Societies relocate for SUB renovations over the summer

Major renovations on the Dalhousie Student Union Building start this May, which will make the building more environmentally friendly and create a new ‘Society Hub’ on the third floor.

Major renovations to Dalhousie University’s Student Union Building (the SUB) are beginning this May. Though the renovations are set to be done in 18 months, the most disruptive parts of construction are going to take place during the summers.

The DSU offices and the societies who have offices in the SUB are being relocated over the summer during the renovations. They need to be packed up and moved by the end of April.

The Nova Scotia Public Interest Research Group (NSPIRG) is one of the societies with an office on the third floor of the SUB. They are sharing the Wellness Room with the Loaded Ladle over the summer.

“We’ve had a lot of knowledge about the renovations but we don’t have much knowledge about the process … like when we’re going to move out,” said Holly Lobsinger, a NSPIRG board member.

She thinks the moving process will be difficult, especially because NSPIRG is bringing its library to its temporary space.

Lobsinger believes they will “be down to the bare minimum of functioning” over the summer because there will be limited access to their resources. In moving to a smaller space, she expects the way the NSPIRG office is used as a meeting place will change.

Other societies in the SUB, like the Dalhousie Science Society (DSS), are not active during the summer. Most of their things will be put into storage.

The renovations will also create the Society Hub on the third floor, a more central space for societies.

The Society Hub will have 12 private offices for larger societies, desks and cabinets that can be used by smaller societies, a full service copy centre, a formal meeting room, an informal meeting room and a kitchenette.

“I’m looking forward to not sharing the space,” said Tori Taylor, president of the DSS. Currently, the DSS and NSPIRG offices are in the same room, separated by dividers.

This shows what the renovated SUB should look like from University Avenue. (Photo courtesy the DSU).
This shows what the renovated SUB should look like from University Avenue. (Photo from the DSU)

Renovations

The SUB opened in 1968 when Dalhousie had 4,500 students. Since then, Dalhousie’s student population has increased to over 18,000, but these are the first major renovations to the building.

The project, first proposed in 2010, is expected to create more comfortable social and work spaces for students.

The design is being headed by Lydon Lynch Architects, who also designed the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market.

The first expansion will include a canopy over the University Avenue entrance that will create an extra 1,500 square feet needed for the DSU’s new 50-seat council chambers. About half the student area will also be renovated this summer.

During the second expansion, a glass atrium will be built around the canopy. There will be another glass atrium added facing LeMarchant Street. This atrium will be about 5,500 square feet and will most likely serve as a social space.

The renovations are also going to make the building more environmentally sustainable through more natural lighting, plants, a green roof, solar panels and rainwater collection for toilets.

Women in science and technology celebrated at Big Dream screening

“I think it’s important that people send out the message that this is something girls can do too.”

A documentary screening last weekend provided a space for women to share their experiences and to encourage more women to pursue careers in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

On Saturday afternoon, a documentary called Big Dream brought out a crowd that nearly filled the 120-seat auditorium in Dalhousie University’s computer science building. The documentary is about seven women across the globe who are pursuing careers in STEM.

The screening was hosted by WISEatlantic, Mount Saint Vincent University, Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences and Dalhousie’s Faculty of Computer Science.

The event was an oddity in the technology community because women made up at least half the crowd. Usually there’s only three or four women at technology events, says Emily Boucher, who directs research and marketing at Digital Nova Scotia.

Women are drastically underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). For example, during the 2013-14 school year in Nova Scotia, only 22 per cent of architecture and engineering students were women. Similarly, only 27 per cent of students in mathematics, computer science and information sciences were women, according to the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission.

Lack of role models

Nur Zincir-Heywood, a computer science professor at Dalhousie, says that a reason women are so underrepresented is that there aren’t many women role models in STEM fields.

“This is where the misunderstanding starts because if there’s no role models, [women] don’t know exactly what to expect, what’s going to happen, or what it looks like,” says Zincir-Heywood.

“[Women] shouldn’t feel shy to go, talk, and ask. And we, the women in the STEM fields, should do our part and be accessible so both sides can find each other. We can take it from there.”

The importance of early development

Zincir-Heywood says that one of the biggest obstacles is that often women don’t view entering STEM as an option because there aren’t many corresponding subjects in junior high or high school.

Early engagement with STEM subjects is a huge factor in attracting women to these areas. A WISEatlantic survey from 2014 found that junior high students in STEM activities were 2.7 times more likely to consider a STEM career.

