Features – The Cord https://thecord.ca The tie that binds Wilfrid Laurier University since 1926 Fri, 16 Nov 2018 17:57:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://thecord.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/logofavicon-32x32.png Features – The Cord https://thecord.ca 32 32 42727683 Finding your festive flare at holiday markets https://thecord.ca/finding-your-festive-flare-at-holiday-markets/ https://thecord.ca/finding-your-festive-flare-at-holiday-markets/#respond Wed, 14 Nov 2018 12:01:10 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=52596
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Finding funds for your future: Hints and tips for looking past undergrad https://thecord.ca/finding-funds-for-your-future-hints-and-tips-for-looking-past-undergrad/ https://thecord.ca/finding-funds-for-your-future-hints-and-tips-for-looking-past-undergrad/#respond Wed, 31 Oct 2018 11:01:54 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=52345

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I think I speak for a lot of us considering post-graduate education when I say one of the scariest parts is the cost. After building up debt — and maybe some bad spending habits — throughout our undergraduate degrees, the price tag attached to further education, be it through university or college, is not a small one.

Like everything else in university, no one is holding our hands through any of this. Applying to Laurier, each of us probably had countless tours and orientation sessions, or at least a personal connection at the very least.

Now? Applying for further education and trying to find the money to get there? A lot of the weight is on our shoulders. 

“As a current student, we always encourage students to complete our competitive scholarship profile,” said Necia Martins, associate registrar with Wilfrid Laurier University’s student finance and client services. 

“We have our general profile as well as our faculty specific profiles, and those do make you eligible for more awards internally, where our donors have signalled that that’s what they’re looking for: someone who’s well-rounded and academic, as well as excelling in other areas outside of academics.”

And that’s nothing to scoff at. At Laurier, Martins stated that there are awards that are worth over $10,000. 

From personal experience, I received a pretty hefty renewal scholarship through Laurier in my first year that I didn’t even know existed — all because of my extracurricular involvement in high school. You never know what you might get plopped on your lap if you just fill out the profile.

That goes for other universities as well. If you’re considering graduate school in the next few years, find out about how they administer awards, whether it’s through a profile like Laurier or individual applications. Some scholarships and awards need more preparation than others, so it’s always good to get ahead. 

“We request essays or any sort of written component typically for specific awards,” Martins explained. “Sometimes all the criteria boxes are checked by completing the profile, but in some of them we find we want to understand a bit more about your interests or a bit more about your experiences.”

“We are asking those questions to better understand you.”

The takeaway from it all? Research early. Get in contact with the program advisor in the subject you want to apply for, even if you’re not planning to apply to Laurier for your education. Get advice from your professors.

If you’re applying to graduate school next year, though, you have the opportunity to apply for plenty of external funding, as well. 

“Start early, do some research, talk to faculty, talk to colleagues, talk to the writing tutors,” encouraged Jordana Garbati, writing consultant at the newly re-branded Laurier writing services, formerly the writing centre. 

She and her co-worker, fellow writing consultant James Southworth, ran a series of workshops on writing scholarship proposals earlier this year. 

“If you’re applying to graduate school, I would definitely apply as well for an external scholarship. These are winnable awards, every university has a certain allotment to give out. It’s a unique type … you’ll be continuing to write these through your graduate career,” Southworth said. 

Though most of the deadlines for external awards for current graduate students have passed, the deadlines for undergraduates applying for funding at the graduate level are still upcoming. 

“The biggest thing to focus on is framing your project as opposed to just starting your proposal with what you are going to do. It’s very hard for an assessor of that project to understand that it’s making a contribution to the field, so first take a step back and tell us what’s happening in the field and expose some kind of a research gap,” Southworth said. 

The national scholarships, NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council; SSHRC, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council; and CIHR, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, make up the tri-council of research grants to scholars and students alike. Make sure to check online and with your program about specific deadlines. 

“It can get quite complex, so start early to make sure that you are ticking all of their boxes,” Southworth said. 

These external award applications will be assessed by scholars both within your field of study upon your application and from those outside of it. Southworth encouraged having a friend from a different discipline read your proposal to see if it makes sense to them, as well as your faculty specific mentors. 

“Here at writing services, we certainly help with the writing of the scholarship proposals, but information about how the funding works and how it’s allotted … the graduate department is able to advise about that,” Garbati said. “There are other places on campus to get support.”

The Ontario Graduate Scholarship (OGS) is another opportunity for students. Though you can only accept a national award or a provincial one, there is no harm in applying for both.

Some other good news is that, when applying from an undergraduate level, you’re not cemented into completing your research proposal to the exact way                     you submitted it. 

“You’re writing a grant proposal, but it’s not a contract,” Southworth said. “Part of the rational there is that when you’re at graduate school, you’re going to be exposed to so many new ideas and projects can take different turns.”

“Research and writing evolves,” Garbati said. “Don’t lie, you’re still hopefully        following the same path, but if it gets off track onto a new track in the same area, that’s okay as long as you’re representing your work honestly.”

For those who are considering applying to even more competitive external awards, Martins also oversees the Laurier selection of students for the Rhodes Scholarship. In its essence, the Rhodes scholarship pays for students to attend Oxford University in the United Kingdom for two years at a graduate level. 

Two students are selected from Ontario every year, so it is incredibly competitive and Laurier has set up a vetting system to send forward the students they think will be the most competitive. 

“If students are interested, they don’t necessarily need to be a student today. They can be a graduate, as long as they meet the other criteria, like the age criteria,” Martins explained.

“The scholarship is based on finding that well-rounded, someone-who-wants-to-change-the-world kind of person … an amazing human that does such incredible things,” she continued. 

If this scholarship, arguably the most prestigious in the world, looks at more than just your grades, that should be a good indication that your involvement matters. You can be an amazing scholar, but you can’t just keep your nose buried in a book all the time. 

The takeaway from it all? Research early. Get in contact with the program advisor in the subject you want to apply for, even if you’re not planning to apply to Laurier for your education. Get advice from your professors. 

And, for the sake of your mental health and for your chances at those big scholarships, do something other than studying. Get involved early so you can make the natural progression up to positions like president that look good on a resume. 

“Represent yourself fairly, honestly as best as you can,” Garbati said.

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Waterloo Region’s municipal election candidates https://thecord.ca/waterloo-regions-municipal-election-candidates/ https://thecord.ca/waterloo-regions-municipal-election-candidates/#respond Wed, 17 Oct 2018 10:59:57 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51903

Features Editor, Madeline McInnis, talks to all of the candidates for Laurier's ward and for Waterloo's mayor this election season. Answers have been printed verbatim from interviews with the candidates but have been cut off at approximately 100 words per answer.

  1. Are you for or against expanding the ION? Why or why not?
  2. How can you ensure student retention in Waterloo post graduation?
  3. In your opinion, how has King street construction affected Waterloo? Has it been and will it be positive?

Dave Jaworsky

  1. The first step in getting the ION successful is to build ridership on phase 1, which is around Waterloo and Kitchener. That way we can demonstrate to the federal and provincial government that it’s working here and it’s needed, and then we can seek further funding for LRT phase 2, which will take us down to Cambridge and will complete the system in Waterloo region.

2. The talent at the universities is a key contributor to the economic growth of Waterloo. What we are doing here in Waterloo is making it a more attractive place to live, work and play. We are focused on job creation and entrepreneurship so that new graduates have a great job and a great city. We’re building connections between our university district and uptown through Waterloo park with our new central promenade and exploring new transportation options like E-scooters to ensure that we look like a cool place to live and build your life.

3. The King street streetscape work was necessary because the old streetscape dated back 50 years and was car-centric. The new streetscape supports all modes of transportation including segregated cycling lanes, wider sidewalks for wheelchairs, strollers and patio lifestyle. We’ve installed new exciting tree lighting, an innovative invention of a local company, all along King Street to attract people here every evening so that our retailers can thrive. We will also have the ION running through uptown that will have a great way to bring tens of thousands of people through our uptown area each and every day. Uptown Waterloo is one of the most vibrant urban cores in all of Canada.

Kelly Steiss

  1. I would really like to hear clearly from the Cambridge residents what they would want for the ION. We do need a system that serves our entire region, but I want to make sure we serve Cambridge in a way that makes sense.

2. We need to make sure that we have a variety of housing options available that are affordable. We also need to make sure that our city is a place where our graduating students feel welcome, where there is a diversity of economy as well as options for entertainment and belonging.

3. King Street construction has been devastating to our local businesses. I believe we could have done a better job. My hope is that as we move forward that we can make it look great, because right now we have to do better.

