’ll always be remembered as that kid with the “sick drinking cup” during weekend social hours. Way to brand yourself young lady.

4. Digital camera. Buy one.

5. Change your e-mail address to something less elementary school-ish. No one wants to accept a new friend on MSN whose e-mail is or, do they?

6. Keep the high school stories at high school. At Nipissing University you’ll meet new friends and create new memories. These are the stories you’ll want to tell over and over.

7. You’ll probably want to pick up one of those mini-fridges for your room. They come in pretty handy. Get them quick because Wal-mart moves those things like crazy during move-in weekend.

8. Buy one of those big dry erase calendars. You’ll barely use it but it takes up some neat space on your wall. This item will also complement your dry erase board on your bedroom door. It won’t record legitimate messages, but your friends will definitely make use of it.

9. A tool kit that will hold the basics including Robertson, Phillips, and slotted screwdrivers, small hammer, pliers, and others. You never know when you’ll need these items and you’ll be glad that you have them.

If you can think of any others feel free to post a comment. I’m pretty sure these 9 will do the trick though.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nipissing University Teaching the ABCs of ASL

Last year Nipissing University received a grant from the provincial government worth approximately $500,000.00 in order to establish American Sign Language (ASL) classes for students to take for non-credit. The idea is to target this programming initiative to Education students in the hopes of creating an Additional Qualification (AQ - courses that teachers take to upgrade their skills after they’ve completed their Bachelor of Education year). Eventually an entire section of Education students will be for Teachers of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (the official title) that will emphasize ASL.

The funds are largely used to subsidize the classes for students in order to encourage us to enrol in the classes. A two week ASL camp (much like summer band camp but without the instruments or sexual references) occurs in July each year - no oral speaking permitted!

I have not attended the camp but I have taken the first and most basic ASL class: ASL 101 (or coded by Nipissing University SIGN 0101). Students need to have taken two ASL classes in order to qualify for the AQ courses.

So, after having taken ASL 101 and experiencing the teaching methods of a completely deaf instructor (yes, he’s deaf, and fantastic), it was to my delight that more courses will be offered by NU throughout the fall and winter. If you are looking for a new experience and are interested in sign language, you can sign up through WebAdvisor; there’s also an announcement for students posted there with more details.

The unique characteristics of ASL truly make it an appealing language. Just like spoken English, French, or Spanish, ASL is an actual language with it’s own cultural references, inside jokes, and etiquette requirements. Individuals who are deaf and/or hard of hearing are not disabled; they can communicate with their peers in their own language and are able to participate in society. When I placed myself in those shoes, I was amazed at both the fun I had while learning the language and not being able to talk while taking the classes. I was still able to communicate!

ASL requires the use of not just hand gestures, but facial expression and upper torso movement too. The classes are currently offered for $190.00 through the Continuing Education office over weekends for 30 hours/course and have no credit value toward your degree. However, it is a great experience that I would encourage every student to take advantage of at university.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Nipissing students to detour around construction

In the ever growing desire for Nipissing University to constantly move forward, students will likely be diverted off their main travelling paths through the halls of the academic institution due to ongoing construction projects.

As we grow, our university has somehow found itself in vicious cycle of development and increasing the number of students beyond holding capacity. New professors will be tag-teaming office space with their more senior counterparts, walls are being knocked out to make room for more photocopiers, and the next step may have student desks stacked on top of each other in a single classroom; remember that episode of The Simpsons of Springfield Elementary cutbacks? In order to avoid the latter, students will have to roll out of bed a couple of minutes earlier than usual in order to detour down less travelled paths. But hey, was it not Robert Frost who said take the trail less travelled? (Google: Robert Frost The Road Not Taken (1915).

There are three main sites that you’ll have to redraw your maps around, record your travel time, and still be able to grab a breakfast coffee:

1. Crooked Staircase by Student Affairs
Have you ever avoided those ridiculous angle stairs due to your lack of co-ordination or desire to remain above sea-level? You may have cut down that narrow hallway just to the left of them (previously the home of Human Resources). Well, before walking into the wall that now blocks that hallway, don’t! What are your options? You can take the next narrow hallway before the Dean of Education’s office or wrestle with those stairs at your own peril.

2. Back of the Cafeteria to the Geography/1st Floor A-Wing
Don’t be caught at this location in the near future. You just might find yourself recruited by construction workers who are building the latest academic/research wing that will attach A and H wings. The steel framing is being installed this week and next. Alternate route? Take the hallway leading to shipping/receiving and Print Plus. It may reek of cleaning supplies but it can’t be much worse than that raw fish your roommate left in your fridge for two weeks.

3. The actual cafeteria itself.
Right now some renos are happening in the main cafeteria that resulted in closing off the entire food service area. Will they be complete in time for the herd of students in September? The last I heard, construction was a week behind due to a scheduling mix-up with the floor jackhammer operator and the plumber. The project began at the end of July 2008. The upside? The Aramark folks are grilling up some mean Debrazini sausage on a bun on the temporary outdoor BBQ.

Note: First year students won’t have to worry that much as they’ll need to get familiar with their new surroundings regardless.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bomb threat message found at North Bay Campus

On the morning of Wednesday, August 06, 2008, a written message about a bomb threat was found in the men's changeroom by the gym. What did the message say? Here it is:

On August 7 at 11:45 am a bomb will explode in a secret location this will take place because Canada is an abomination and has become a burden to the United States of America."

As it turned out, there was no explosion that occurred to my knowledge in North Bay. Even though the message did not specify where the explosion was to take place, the North Bay campus of Nipissing University and Canadore College was vacated for a couple of hours by Security Services.

Apparently the North Bay Police Service has been contacted about the matter.

Now, this was the first time I have ever experienced a bomb threat. Some students may have had the opportunity to evacuate their high school for this same reason during their teen years, but not for this fellow. But, here is the most intriguing thing:

Why is Canada an abomination that has become a burden to the United States of America? Canada doesn't rely on the US for social services, does it? Sure, there is free trade, but that has been hailed as a good thing for North America.

Anyway, I hope that whoever wrote this threat is found or comes forward. Really, we don't need these things going on at our campuses, or anywhere else for that matter.