The WISEatlantic survey explores the career interests of junior high students.
The WISEatlantic survey compares the career interests of girls and boys in junior high (Courtesy of WISEaltantic).

Susana Somerton is a Grade 7 student who came to the documentary screening event. She is interested in technology and has attended robotics camps.

“At the camps I’ve gone to, I’ve been maybe one of three girls out of a 20-person camp so I think it’s important that people send out the message that this is something girls can do too,” says Somerton.

Dalhousie students also spoke about how their early exposure to science and technology led them to pursue degrees in STEM.

Mimi Cahill, a forth-year informatics student, recalled going to workshops about technology when she was eight years old. These workshops sparked her interest in entering the technology field a decade later.

“I think that was partially because I had such a good experience when I was young and told, ‘You can do this. Try it.’ It was an inclusive environment and then I decided that I’m going to do this, I can do this,” says Cahill.

Cahill says that people need to know that they don’t need a solid background in computers and technology before they begin their degree. She bought her first laptop the first week of university classes.

“Don’t expect that you need any prior knowledge. You can start fresh, like me, and you’ll be fine. You don’t need to know anything before, just a little math,” Cahill says.

 

Discouragement

Women spoke of discouragement as another barrier in STEM.

Susan Grandy is a software engineer for an American company but is based in Nova Scotia. She graduated from Dalhousie’s computer science program in 2010. Since then, her work has brought her to Seattle and India.

“Something someone said to me, which made me discouraged and lose my confidence, was that girls didn’t think the same way and therefore I wouldn’t make it through. What I’ve come to realize is that we have something unique to offer. We may not think identically but that’s actually a good thing,” says Grandy.

To the future

Grandy encourages women entering STEM to be persistent.

“All I can say is keep going because there were times when I thought I couldn’t do it  but there’s tutors and other things. The resources are there and I found the profs would help you whenever you needed help and just keep going,” Grandy says.

Brittany Kelly is the vice-president of Dalhousie’s Women in Technology Society (WiTS). She is in her last year of the computer science program at Dalhousie. She encourages women to look beyond the stereotypes of STEM.

“There’s a lot of opportunities to go and talk to people, go to conferences, and really get involved. There’s all sort of societies and a lot of the people in the different fields are very welcoming and everyone just wants to see everyone else succeed,” says Kelly.

Haligonians call for change in next year’s snow clearing

Halifax has had a harsh winter. Freeze and thaw cycles have left the sidewalks icy and snowbanks are taking up a few feet on either side of some streets. Will Halifax make any snow clearing changes for next year?

Don Mielke’s daily letter carrying route used to be finished at 3pm. Now, because of the ice on Halifax’s sidewalks, he’s out until about 7pm every night.

“The city has to do a better job than what they’re doing. It’s just terrible,” said Mielke. “It was better when people did their own [sidewalk clearing].”

Because of the intensity of this winter, the city had already exceeded the $20 million snow clearing budget by the end of February. Some days the snow clearing crews worked around the clock to clear the roads. Extra equipment has been brought in to clear the ice, in addition to the municipality’s 10 sidewalk plows, 44 pieces of assorted equipment to help with road clearing and 120 to 150 pieces of contracted equipment.

Looking forward

As the end of winter nears and snow and ice clearance becomes less of an immediate concern, questions are raised of how the city can do better next winter.

Coun. Linda Mosher has been vocal about the need for change in the upcoming years.

“Personally I have not seen our streets in these poor conditions,” writes Mosher in Chebucto News this month. “I feel the weather over the past two winters may not be unusual but a reflection of what to expect in the future as a result of climate change.”

Halifax has faced increasingly harsh winters in the last few years. For example, in the winters of 2011 and 2012, the city used 25,500 tonnes of salt. Two years later in the winters of 2013 and 2014, they used 46,759 tonnes of salt.

Mosher also said that she has a motion for regional council to look at alternate options for winter street parking, such as longer winter parking bans or alternate side parking.

Changes to snow clearing will not be made until an end of season report later this year.

Any proposed changes will be based off the report and the feedback that councillors’ have gotten from residents through the winter, says Jennifer Stairs, a senior communications advisor for Halifax.

Recent changes

Since 2013, municipal crews have been responsible for sidewalk clearing in addition to road clearing on the peninsula. Municipal crews in peninsula Halifax and Dartmouth are now responsible for clearing an extra 200 kilometres of sidewalks and 2,220 lane kilometres of streets when it snows.

In recent years, Halifax has also begun spraying brine, or saltwater, on streets to prevent ice and snow from sticking to surfaces as firmly. This makes the streets less difficult to plow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.