Chris Kolednik

1. I’m against any expansion of the LRT and the ION, especially they’re talking about going from basically Fairview Mall area to Cambridge. So I’m dead-set against that. The proposed cost was going to be roughly a billion dollars or so. I’d rather see that billion dollars go towards high speed rail basically connecting Kitchener to Toronto.

2. Simply, jobs. In my campaign, I even specify in some of my Twitter, it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs. What do people want after they graduate? And I know that I wanted the same thing, was that I wanted a good paying job. At the end of the day, people want stability, security and a good-paying job. Again, I want to be the jobs mayor. I want to create thousands of jobs in this region, not just in high tech but in manufacturing, continued insurance and continued in the education service.

3. From my perspective, it hasn’t been a good thing because I’m a commercial realtor, that’s my background. Some of those businesses on King Street are my clients and they were tremendously affected and we’ve actually seen businesses shut down as a result of the LRT construction and then the streetscape construction. Again, it’s not something that I would have been in favour of, per say. I think it should have been better organized and better planned for those businesses, but, again, it’s obviously here now and we have to deal with it. We have to shine a positive light on the situation and we have to get more people back to the uptown Waterloo core.

Devon McKenzie

1. I would encourage the expansion of the ION to continue to connect our communities and our business areas.

2. First, we need to focus on affordable housing and continuing to build job opportunities for our newly educated minds.

3. As somebody who owns a number of businesses in uptown, it was a struggle to try and survive the construction. However, now that the businesses’ streetscapes are open, the businesses are starting to see an upturn in business. So we’re appreciative to have them open and widened.

Rami Said

1. I am for expanding the ION. At this point, we’ve already invested a large sum of money into it and it’s in Waterloo and the region’s best interest to ensure that it’s successful. When you give up on something partway through, there’s no chance of it being successful and I think for future generations it’s going to be used quite a bit.

2. So there’s two parts to student retention: the first one is jobs and the second one is culture. So, obviously, some of my positions on the BIA and uptown business committee, we’ve been pushing for employment growth. So a good example is when we sold the art building, ensuring that it was devoted to developing more office space for uptown Waterloo. And in terms of the arts and culture, sites like the Button Factory, for example, you know, making sure people actually want to be in Waterloo. It’s one thing to get a job, it’s another to actually feel included and part of the community.

3. Well, that’s a complicated one. I think longterm we’re going to see a lot of positive results from it. Obviously, in the short-term it’s been very stressful, we’ve lost some businesses, rent rates are going up slowly, that’s a systemic problem everywhere. So there’s been some negative feedback in terms of how it’s gone. It was over 50 years old, some of it already crumbling and falling apart. This work had to be done. It wasn’t something we could push off saying that it’s not in our best interest. So for future aspects, it allows development, it allows for stronger businesses where things aren’t falling apart or breaking.

Tenille Bonoguore

1. I’m pro ION, as long as, I want to make sure that it is supported by a robust bus system as well. As a transportation tool it is, hopefully, it is going to prove very valuable and essential, but also as a development tool it provides a strong spine on which to intensify. So it think both of those things are really important and great.

2. Waterloo needs to be a great place to live for all ages and all incomes and this pertains to families, it pertains to seniors but it also pertains to young workers, so its not just about making sure we have excellent jobs here, we also need to have an excellent culture that makes people want to stay. So for me it comes down to strong employment options as well as really thriving culture, a variety of things on offer in the core and across the city and a variety of housing styles so that there are homes that people can afford in the places where they want to live.

3. The next couple of years are going to be tough. We have to wait for people’s habits to change and to bring them back to uptown, and we also need to, there’s a lag time in the developments that are coming so the population that will be uptown going to their businesses isn’t here yet so I think long term it’s going to get off to a really positive point, but it’s been a hard couple of years and I don’t think the hard times are done yet so I think it’s really important for this city to be working very hard to continue supporting local businesses until those habits change again and people are coming back uptown and living uptown again.

Carol Parsons

1. I would say I’m definitely for expanding the ION. We need to better support the active transportation in our city. We need to make sure we are bringing people into our city because while it’s allowing them to efficiently commute to work outside of our city, so we definitely need to support the expansion of the active transportation system in Waterloo region.

2. Again I think it comes down to a couple of things. It comes down to engagement, making sure that we create a community that they are connected to and therefore after graduation want to commit to staying in. I also think we have to — intensification is something that we hear a lot about and I think it’s so important because we need to make sure we are bringing people into our community by creating jobs and opportunities for them to be here.

3. It has definitely been challenging, I think especially for uptown retailers, being able to bring people uptown during the construction was difficult. I know that we have some great support from the uptown BIA as well as the city but that’s behind us and I believe that moving forward that it is a good thing, it will bring more people uptown, therefore bringing hopefully more retailers uptown, more business owners uptown and therefore more people uptown so I do believe it’s a positive thing moving forward.

Elizabeth Sproule

1. If the ION meets expectations — we’re talking the LRT down King street — I would actually be open to considering another path that goes in a perpendicular direction, because I think that in order for it to fully service our city it has to go in more than one direction.

2. People long to live in a vibrant community where there are things to do, places to go, a sense of community and a vision that they can see themselves being in place for many years and I think that if we can build that we will retain people. People want services if they’re there if they say if there’s entertainment, community support, I think that’s the way we get people to stay in our city.

3. I think in the long term it will be positive when we get a more diversification of our businesses along King Street, assuming that the LRT will increase foot traffic, I think we will have a more robust Uptown at the end of the day. Of course it’s been such a struggle and we have suffered a number of loses, but I’m hoping that in the future that can be counteracted and it will really be a great place to be.

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A fountain for youth: University students and the writing renaissance https://thecord.ca/a-fountain-for-youth-university-students-and-the-writing-renaissance/ https://thecord.ca/a-fountain-for-youth-university-students-and-the-writing-renaissance/#respond Wed, 26 Sep 2018 11:00:25 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51585


Photo by Sadman Sakib Rahman

When you think of fountain pen users, you probably think of one of two categories: lawyers and politicians who can afford pens that cost thousands of dollars or the oddball novelist who writes exclusively in leather notebooks. 

Although these stereotypes have their merits, the “writing renaissance,” as this period in writing history is affectionately being called, is actually being brought about by an entirely different demographic: university students. 

“Whether it’s 18-year-olds going into university or 22-year-olds leaving university, I think there is so much that is coming to them via the internet and all kinds of social media, and I think that the fountain pen is a pleasant change,” said Mano Duggal, owner of Phidon Pens in Cambridge. 

In the Waterloo region, fountain pens enjoy a considerable following and fan base. You only need to look at the incredibly successful and popular pen shop, Phidon Pens, as well as the great amount of people who share in the same passion for all things writing. 

Increasingly, students are becoming a larger and larger portion of this group.

Phidon is located in Downtown Galt and features enough inks, pens, notebooks and accessories to keep you looking around for hours. The store just celebrated its tenth anniversary in September with celebrations including a sale, calligraphy demonstrations and a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig. 

“Over the years, I’ve given some interviews and the people ask me ‘why pens, why do you sell pens?’ and I always say ‘why not?’” Duggal said.

The two of us attended both days of the celebration and there was not a single dull moment. The store was always full of people enjoying everything the store has to offer, as well as all of their special displays and products for the anniversary. 

Predictably, we were not the only students that stuck around.

“I just feel like students have a low budget that they are working with and they’re buying pens and notebooks that are mainly being used for their education, so it’s just a small little break that I offer them,” Duggal explained, in reference to the 10 per cent student discount she offers at her store throughout the year. 

“I always tease students when they come in and say ‘that’s my contribution to your education!’”

Though the teasing is light and kindhearted, Duggal’s sentiments ring truer than she intended in the moment. Countless studies have shown that handwriting notes improves grades, so buying a fountain pen at a discounted price really could be an investment — a serious contribution — to our educations. 

Though I’m not sure that there’s been any research into the direct correlation between fountain pens and straight A’s, I think it’s safe to say that you’re way more likely to want to write with a smooth, flowing pen than a 30 cent ballpoint. 

“When I was in college years and years ago, I found that it’s easier to retain information if you write it out. So, when I was studying, I would literally just write out my notes three or four times and it was committed to memory,” said Kata Law, a local artist and owner of Wanderlust Watercolours.

On top of using fountain pens for her art, Law also ran the only Pelikan Hub in the Waterloo Region in both 2017 and 2018. Pelikan Hub is an annual global event where pen lovers meet at 6:30 p.m. in their respective timezones all across the world for socializing, networking with other pen users and professionals and trying new products. 

