News  Road trippin’: SFU privatizes residences; students find dinosaur, $10,000

North America’s smallest dinosaur uncovered

EDMONTON – It was an adventure that began back in 1982, but 27 years later, Philip Currie, a paleontologist and biological sciences professor at the University of Alberta (UofA), is able to confirm that he and his colleague have identified the smallest dinosaur known to have roamed North America.

The discovery and identification of the carnivorous Hesperonychus elizabethae – a species so small it would fit in the palm of one’s hand – will be published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month.

Originally thought to be a bone fragment from a lizard, the piece was found by a University of Calgary student hired by the UofA to work in Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park.

“She was looking mostly for smaller animals, and the small fossils she found, she thought probably belonged to a lizard,” said Currie, explaining that it wasn’t until the late nineties, when a feathered skeleton named Microraptor was uncovered in China, that a connection was made.

“He realized that [the bone] is almost identical to the one in China in terms of hip structure,” Currie said.

Despite missing a complete skeleton, the ability to compare their fragment to the specimen in China allowed for a concise comparison of each structure.

While paleontologists have discovered many skeletons in Alberta over the years, Currie explained that many of the smaller specimens remain incomplete, which limited the field of study.

“[Big skeletons] only give you one side of the story. [They] preserve a lot more easily than small things because you don’t have things eating them, you don’t have slivers that are ripping the pieces apart.”

Currie’s discovery proves that there is still a lot to be learned.

“We want to know what’s going on with the other side of the ecosystem; all the small animals and that includes not just dinosaurs, but all the things living with the dinosaurs.” he said.

For Currie, Hesperonychus elizabethae is the first of many skeletons that will eventually reach the surface.

“I’m willing to bet that in a couple years, we’re going to have more small dinosaur species than big dinosaurs species.”

– Kirsten Goruk, (CUP Alberta and Northern Bureau Chief)

SFU to privatize residences

BURNABY – B.C.’s Simon Fraser University (SFU) is looking to contract a private company to fund, manage, and maintain on-campus student residences.

Citing a lack of capital available for major repairs to residence buildings and a desire to increase capacity, the university wants to avoid taking a loan out to complete these projects.

“We’re just looking for creative ways to try and deal with residences, “said Pat Hibbits, SFU’s VP Finance.

Currently, SFU on-campus residences house about nine per cent of students, a figure SFU hopes to see hit 15 per cent while doubling on-campus housing space over the next five years.

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) in Kamloops, B.C., and the University of Ottawa already have privatized residences.

“Universities are turning the housing around to the private sector due to the fact that the price to operate is definitely high,” said Mark Woloski, TRU’s residence manager.

“We can control the prices we offer the students because we’re not paying a hefty wage to all our staff, so that’s probably why a lot of universities are changing to private sectors – because the cost of operations are skyrocketing, being a union-run facility.”

In terms of cost to students, Woloski claimed it is “virtually the same” as off-campus housing.

“We follow everyone else’s lead. We keep in regular communication with all the other on-campus housing units throughout B.C., and we don’t like pricing ourselves out of the market or wanting to gouge,” he said.

Nichole DeMichelis, a second-year political science student living in the McTaggart-Cowan residence, was optimistic about what privatization could bring to the residences.

“SFU is lacking a lot of funding, and one of the big priorities is to build more residences to secure that sense of community,” DeMichelis said. “I would be all for having new buildings with proper kitchens. I think it sounds like a great idea.”

– David Dyck, The Peak (CUP)

Student finds tuition in her Tim’s cup

TORONTO – At best, Khalin Elliott was hoping for a free snack when she checked under the rim of her Tim Horton’s coffee cup last Wednesday. But instead of a free pastry, the first-year media student found a tiny dollar sign followed by a big number under the rim of her medium hot chocolate – $10,000, courtesy of the Tim Hortons Roll Up The Rim contest.

The oldest of four girls, Elliot has relied on government funding and a competitive entrance scholarship to cover her tuition and residence fees this year.

“There’s six of us [in my family] so we go through struggles and stuff like that. We’re kind of in the middle in a way, like most big families are, so getting this is definitely going to help with school,” Elliott said.

She plans to spend her money on a new computer because her current MacBook runs slowly, and she wants something to handle advanced graphics work.

“Everything’s computer-based in our classes,” she explained.

The leftover cash will pay her tuition for second year.

Elliott recalled her surprise when she uncovered her prize.

“I had to get them to read it over to make sure I wasn’t going crazy,” she said, claiming that she never wins anything.

Elliott explained that she and her friends always take a break during their three-hour visual studies class, usually opting for a quick trip to the nearby Tim Hortons. All three of them ordered hot chocolate.

Her two friends said they were thrilled she won – even though they could have won if they had lined up in a different order.

According to Lucy Rocque, the employee at Tim Horton’s who handed Elliot the winning cup, more customers have been getting their coffee fix at her Tim’s since the $10,000 win, hoping to get lucky. Last Friday, someone stopped by to tell them they had won a $100 Tim Card from that location.

– Aleysha Haniff, The Eyeopener (CUP)

Alberta college launches free nursing program

EDMONTON – Bow Valley College, an Albertan institution focusing on English as a second language (ESL) training, is introducing a free 20-month pilot program designed to help immigrants with a nursing degree upgrade their skills and find employment in Canada.

“It’s designed to take people who have nursing from their own country and give them the language and Canadian health cultural knowledge that they need to be able to practice in the Canadian health system,” said Isabel Gibbins, Dean of ESL and Languages at the college, explaining that many candidates’ English levels proved to be a barrier during the qualifying exam.

The program was first introduced at NorQuest College in Edmonton, but once the provincial government was aware of its success, they introduced it to other institutions. It resembles the usual training for nurses, though it is shorter because many of the nurses already have background knowledge.

Gibbins said the program intends to create a link between those who have ventured to Canada in search of employment, and the Canadian services that are seeking that very expertise.

“We really feel that there are a lot of people who have skills from their country that they aren’t able to use in Canada,” she said. “One of the things that’s important to us is to be able to work on providing some of those transition courses.”

Initial funding for the Bow College program will come from Alberta Employment and Immigration, but once the pilot period ends, Gibbins hopes to sustain it through enrolment fees. They intend to advertise it at current ESL classes, health-care facilities, and the college’s open house.

– K.G.

Undergrad-made iPhone app aimed at students

FREDERICTON – While many students are wondering what they’re going to do with their degrees after they get out of school, third-year computer science student Jason Brennan has already put his education to good use.

Brennan, a 20-year-old student at the University of New Brunswick, designed an application called Keener for the Apple iPhone to help students keep track of their grades and organize their school work.

“You put in your courses when you start the semester,” said Brennan. “You put in your homework assignments, your quizzes, and the labs that are coming up. You put in the due dates, and it gives you a list of what’s due, what’s overdue, and what’s due next week. And when you get your tests and assignments back you just punch in your marks and it keeps track of your overall grades for the semester.”

Keener can also calculate weighted grades as classes progress.

Brennan, who owns an iPhone, developed Keener between November and January, and cited his own university experience as his inspiration.

“I came up with this because I am not a keener at all,” laughed Brennan. “I’m not very studious and I find that I’m a lot more organized if I have a way to record everything.”

Brennan found traditional agendas problematic, but wanted an organizer that he could keep with him at all times. Developing Keener allowed him to resolve this problem, and learn more about computer programming, one of his interests outside of school.

Keener went on sale January 25 for $4.99. Brennan gets 70 per cent, or $3.50, from each sale. The other 30 per cent goes to Apple and the company handles all the billing and shipping.

– Cameron Mitchell, The Brunswickan (CUP)