Cambridge’s Hub was one of the largest in Canada with over 30 participants. Toronto’s attendance was the second largest in the world with over 100 registered guests. It’s pretty safe to say that this is an excited community.

And who makes up that community? At Law’s Hub this year in Cambridge, there was a student in a Laurier sweater. There were two University of Waterloo students of note. We personally sat next to a student from Conestoga College who had introduced his mother and sister to fountain pens.


There was no shortage of student representation at this international event, that’s for sure, and we were all excited to talk about our experiences in the fountain pen community and compare pens. 

In particular, the consensus between us students seemed to be that there was a strong connection between thinking about what we wrote and actually remembering it. 

“It lets people be mindful of what they’re writing … You have to think about it, you can’t just sit and erase everything,” Law said. 

The permanency of writing in pen is something that will help come time for exams, but it will also help in actually retaining the information that you learned. You don’t have to have a photographic memory to remember how you wrote something on a page, and something as simple as using a specific colour can help jog your memory when it really counts. 

That’s all fine and dandy, but you can get that with any pen, not just a fountain pen. So what’s the big draw? The answer lies in the experience of writing itself. 

Have you ever used a pen so smooth that you don’t want to put it down? It was probably a gel pen or rollerball that just flowed with ink. Picture that feeling every time you write.

The experience of a pen with a nice weight in your hand that writes perfectly every time and requires absolutely no effort on your end — all with the added bonus of having infinite colour choices that pre-packaged pens can’t provide: that’s what a fountain pen is. 

“I think it makes my writing look a lot better and it feels very nice to write with,” said Sarah Szymanski, a fourth year Laurier student. Szymanski recently started writing with a fountain pen for the first time.

The biggest drawback from getting a fountain pen, like almost anything in university, is the initial cost. From $6 here at our own bookstore to $975,083.08 on Ebay, the current highest listed amount for a fountain pen, the cost associated with getting into the hobby can be, well, scary.

“I feel that, if you get one, it’s always your first [fountain] pen. And you can get a ballpoint for 50 cents, but you’re not going to enjoy the experience of writing, which, if you’re going to be writing that much, you may as well enjoy the experience of it while you’re doing it,” Law said.

Having a pleasurable writing experience isn’t the only draw to our favourite inky friends, however. As single-use plastics are becoming more and more taboo, some of us are starting to think twice about the amount of plastic pens we use, and that’s another draw towards something that’s refillable. 

“It’s really exciting that it’s reusable. When I’m done with the ink, I don’t throw the whole pen out and have to get a new one. I can just refill the ink cartridge and I still get to keep the same really cool pen and use it forever, probably,” Szymanski said. 

And that’s true, too. If you take good care of your pens, they can outlive you. There’s even dedicated fountain pen enthusiasts who work exclusively with pens from the early 1900s. 

For us modern fountain pen users, though, there’s always a new thing coming out. Szymanski uses her fountain pen, a Lamy Vista, to take notes during class. This is her first fountain pen, and, coincidentally, Law’s first fountain pen was a Lamy Vista too. 

But, as any fountain pen user can attest, once you buy one, you have to have more. It’s a hobby that just keeps growing, whether it’s a new ink colour, a new pen every few weeks or just taking the time to refill your pens at the end of a long day. 

When asked if she would buy another fountain pen, Szymanski said “Yes definitely. Definitely, so I can use … different colours instead of just switching this one out.”

Personally, we write all of our notes in black and add accents, like the date, key terms and headings, in colours. When it comes time for actually studying those notes, we feel like we’re seven steps ahead, actually studying instead of flipping over to Facebook every time I try to read our notes. 

“I definitely feel that there is a strong need for bringing back pens in the classroom. Definitely, writing is good for you,” Duggal said.

Students are creating what has been cited as the so-called writing renaissance, bringing the fountain pen mainstream again. It’s a fact that we have a lot to write and a lot to say. There are few occupations that require so much writing, so now’s the time to really get the most out of your investment into a good pen — or 10.

That said, you don’t have to ditch your MacBook and hand in all of your essays in cursive. In fact, that’s probably not advisable at all. You can find a happy medium between your screen usage and your handwriting, and it’s probably recommended to do both for the best grades possible anyway. 

“Writing is as old as civilization: I see no reason why [using both fountain pens and computers] shouldn’t go hand in glove,” Duggal said. 

“But, nonetheless, if [less screen time] means that we’re slowly coming back to a point where people find it interesting and useful to use a fountain pen, I say fantastic. I think it’s great.”

Though it probably seems retro and cool to those of us who are using them now, the prestige of the pen never really died — it just got overshadowed by our ballpoints and their availability. However, if you’re looking to be part of an unspoken movement, it’s as simple as handwriting your class notes.

Simply, in summary, Law said it best: “Get a fountain pen, they’re awesome.”

You don’t have to commit to impulse buying your first pen like we did, though. Chances are that if you see someone using a fountain pen, they’ll want to talk to you about their fountain pen. As long as it’s not a Visconti or a MontBlanc, they might just let you try it, too.

“I think the fountain pen community is growing exponentially and pretty much everyone is kind and willing to share their information,” Law encouraged. 

“If you have any questions, ask someone who has a fountain pen. Just don’t break it when you borrow it.”

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Putting a face to the homeless in Waterloo Region https://thecord.ca/putting-a-face-to-the-homelessness-in-waterloo-region/ https://thecord.ca/putting-a-face-to-the-homelessness-in-waterloo-region/#respond Wed, 19 Sep 2018 11:00:49 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51276

I have lived in downtown Kitchener (DTK) for roughly 14 years of my life, residing steps away from central DTK spots like Victoria Park, Charles Street Terminal and City Hall.

I’m also located near the less acknowledged, yet imperative, markers of social assistance that provide our city with places of refuge and much needed support for those in need.

I’m a minute away from OneROOF, I passed by the House of Friendship every day when I walked to school and I go by the welcoming windows of The Working Centre every time I make my way through downtown.

Over the past few years, businesses like Google have established Waterloo Region’s tech sec-tor. Beautification efforts to improve the downtown streetscape have been continuously put into motion, and the ongoing construction of the LRT has been the focal point of Kitchener-Waterloo expansion since its approval back in 2011.

Through all of these endeavours to make our city more vibrant, more prosperous and more pleasing to look at, there is a noticeable area of neglect in this detailed process of re-imagination that has been left at a standstill.

Despite all of the unique localities this promising region has to offer, there is a prevalent problem connected to KW and cities like it in Southern Ontario that is difficult to ignore — people experiencing homelessness.

Although a report released on May 4 documented an apparent 12 per cent decrease in people experiencing homelessness from 2014 when similar data was compiled, the issues that these people are facing have become even more complicated.

The report documented a total of 264 people experiencing homelessness on April 23, with 85 per cent stating that they were living long-term in shelters and the remaining number spending their nights in short-term, public shelters or tents.

Sandy Dietrich-Bell, the chief executive officer of OneROOF Youth Services, noted, “I’m not necessarily seeing an increase in numbers, but we’re certainly seeing an increase in the severity of need in what we call the acuity. Their acuity needs are higher and much of that is related to the fact that they have complex issues.”

“Gone are the days where someone has just had a fight with mom and dad and they just need a temporary place to stay. Most of the youth that we’re seeing have very complex issues: lots of mental health [problems], drug addiction, violence and abuse in their history. Our numbers are remaining steady, but the issues are definitely a lot more difficult to manage,” she added.

Increased accessibility, financial support and acknowledgement of the growing need for resources such as mental health services, substance abuse programs and affordable housing are what is vital for Waterloo Region’s ability to flourish.

These issues are particularly difficult to tackle for a shelter like OneROOF, as it is the only shelter in the Waterloo Region that is targeted towards youth experiencing homelessness or youth at risk.

“We are the only youth-specific shelter for young people in Kitchener-Waterloo, and although shelter is not the answer to the issue, it certainly is part of the continuum to break the cycle of homelessness. What we’re lacking is the rest of the continuum,” Dietrich-Bell said.

“So, for example, there’s no supportive housing units available to the adult homeless population, let alone the youth population.”

And while there are shelters in the surrounding area that are available for people of varying needs, including temporary housing, the resources that are required to build and maintain a sustainable foundation to live off the street is what is really essential for long-term progress.

“So when there’s no affordable housing in the community and a landlord has many folks vying for the same apartment, it’s not likely that they’re going to opt to give it to a young person who’s facing barriers and is homeless. There’s also, and has been for many, many years, a gap in the availability of substance abuse programs and timely mental health programs,” Dietrich-Bell said.

When there is no additional government support for non-profit organizations like OneROOF, the House of Friendship or the YWCA, donations, recognition and assistance from the community are invaluable in keeping their doors open and facilities running.

“We don’t receive any provincial or federal funding, so we rely on the community and grant writing and each year we have to start over and hope that we continue to garner the support,” Dietrich-Bell said.

“There’s lots of ways to get involved either monetarily [or] by [the] giving of your time and space.”

Along with donations, a step forward to improve the way homelessness is treated is changing the way we see the people who are affected by it.

It is incredibly easy to cast judgement on the people you walk by on the street and assume they are living the way they do for a particular reason you know nothing about.

While walking through Downtown Kitchener especially, it is a common occurrence for me to see commuters giving a wide berth to someone who is asking for money. Businessmen in suits distractedly step over people sleeping on the sidewalk, like they’re nothing more than litter.

The general public behave like the problem lies solely in the people who are affected by these difficult circumstances, as opposed to the city, who should be prioritizing the funding for the services that could effectively help those experiencing homelessness.

“People need to see them as individuals first and their circumstances second. We get into trouble when we start labelling people and seeing only the label. Our fears and our ignorance gets the better of us and then we treat them as less than human beings,” Dietrich-Bell stated.

“Here at OneROOF, we never use terms like ‘homeless youth’ or ‘drug addict’ — we always put the youth first. So, we’ll say ‘youth experiencing homelessness’ or ‘youth that has an addiction’ because we want people, by the virtue of the way we speak, to see the human beings first and their situations second.”

When speaking with Julia Manuel, director of the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Treatment Centre, she detailed the services available for these survivors: “Our program is one of 35 centres across the province, so we’re a part of the sexual assault domestic violence network and our program is unique in that we have 12 social workers [and] 12 nurses that respond as a team to both St. Mary’s hospital and Cambridge [Memorial],” she said.

Unsurprisingly, women, men and youth who are in unstable living situations or are homeless are at a higher risk for numerous potential risks and dangers, such as sexual assault.

“I want to say that we see a correlation between sexual assault and homelessness. We do see women who come through who are not always necessarily homeless in that they’re living on the street, but what we see a lot of are women coming in who are victims of human trafficking,” Manuel said.

“They are in this community and are seeing they don’t really have anywhere to go. We have women who come out of relationships who are now saying ‘I don’t have anywhere to go now, because it was his home’ or ‘her home’ and ‘now I can’t go back there,’ or ‘they’ve kicked me out’.”

“We see that a lot with young kids, like young teenagers, where they’ll come in and say their parents kicked them out or they’re from group homes — so they don’t actually have a home.  People live on the street, but they’ll bounce from place to place and then may get assaulted [that way],” she said.

My hope is that we can continue building and improving this city so that the people who are experiencing homelessness and are less fortunate, yet equally deserving, can be given the same chance at a home to call their own.

Exposure to the numerous dangers are heightened due to not having a home, which is an aspect that she has seen through her work with the program.

“I would say that, given that they’re going into environments where they’re not really sure… they’re taking what they can get. As long as they don’t have a roof over their head, that’s definitely a vulnerability for them.”

Programs like this are highly needed, as they give victims in a variety of circumstances and living situations options to choose from on their own terms. This program connects them with the support they want and need individually, which is why they work well for people experiencing different levels of these complex issues.

“Our big role, the main message that I would give to any victim, is that we provide options — if you want the police or you don’t want police. We can provide you with medications, we can connect you with resources, we can also provide short-term, ongoing counselling and/or refer you onto the community agencies,” Manuel concluded.

Nearly all of the services that are available for people experiencing homelessness and the risk factors connected to it are located in Kitchener.

The expansion of these resources has yet to reach many parts of Waterloo and Cambridge: places that would seemingly benefit those who are affected and in need of these services, but are not solely located in Kitchener.

Increased accessibility, financial support and acknowledgement of the growing need for resources such as mental health services, substance abuse programs and affordable housing are what is vital for Waterloo Region’s ability to flourish.

The ongoing expansion and growth of Kitchener is relatively positive for a city that began in 1854 as the Town of Berlin.

But with all of our advancements, we shouldn’t be gentrifying our humble roots so that the people who need the social services provided by the tirelessly good-doing shelters and assistance programs in the area are pushed to the outer edges for the sake of appearances and convenience.

Attention to the innovations that have been brought to the Waterloo Region and the ones that are being planned for years to come is fine and well, but it should not impede the much-needed progress that needs to be made for the people who need it most.

In the 2014 detailed document, “Ending Family Homelessness in Waterloo Region,” an outline of how to help families and those experiencing homelessness in the region, follows a thorough list of ways the community can support and change the methods that our cities are using in order to provide these people with assistance.

This online resource is incredibly helpful in understanding a very complex social issue that should be seen as a cycle to work towards preventing, rather than a seemingly simple series of problems that we can collectively hide and ignore.

One of the “Essential Elements for Ending Homelessness” that is listed says “Home: A sense of belonging to a personal space. Home is personal and self-defined.”

I am incredibly privileged to have a place in Kitchener to call my home.

My hope is that we can continue building and improving this city so that the people who are experiencing homelessness and are less fortunate, yet equally deserving, can be given the same chance at a home to call their own.

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A decade of change in uptown Waterloo https://thecord.ca/a-decade-of-change-in-uptown-waterloo/ https://thecord.ca/a-decade-of-change-in-uptown-waterloo/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 17:27:53 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51029

Editor-in-Chief, Safina Husein, discusses the transformation of Waterloo’s core before, during and after construction

Change — the one word that comes to my mind when I think back to uptown Waterloo a decade ago.

Ten years ago, uptown Waterloo was a local-oriented location. The core held a certain small-town charm.

Janice Welch, owner of Just For You Fine Lingerie, described uptown Waterloo as exciting when she first opened her business 11 years ago. In a sense, uptown emitted an atmosphere that felt like a new beginning.

Businesses and people were coming to uptown with a new vision, which made it an exciting place to be a part of.

“The local economy was thriving, we’ve always had a very high business occupancy rate, we had a lot of local businesses, lots of mom and pop stores, stores that were run by local residents, so that was really great. We were doing pretty well in our core,” said Melissa Durrell, councillor of Ward 7 — where uptown is located.

However, aside from a thriving local economy, uptown Waterloo didn’t have many other amenities. The core of uptown was simple and small.

“A decade ago, it was a one street town. King Street was the main street, that’s where all the action happened,” Durrell said.

“Our public square was a parking lot. It was a very car friendly place you could say. And it was very concrete. And we knew that we needed to make changes as a municipality although we had a lot of great stuff.”

“But we wanted to make an uptown core that wasn’t just a one street core, we wanted to see it expand and we also wanted it to be more people friendly.”

In an effort to make uptown a renowned area in which people could easily access through various modes of transportation, enjoy an array of amenities and more, uptown Waterloo underwent several years of drastic change and construction.

The first big change to come to uptown Waterloo was the creation of the Waterloo Public Square approximately eight years ago.

“You’ll always be able to walk into a store in uptown and meet the owner. I think that’s just part of our culture here, but we’re also growing and there’s more businesses here so we’ll start to see a bit of a mix.”

Before the square was built, existed a parking lot in its space, leaving little or no room for those coming to uptown to enjoy open space.

“After that, the core started to expand in a way it hadn’t expanded before,” Durrell said.

Once the town square was complete, uptown began to grow outwards and beyond King Street.

For example, businesses and organizations began to move into the core of Waterloo, opening up on Regina Street, Erb Street and the streets beyond it.

“The biggest thing would be the King Streetscape and the LRT which have been pivotal,” Durrell said.

“We made sure that when we did redevelop King Street, we wanted to do it once, and we wanted to do it right. So we thought of all modes of transportation, whether you’re walking or wheeling or cycling or driving … there’s space for everyone to be able to take part.”

“I’ve always called this the ‘Uptown Renaissance’, I’ve been using that term, I think we’re really turning into a metropolis in a way,” Durrell said.

Amongst the exciting and grandiose changes coming to Waterloo’s core, however, were local businesses and residents having to endure over four years of constant construction.

When LRT construction began, King Street was closed to traffic for a significant amount of time, making it difficult for residents of Waterloo to come to uptown.

“Every single person who would come in would say ‘oh it’s so bad up here’ and I would try and spin that around to be a positive,” Welch said.

“But your morale does go down because you’re constantly having to try and let people know [uptown is] a good place. But overall, as far as customers were concerned, they were staying away there’s no doubt about it.”

Since LRT construction began, businesses in uptown have been vocal and have spoken out regarding their significant decrease in sales as a direct result of construction.

In conjunction with combating the rise of e-commerce, many local businesses have struggled to stay afloat.

And as a result, several businesses in uptown have had to shut down or relocate due to lost sales during construction.

As the main components of LRT and streetscape construction are now complete, businesses have reported an increase in sales — however, uptown has not seen the amount of foot traffic that was seen before construction began.

“Everything is enhanced from what it used to be and we have added new buildings, we’ve got new businesses, it’s all very much enhanced from what we had before. I think that the vibe of having that new streetscape … really makes it a place to be — a destination — and that’s super important.”

“The construction is there in order to make it exciting again and to bring people into the area, so it’s just something you have to go through in order to get to the end,” Welch said.

As Waterloo residents slowly come back to uptown now that roads are open, they will likely see that uptown no longer holds that small-town feeling.

“This kind of small town feel of uptown is an interesting perspective because I feel that uptown is changing, we’re not really a small town,” Durrell said.

“We’ve got two of the best universities in Canada, we’ve got CIGI which is an international think-tank, we have the Perimeter Institute which is the top physicist organization in the world; we’re a big player on an international scene and we need amenities to go along with it.”

Indeed, uptown Waterloo seems to be entering a completely new era — leaving behind much of the small-town roots it once provided to residents of Waterloo.

“When you come to the uptown core, it’s a different feel. It’s a cool feel and that vibe is very energetic and alive, but you also feel safe walking down the street; you can see that it’s bike-able and walkable and liveable and you get to experience that as you walk in uptown,” said Tracy Vankalsbeek, executive director of Uptown BIA.

Present-day uptown holds significant enhancements in comparison to what it offered 10 years ago.

The King Streetscape project brought forth larger sidewalks and bike segways, making uptown an overall safer, more accessible place to be.

“Everything is enhanced from what it used to be and we have added new buildings, we’ve got new businesses, it’s all very much enhanced from what we had before. I think that the vibe of having that new streetscape … really makes it a place to be — a destination — and that’s super important,” Vankalsbeek said.

“We’ve always had that local feel, that’s our tag line here is the whole choose local …  [lots of businesses are] feeling very positive about things and are excited for even more folks to come as the LRT starts to bring people in.”

Indeed, uptown no longer feels like a small town. Its upgrades make it a completely new space. However, the small businesses in the core of uptown will always preserve the local feeling of Waterloo.

“I think we’ve always hit above our weight in uptown and I think we’ll continue to do so, and I think our retailers are right there along side us,” Durrell said.

“You’ll always be able to walk into a store in uptown and meet the owner. I think that’s just part of our culture here, but we’re also growing and there’s more businesses here so we’ll start to see a bit of a mix.”

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When does giving an apple turn into getting coffee? https://thecord.ca/when-does-giving-an-apple-turn-into-getting-coffee/ https://thecord.ca/when-does-giving-an-apple-turn-into-getting-coffee/#respond Tue, 04 Sep 2018 17:19:20 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=51020

Features Editor, Madeline McInnis, examines the relationship rules and essential etiquette for professor/student relationships 

Photo by Garrison Oosterhof

Starting high school, my biggest fear was losing my footing and falling down the forum stairs in the main hall. Starting university, my biggest fear was, well, falling into a sea of students and never really finding my footing at all.

I was friends with some of my high school teachers, and I liked the feeling of being known around the school, even to teachers that I’d never had a class with. That was all behind me when I stepped into my first day of class in Bricker Academic three years ago.

Professors were intimidating. From a professor that asked me to switch classes (yikes) to another I dropped on my very first day because I didn’t think I was smart enough to keep up with him (double yikes), starting to get to know my professors was the first barrier to really fitting in at Laurier.

“We expect students to be more independent in their learning and motivation for learning and doing well in the course,” said Matthew Smith, professor and chair in Laurier’s department of biology and a course instructor for BI110 in September.

“Referring to somebody as ‘professor’ indicates that you are respectful of their position, indicates that you get that they are your instructor, and it’s a safe territory because it doesn’t assume they have a PhD or not have a PhD. You’re safe.”

Like it or not, you will have to get used to your professors very quickly, but I promise it’s not as scary as it seems right now.

Though you’re a wash in a sea of students, your professors will likely be some of the most interesting people you meet in your life.

“The whole point of university, in my eyes, is that we’re trying to prepare you for the real world,” said Sobia Iqbal, the other of the course instructors for BI110 this fall.

The real world may not be on your radar yet, as you likely have at least four years ahead of you, but it’s never too early to start thinking about your future — that’s why we’re all here anyways, right?

But taking that leap and facing the rest of your life is way easier said than done. Coming from high school, it can be difficult to navigate this new battleground of information and professionalism — so where do you start?

“Boundaries can be very hard to navigate sometimes when you’re a prof because you really care about your students and you want to get to know them, but at the same time you have a lot of students. You don’t want to set up this kind of situation where other students are thinking that you like some students better than others,” said Eileen Wood, one of the professors for PS101 this semester.

“You want to be fair, you want to be unbiased and you want to be open.”

Sometimes, you’ll really click with one of your professors. These are people that know a lot about the things that you’re hopefully pretty interested in if you’re taking their course, and you’ll quickly discover that they’re interesting people outside of academics too. They have families, hobbies and other community involvement that you really want to know more about.

Is it appropriate to ask them about it? Perhaps if they open up to you about it first. Is it appropriate to ask them to talk about them in a less formal setting? That’s really up for debate.

“I typically wouldn’t [get coffee with first year students] until they really get to know me, and generally that’s not as cool for me. Upper years much more so because you see them in classes and you may have met them two or three times,” said Wood.

All of the professors echoed a similar sentiment and stressed that they genuinely enjoy meeting their students, but would only want to be with them in an informal setting, like grabbing your favourite hot beverage, when they know the students a bit better, either in upper years, as graduate students or as alumni, depending on which professors you’re talking to.

How you make those strong connections that can lead to coffee meetings in future years, however, so it is impotant to make a good impression now.

One thing that everyone noted when I talked to them, so obviously a common issue that you’ll want to avoid, was email etiquette.

Unless you just have a quick question on material, your professor likely won’t have time to answer it after class, so most of the time you’ll be emailing for your communication. And, think of the reason you’re here, you want to keep it classy.

In particular, the professors stressed the introduction of the email as an indicator for professionalism right out of the gate.

“Referring to somebody as ‘professor’ indicates that you are respectful of their position, indicates that you get that they are your instructor, and it’s a safe territory because it doesn’t assume they have a PhD or not have a PhD. You’re safe,” said Sofy Carayannopoulos, a professor in the faculty of business and economics and one of the professors of BU111 this fall.

“I don’t like the ‘hey Sobia, when’s the due date’,” Iqbal said through laughter.

“I don’t know what course you’re talking about, I don’t know which of my courses you’re in. Just try to keep a professional relationship, in a sense.”

“It seems like a trivial thing, but it can really go a long way,” Smith added. “One thing that students don’t always think of … is that while they have one instructor to email or contact for a course, the instructor has, in our case, 800 or so students contacting them.”

As for social media, all of the professors I talked to either didn’t use social media at all or didn’t like the idea of adding students on LinkedIn or Facebook until after the course has finished, if even at all.

The office will be the main point of contact too. Wood even leaves a whiteboard on her office door, for example, so students can say that they’ve dropped by if they don’t want to call or send an email, even when she’s not actually there.

Keeping things professional is essential while you’re learning under someone else.

As for the infamous Spotted at Laurier account, the professors were divided. The general takeaway I got from them was that it can be fun and you can have fun with it, but don’t use it in a negative way that will reflect on your degree when you graduate. It’s public, after all, and it’s not just Laurier students that follow the page.

Furthermore, Carayannopoulos stressed that if you have an issue with a course, you should go to the professor to get the answer to your questions rather than relying on the student body. Professors can’t fix the things that are wrong without knowing about them directly and they often won’t see the complaints lodged on Spotted.

All in all, the takeaway here is that your professors really care about your success, but you have to care too. If you need a reference letter, they better know your name from your face. They can’t be your best friend that you invite to Phil’s after a midterm.

As Smith said, you can be friendly without being friends. You may grow to be friends over the years, but you should be looking primarily to your peers for that kind of fulfillment.

Treat your professors like you would your boss and you’ll be in a safe zone.

“Independent doesn’t mean that you’re on you’re totally on your own and you can never ask anyone for help,” Smith said.

If you are looking for help, there are plenty of people you can reach out to. The professors stressed that you don’t always have to reach out to them individually if you are struggling — you can go to your teaching or lab assistant or one of the resources on campus to help with your specific needs, whether that be personal or academic.

“[Students] don’t always have to come to me. But still reach out to those who would best know the answer,” Carayannopoulos encouraged.

Finally, something that was stressed more than anything in all of my interview with these professors was that office hours are absolutely the very first place you should stop in if you have a question, comment or concern.

This is a specific time that every professor has set aside to help you out and you don’t need to worry about that fine line of professionalism that comes from asking for coffee, for instance.

Professors will sit alone in their office for a lot of the time, especially at the beginning of the semester, so if you want to make friends or stand out, simply dropping by will likely be enough to do just that.

“Maybe they could grab a friend and come with them to see me … that’s actually a bit of a pet peeve, or something I feel badly about, is when students are afraid to come to my office and talk to me,” Carayannopoulos said.

“They can try grabbing someone else that they know, ask the question for that person, and maybe come with them to my office to verify that, truly, I don’t bite, I’m not fearsome, and that it’s not a big deal to ask the professor.”

The office will be the main point of contact too. Wood even leaves a whiteboard on her office door, for example, so students can say that they’ve dropped by if they don’t want to call or send an email, even when she’s not actually there.

Professors will each have their own office hours and you can meet them for yourself there, and I promise they won’t bite.

Three years down the line, I’ll take classes with professors who know who I am before we’ve met. That may just be a benefit of being in a smaller department, but it also shows how working hard, asking questions, and simply showing up to events can get you recognized.

Trust me, you’ll need those professor recommendations sooner or later and these years will fly.

They’re fun, they’re funny, and they’re great human beings. Be professional, be courteous, and please, for everyone’s sanity, start your emails with a formal greeting.

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Suck it Up: Laurier’s Sustainable take on straws and plastics https://thecord.ca/suck-it-up-lauriers-sustainable-take-on-straws-and-plastics/ https://thecord.ca/suck-it-up-lauriers-sustainable-take-on-straws-and-plastics/#respond Wed, 04 Jul 2018 11:00:44 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=50421

Contributed Image

“I’m sure you’ve seen the video of the sea turtle that gets a straw stuck in its nose and it’s just so sad.”

Jenna Steadman, a recent Laurier graduate who convocated in June, explained to me her reasoning for cutting plastic straws out of her life. Like most of us who have ditched the old devices, her reasoning for the decision is very clear: plastic pollution is killing our oceans and the creatures in them.

Steadman is not alone in her environmental efforts. Cutting plastic straws out of daily use has become a common plight among those who are concerned about single use plastics and, especially, their affects on ocean life.

McDonald’s in the United Kingdom recently announced their attempts to remove straws. Seattle, New York, Vancouver and other coastal metropolitan centres have called for, occasionally successfully, city-wide bans. The food and hospitality sectors are quietly eliminating them too.

But what’s happening right here at Laurier?

Here at home, you’ve probably noticed that your drink at Wilf’s has started coming plastic-free. Unless you order a thick drink like a milkshake or smoothie, straws no longer come with beverages — you have to ask if you want one.

“We looked at [removing straws] as a quick and easy change that we could make that would sort of help us reduce those single use plastics very quickly with very minimal training and very little … operational changes for us,” said Andrew Neilson, hospitality business manager at Laurier.

And that seems to be just how easy it was to make the change, both on an operational level and for consumers to adapt to. If you noticed the change at all, you likely weren’t all that bothered by it.

“We don’t get a lot of feedback other than when people will request [the straws],” Neilson said. “Most of the time, people don’t comment. Because it’s not an automatic thing on the table with their drink, they will just drink their drink.”

Looking around Wilf’s, it’s easy to see that the majority of people are not requesting straws, as they are just drinking from their cups. That, in itself, should be a pretty clear indicator. The lack of feedback on the issue at Wilf’s could point to many things, but I think the most logical conclusion is just that people don’t notice or care when a straw is missing.

Most of us don’t use straws in our own home, with hot beverages or with reusable containers. We only use them when they’re given to us when we’re out and about. When they’re not automatic, we adapt.

It’s a convenience that’s convenient for 20 minutes until it spends over a 100 years floating in the ocean — unless it ends up in the nose of a sea turtle or the belly of a whale before that.

Not everyone is so keen to have plastic straws banned, however. People with disabilities, their friends and family and their support groups are concerned because some people cannot drink without strong straws. In particular, the Disability Alliance of British Columbia has been one of the main loud voices against the proposed plastic straw ban in Vancouver.

At least for now, there’s no outright ban planned at Laurier or in the greater Kitchener-Waterloo area, but straws are becoming harder to come by as businesses are choosing to remove them as options for customers.

“They’ll just politely ask for it and where we’ll still provide a straw,” Neilson stated, referring to people who need or want straws in Wilf’s. Furthermore, Wilf’s management is looking into more sustainable options, such as paper straws, for September and beyond to help strike a balance between accessibility and sustainability.

At Wilf’s, that’s an easy issue to get around — provide when asked. However, outright bans, such as those being implemented and argued around the world, provide little answers for the complex, ethical questions surrounding these small plastic tubes. It still seems to be a while before we will have a strong verdict as to the right thing to do in these situations and for these people.

In the meantime, I think we can all agree on a few things. Firstly, plastic is harming our oceans. Secondly, we as humans are the ones causing these issues. Finally, we have to do something about it.

So what other single-use plastic is missing at Laurier?


Have you noticed that you can’t buy a bottled filtered water at any venue on campus?

“If there is spring water being sold in plastic bottles, let us know because that shouldn’t be happening,” said Tyler Plante, outreach and program coordinator for the Sustainability Office at Laurier. The Sustainability Office provides opportunities for both social and environmental sustainability at all campuses and into the greater communities in both academic and non-academic pursuits.

That, of course, doesn’t mean that you have to be parched in that particularly dry three-hour lecture. “To facilitate that elimination of plastic water bottles, we’ve installed close to 40 water filter stations across campus,” Plante explained.

All you need to do is to bring your own container and hold them over any of the stations installed across campus. Reusable water bottles aren’t hard to come by on campus either — they come in O-Week kits and I’ve been using my Eco-Hawks branded bottle since my second year.

If you’ve seen or used any of the refill stations around campus, you’ve probably noticed that the stations keep track of how many plastic water bottles each unit has saved by the volume of water it has distributed. With countless members of the community passing through campus, especially on hot days like we’re experiencing this summer, that can account for a lot of water.

“As of last summer, so it’s probably a lot higher now, we’ve had over 1.25 million water bottles saved since 2014,” Plante said.

After my interview with Plante and on my way to my next meeting, I checked the first refill station I saw for its number of saved plastic bottles out of curiosity for its impact in its four-year lifespan. Sure enough, the station outside of Arts 1E1, which is admittedly not in an obvious location, has saved over 100,000 bottles alone so far.

I’m sure the refill stations in more travelled areas, such as the library, Bricker Academic and the Concourse, would have even more impressive numbers, and those are just a handful of the places on campus to get your fill for free and simultaneously save on plastic.

Beyond the refill stations, the Sustainability Office is looking into initiatives to reduce the waste of single-use coffee cups on campus. The details of these efforts are not yet available, but it sounds like there is going to be something environmentally exciting coming in the fall semester.

“Look for something this fall, likely during waste reduction week, which is the week after reading week in October,” Plante encouraged when talking about the coffee cups on campus.

While we’re all waiting for this announcement, there’s still plenty each of us can do to reduce our hot-drink waste as well. Steadman suggests easy changes like bringing your own mug, and buying a reusable straw to bring with you wherever you go instead of always using single-use straws.

“Honestly, they’re so small. They’re the size of a pen, so you can just stick it in your purse or your backpack,” she said.

If you’re into that idea, there’s some good news coming for you as well. Though the logistics are still being worked out, this should be a big step for Laurier’s consumption habits.

“This year, I think we’ll be going ahead with the purchase of metal straws. So we’ll be giving out straws at O-Week during the Get Involved Fair,” Plante said.

Furthermore, the Sustainability Office is looking into giving away 100 per cent recycled, Laurier branded tote bags for O-Week, as well as having both new products available throughout the year.

Both Plante and Neilson encouraged the use of the Laurier eco-container program. This is a one-time payment to get full use of the system, which provides students and staff the opportunity to use a hard takeout container that can be reused countless times.

“We have a very good relationship with food services, and we’re looking at how we can reduce packaging waste,” Plante said. “Instead of getting a plastic clamshell for your takeout food, you can hand in your card, get a reusable 100 per cent recycled container that you can take your takeout food with, and then you bring it back when you’re done and you get your card back. You do that recycling over and over and over again.”

Just breaking down the logistics of the system, it’s more economically logical to buy an eco-container once than dozens of takeaway containers. If you are paying for take-out at Wilf’s every time you go, your $5 surcharge for the reusable alternative will more than likely pay for itself within the semester. Even better, if you’re going into first-year this year, you’ll be provided a card for free.

That’s getting more and more popular, according to Plante. Last year was the most successful one yet for the program, showing that people do care about their waste, whether for the reason of their wallet or the environment.

“[The mentality] does seem to be sort of shifting and that’s good when you think about the amount of straws, cutlery, napkins, everything like that,” Neilson said.

He stated that he’s happy to see these changes from the biggest companies like McDonalds and Disney to the smaller scale local companies, as well.

Though Plante can’t yet confirm the details of any other changes and initiatives coming in the next year, there are some other exciting things that the Sustainability Office has planned to combat single use plastics and waste in general, including working with the book stores on both Waterloo and Brantford campuses to remove or reduce plastic bags.

Furthermore, there will be a “free store” for off-campus housing where you can pick up the discarded items from the students who will move out in August, all for free. The logistics are still being worked out, but if you’re really missing a toaster or a dish set, this is a perfect opportunity to reuse and rehome a perfectly good item that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

And if you, the student, see a gap in the sustainability initiatives at Laurier? There’s a fund for you to pitch your ideas and solutions to the problems that you see in the community. That’s something that has launched businesses in the past and encouraged the changes that we may take for granted now.

“I would encourage students that if they have an idea, specifically around plastics or waste reduction, or anything really tied to sustainability, environmental or social sustainability, we want to support that and to provide mentorship and financial support to get those ideas,” Plante said.

Applications will open in September and will be open until around reading week.

As for Wilf’s, the next steps in eliminating single use plastics seems to be in the takeout department. Though nothing is confirmed yet, they’re currently looking into more sustainable takeout bags and cutlery.

“If that one industry can shift and downgrade and move to alternatives that are better in general, that’ll just be a huge impact right off the bat,” Neilson said.

Your dollar is the biggest indicator here. It’s easy enough to request your drink without a straw or write strongly worded emails to managers, but beyond that there’s not a lot that us full-time students can do to impact the food industry at large.

What we can do, however, is to make conscious choices every day to use less unnecessary plastic and to think as selflessly as we can when it comes to our waste. Of course, this won’t rock the world, but it will add up over time.

“At least I won’t feel as guilty. I’m still guilty of doing it as much as the next person, but maybe a little less — and, honestly, if everyone just did a little less there would be so much less,”

Steadman said.

With so many plastics around us, it’s near impossible to cut them out of our lives entirely. By doing what is comfortable for you — bringing a reusable water bottle, cutting out straws, buying glass bottles instead of plastic — we can each contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable environment.

In short, if you don’t use straws at home, you probably don’t need one in a restaurant. So, as they say, suck it up.

If nothing else, watch that sad video of the sea turtle one more time. Watch Finding Nemo or Finding Dory, Moana or even The Little Mermaid. Look at the beauty of the oceans we want to remember and we want to see when we go on our Caribbean vacations and consider if it’s morally worth that single-use straw.

If we want to keep our oceans from becoming even more of a landfill, our actions and choices are the only things that can make a difference. Our sea life depends on us — is that twenty minutes with a straw really worth it?

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Laurier alumna, Laura Douglas, discusses finding fulfilling careers after your diploma https://thecord.ca/laurier-alumna-laura-douglas-discusses-finding-fulfilling-careers-after-your-diploma/ https://thecord.ca/laurier-alumna-laura-douglas-discusses-finding-fulfilling-careers-after-your-diploma/#respond Fri, 01 Jun 2018 21:52:03 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=50311

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Unless you’re in a major like accounting or engineering, your future career goals aren’t usually announced in the title of your degree, leaving a world of possibility and opportunity for the frightening world beyond your diploma.
We’re told that degrees open up multitudes of doors, but I think it’s important to note that they also show you doors that you didn’t even consider or think of in the first place. Not every business major will end up on Wall Street, but the skills you learn will pave pathways to new opportunities.
That is exactly what happened to Laura Douglas, who received her bachelor of business administration from Wilfrid Laurier University in Fall 2015. Douglas recently moved to London, United Kingdom, for her latest opportunity with Unilever, the parent company responsible for Vaseline, Q-Tips, Lipton chicken noodle soup, Red Rose tea, Klondike bars, Axe body spray as well as 400 other brands and all of their products around the world.
More specifically, Douglas has found her home in the Dove Beauty Campaign, where she is the Dove social mission associate brand manager. This job takes Douglas to a global stage with the Dove Self Esteem campaign.
Though Douglas never pictured herself directly in this role, she remembers growing up with the Dove campaign for beauty. She told me a touching story about going to a book signing with some of the executives in the campaign when she was younger, and now she keeps that book on her desk as a reminder of how far she’s come.
“I was a little girl with a dream and now I feel like I’m a woman with a vision who gets to do this and activate this globally,” she said. However, it seems to me that a fulfilling career was always in the cards for Douglas based on her goals and work ethic.
What really stuck with me from my conversation with Douglas, especially for those of us who are currently having meltdowns about what we’re going to do with our degrees when our Laurier tenures are over, was her explanation of her life’s purpose and how that led her to the fulfilling role she’s in now.
“Find and follow your purpose, not your passion,” she explained. “To me, passion is very much a feeling, and when you can take the time to sit down and think about what you want your life purpose to be, that purpose becomes your north star, the direction you’re going to take your life in and, overall, your commitment to the life you’re going to live.”
For Douglas, that purpose is “with energy, empower others through service and impact.” She also said that when she didn’t feel she was meeting this goal through her employment, she turned elsewhere in an attempt to empower others.
That’s something that we can all learn from. The best advice I ever heard was from Chris Hadfield when I went to a talk he gave when I was in high school. He said that you should go for the position you want, no matter what it is, because even if you don’t get to that specific position, you’ll end up somewhere around it, and you’ll be happy there anyway.
I think that’s exactly what Douglas is saying too. Even if you end up in a job you never anticipated or a position that you never pictured yourself in throughout university, if you’re satisfied and you’re happy with how that work fulfills your life, that’s where you belong.
“I try to live life without regrets and want to make only positive improvements in my life, so if there’s an opportunity that I did or didn’t do that didn’t go well, I just take it as a learning [experience] and continue to look at it in a positive way.”

“I try to live life without regrets and want to make only positive improvements in my life, so if there’s an opportunity that I did or didn’t do that didn’t go well, I just take it as a learning [experience] and continue to look at it in a positive way.”

As for what prepared Douglas for this role, she really threw herself into life at Laurier. In her four years, she was involved with Five Days for the Homeless, Enactus Laurier, and what is now LazSoc, among various other opportunities.
“Volunteering and being really involved at Laurier was my way of giving, but it also reinforced to me that it was the way of living and the way I wanted to continue to live my life,” Douglas said.
In addition to these aspects that affected her outlook, she cited that getting involved helped with her leadership, communication and gave her a network of likeminded friends, all while advocating for causes she believes in.
Douglas got her foot in the door at Unilever through the co-op program at Laurier, where she started as an intern, then continued through to the future young leaders program, the sales team, to marketing and in the Dove Self Esteem program in Canada before landing this job in London.
The vision of the program is one that Douglas believes in, so she’s able to throw all of her passion behind it. She was also responsible for helping the program into the curriculum of Ontario’s schools in an attempt to encourage girls to live their lives to their fullest potential.
“It’s great, and we should all be telling each other that we’re beautiful, but we should be empowering young girls and older women that you are also smart, and you’re talented, and you’re funny. There’s more to you than your beauty.”
She stressed that it wasn’t the share value of the company that was important to her in looking for a job, but rather the work that the company was doing to give back to people.
“[Unilever] was a company that I knew was trying to do good in the world,” Douglas said. “Through my time with Enactus, that’s when I realized what I wanted to do with my business degree.”
Right now, Unilever is focused on sustainable living, and the company has a ten-year plan for this mission. Furthermore, the brands within the company are looking to develop “social missions,” an internal term referring to how the brand makes an impact beyond the products that it sells. Dove has the beauty project, and other brands are trying to make a positive impact as well.
I don’t know about you, but I never really picture this from big companies. When I think of fulfilling jobs that help people, I think of doctors and social workers. This really showed me that you can help people no matter your position if you have a vision and you’re trying.
Our years at Laurier aren’t the end of the world, either. There’s a lot that each of us wants to pack into our tenures, but our lives are ahead of us and there are so many more opportunities to learn, grow and experience.
“I wanted to go and eventually work in another country, just to have that experience of learning a new culture,” Douglas explained. “I didn’t do it at Laurier, but I knew I would eventually do it and I was really happy that Unilever gave me the opportunity to be able to do that kind of thing.”
So there you have it. There’s a world outside Laurier that is waiting for each of us. There are exciting things to come, even if we can’t see exactly what that is all of the time.
Following her story and watching it come full circle, it’s easy for me to be inspired by Douglas. In the same way that she didn’t know she’d end up working for the company that helped shape her adolescence, there’s a world of things that each of us enjoys that we probably haven’t even considered for careers.
“It’s just such a blessing to see that, with hard work and perseverance, your dreams really can come true, as corny as that sounds.”
If we, like Douglas, take each of our life purposes with us out into that world and do the best we can to help others with the opportunities we are given, the future really doesn’t seem so scary after all.

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NEWSFLASH: Biodiversity in university makes students thirsty https://thecord.ca/newsflash-biodiversity-in-university-makes-students-thirsty/ https://thecord.ca/newsflash-biodiversity-in-university-makes-students-thirsty/#respond Wed, 04 Apr 2018 11:00:13 +0000 https://thecord.ca/?p=49703

In 2007, Kate Middleton and Prince William ended their relationship after nearly four years in the spotlight. The BBC reported on this end of an era, claiming that the breakup was due to the grounding and locale of their relationship.

William and Kate were university sweethearts.

As per the article’s author, university relationships are often crushed when the members leave their school setting behind and move on with their lives. William and Kate — backed up with psychological examinations and anecdotal support — are then used as a firm suggestion that university relationships do not work.

There are valid points for this suggestion, but there are also equally valid points to the contrary. Are romantic relationships within the university setting a positive and enriching thing, or are they emotional land mines that young students are not prepared for and should avoid like the plague?

Like much in life, there really isn’t a simple answer.


A relationship can be a healthy, positive thing at any point in life, and a large portion of that is based on how they centre and ground people. If there’s one thing that many young students desire most in their lives, it’s some form of grounding.

“Relationships are very central to our feelings of happiness and often help to shape our identity,” Anne Wilson, a professor of psychology at Laurier said.

“University students are at a stage where identity formation is a really important part of their lives, so relationships can play a big role in that.”

Even more than that, human beings are hungry for intimacy, especially so early in life. Inundated with Hollywood ideals of romance and sexuality, young minds are constantly on the search for young bodies — and souls — with which to connect.

Justin Cavallo, a Laurier psychology professor with a focus on close relationships and self-esteem, saw two big predictors toward attraction in general that seemed to be significantly apparent within campus interactions.

The first was similarity. When people find that they have things in common, whether interests, beliefs or something else entirely, it tends to ignite a spark between them.

The second predictor was even more rudimentary: proximity. And the combination of both of those predictors practically define the campus experience.

“University’s really unique in that you’re surrounded by — perhaps more than any other time in your life — people who are highly similar to you,” Cavallo said. “It makes sense that there’s an active period of time where there’s a lot of relationships forming.”

Simply put, university settings tend to encourage the environments and methods by which people end up finding love and developing relationships. And people within those settings are hungry for that kind of attachment.

The school is almost like a natural breeding ground.

But there are also significant detractors within the university experience — features that may have torpedoed many a prospective forever-love — that need to be considered.


University relationships have a certain tendency to deteriorate, and much of that is based on the culture that surrounds them. In the current era, an increasingly more casual air blows through the young-adult approach to sexuality, where both hookup culture and classical romantic ideals battle to set the standard in young, developing minds.

This has occurred because of a great deal of social developments: women are more independent than they were in previous generations, which creates less of an imperative for them to pair off while young, if at all. People in general are not forced to invest themselves and their lives in one another as much and are able to participate in society — especially in university — as individuals.

That can certainly be seen as a good thing. But that — and the no-rush ideal that can turn the university relationship into more of a ‘testing ground’ — can also make intimate connections so much easier to destroy.

“In university, a lot of times people know that they’re in relationships that may not last forever,” Wilson said. “And often relationships are less deeply interdependent, so you might not have moved in with a partner and joined resources — sharing a bank account, all those things.”

“In that way, if a relationship encounters a challenge or an infidelity, a betrayal, it can be really painful — its almost always really painful in the short term — but it can often be a piece of information that helps you to decide if this is a relationship you want to keep having.”

That flexibility can also contribute to the failure of many different relationships during the university context. Coming from a similar mindset, Cavallo broke down how environment can not only construct a relationship but how it can contribute to its tenability.

“What determines whether you stay with someone or whether you want to leave them is firstly how happy you are with that relationship,” he said. “And what we typically think as laypeople is, if you’re happy, you’re going to stay with your partner. But that’s not the only thing that matters.”

Cavallo spoke about mutual ‘investments’ — whether those are social networks, shared mortgages, pensions, children or something else altogether — and how they impact the difficulty of ending a relationship.

In addition, having a sea of available alternatives can make one’s link to their partner seem that much less important.

“If they perceive that they can do better elsewhere, either in another relationship or just being single is a more attractive option for them than being with a partner, then that’s going to lessen commitment,” Cavallo said.

These types of attitudes can lead to cheating, often because investments in a particular partner are made to seem more tenuous and less binding. To show this, Cavallo cited the details of a 1999 study surrounding young people and infidelity while on vacation for spring break.

Following their vacation, up to 70 per cent of the survey participants admitted to some form of cheating. While much of that was merely ‘emotional cheating’, 41 per cent of the respondents reported having physically cheated on their partner — a result that is 17 per cent above the midpoint.

Environmental factors are then enormous variables that contribute to the survival or destruction of university relationships. Like vegetarianism tends to die in the line at McDonalds, so do enormous temptations rip apart college sweethearts.

And why not? After all, if there’s ever a time when ruining your relationship for selfish reasons is an okay thing to do, it’s certainly better when there’s so much less to lose and so much less damage that one can inflict on their partner’s life.


If there’s a reason that university relationships are bound to change, it’s because of their evolutionary nature. School itself is a transitionary period of life, and there are ways that that transition can be used for different purposes.

A university relationship might be casual and unbinding, because people during that phase may still be trying to find themselves in the world. That sort of finding is often done through hot and heavy soul-searching with other like-minded people in their orbit.

But at the same time, a partner in young life can act as an anchor and a weight; they can be a support unit with whom a person can adapt and evolve through social symbiosis. A partner can be an excellent and very healthy assistance to a person’s development.

While there are certainly classical ideas of monogamous relationships, the world is constantly in a state of flux, and that might make it more difficult to entirely qualify how much university relationships at large will continue to change into the future.

“People are getting married later in life and people are choosing to stay single even later in life,” Wilson said. “The notion is no longer for many people that you can’t be happy unless you’re in a romantic relationship.”

There isn’t a consistent narrative, although this idea of being happy and alone is more common now than ever. And yet, between addictions to dating apps and hopping from bed to bed and relationship to relationship, do people feel this way?

Or are they just telling themselves that they do?

Within stuffy classrooms, over coffees in the concourse, following late, liquor-soaked nights at Pub on King, authentic relationships can both develop and dissolve on campus.

The BBC article I mentioned at the beginning of this piece is interesting because it really gives us a contextualized lens into how we construct our media and our conversations around these topics. The answers aren’t clear, and they can only really become clear when we pick a side and attempt to defend it using cherry-picked portions of the evidence.

Prince William and Kate Middleton’s relationship may have suffered back in 2007 from stepping outside of their usual setting; at the very least, it almost certainly changed. But it is only through the lens of history that we can objectively determine relationships and our narratives concerning them.

University sets up lifelong relationships just as it tears them down. There is no right or wrong, there is only what there is. As things continue to change, as ideas of monogamy adapt to fit the modern trends in the real world, the university relationship will either proliferate or dissipate in its long-term development.

But people will always be searching for something that they project in other people: whether that’s sex and love, hopes and dreams, meaning and happiness.

For now, former university sweethearts William and Kate are married with kids. And it is really only the reality that can concretely and objectively craft the present narrative.

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