Juda Strawczynski: No starched shirt

According to popular wisdom, business students are supposed to swagger with self confidence, dress to the nines at all times, always at the ready to talk up a storm about their potential for upper-management positions.

It's an unfair stereotype to be sure; still, Juda Strawczynski strays from it more than do many of his contemporaries in the Faculty of Management. With his shining black ringlets, his cozy sweater and nonchalant manner, Strawczynski could pass for a music student.

No selling job going on here. Asked, for instance, how he came to be one of only two students from across the country selected to sit on the 15-member board of the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation, he replies: "It was luck, I guess."

Luck, too, that his 93% average made him the Valedictorian of Nepean High School last year -- and that he was named best high school debater in Ontario and that he is a recipient of a prestigious J.W. McConnell Entrance Scholarship? The first-year management student insists he's no brainiac. He's earned his accomplishments the hard way. "I'm one of those people who has to slave over work."

But Strawczynski (pronounced Stroff-chin-ski) is also one who is unafraid to try different things -- go out on a limb -- regardless of whether the idea succeeds. "There's hard work. But then for every few things I try, one of them will end up a winner. It's all part of the learning process."

The reason why Strawczynski is studying management at all has to do with beaver tails. Not the real ones, but the Ottawa version of the donut: flat, deep-fried dough, sprinkled liberally with sugar and cinnamon, and sold in the Byward Market. As a nascent entrepreneur in grade 11, Strawczynski envisioned selling the popular and ultra-Canadian BT in Israel alongside the Canadian-built hockey rink in Matulah.

Ultimately, after doing the market research and the patent check, he figured he was too young and inexperienced for such a venture. He also figured that a business education would provide the "backbone" necessary to support his ideas relating to business and organizations.

"I think business combines the best of arts, taking a bit of everything to put them into a useable form for everyday life." Furthermore, continues the 19-year-old, the McGill program gives its students some freedom in choosing interesting, non-management electives. Film, philosophy and the history of science were Strawczynski's choices this year.

In any case, this young man isn't concerned about what he'll do ultimately with his degree. "The other thing about business," he muses between sips of tea, "is that it could prepare you for journalism, working in NGOs (non-governmental organizations), government or the private sector. It's practical."

Asked to name his favourite books, Strawczynski shies away from business gurus like Tom Peters, and opts instead for Le Petit prince by Antoine de St-Exupéry.

A favourite passage concerns the pleasure children take in riding the train while the adults are "asleep" or "yawning."

"Only the children are flattening their noses against the window-panes," says the switchman.

"Only the children know what they are looking for," replies the little prince.

Strawczynski isn't alone in his appreciation for the innocent wonder of de St-Exupéry's work. (The children's poetry of Canadian Dennis Lee is also close to Strawczynski's heart.) Not long ago, for instance, he noticed a newspaper article mentioning that Jozef Straus, president of the Ottawa-based high-tech company JDS Fitel, advocates that managers read Le Petit prince.

He is optimistic about finding kindred spirits in management. Strawczynski is heartened by the recent announcement of the McGill-McConnell Master of Management program for leaders in the voluntary sector. He only wishes that the case studies used in his International Business class, for instance, would go beyond business corporations. "Why not use Greenpeace instead of Bombardier?" he wonders.

For now, he'll content himself with helping shape his own voluntary sector organization, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation. Strawczynski wants to help ensure that students pursuing an education in the non-technologically oriented disciplines get equal treatment -- he worries that governments' growing preoccupation with the need for technically trained graduates could work against students interested in art or history.

He also wants to use his position to lobby the government to devise a better funding system for post-secondary education. The Millennium Fund is a good idea, but it will only exist for a 10-year period. "It's not a solution in itself."

Bronwyn Chester

McGill français

Howard Galganov better be sitting down when he hears this news. McGill has just won an award from l'Office de la langue française.

The honour, the Prix Bell for the innovative use of information technologies to support the development of the French language, was earned for the leading role played by the Centre for Continuing Education's Department of Languages and Translation in creating an interactive web site.

The site, Le français en affaires au Québec et en Amérique du Nord, is designed to bolster the business French skills of those who pay it a visit. It offers a variety of exercises intended to hone their mastery of grammar, vocabulary and style.

McGill's partners in the project include the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi and the Chambre de commerce du Québec.

Of the site's eight designers and contributors, seven are from McGill. The project director is Hervé de Fontenay, director of French programs for the Department of Languages and Translation.

Le français en affaires intentionally offers a very Quebec-centred approach to the French language. After all, Paris isn't the only place where business is conducted in French. "About 60 million people learn French each year throughout the world, but almost all the pedagogical material is produced in France," says de Fontenay. "If we look at the U.S., for instance, there is a much greater economic exchange with Quebec than there is with France." Therefore Americans ought to know at least as much about us as they do about Parisians, reasons de Fontenay.

The web site is drawing rave reviews from outside the province. Dr. Steven Loughrin-Sacco, from the American Association of Teachers of French, calls the site "a superb resource tool for French educators seeking to upgrade their knowledge on Quebec, its economy and culture. The web site is innovative, bold and daring!"

Let me straight up tell you, [the media] want to put [rap star] Mya on TV and tell me she's a black woman. What on her looks like me? Show me. Halle Berry is a beautiful black woman, but she's half white. The only portrayal of us being black is not black.

McGill student Suzan Alexander, quoted in The Toronto Star, in an article about how beauty for black people is defined by the media. Alexander believes that TV producers opt for fair-skinned black actresses or dark-skinned white actresses in roles meant for black females.

Blame it on Luther

While the rate of drop-outs from Quebec high-schools is alarming, the figures are far worse for francophones than for anglophones. Université de Montréal education professor Régine Pierre found that, of the 1985 cohort of students, only 53% of francophones completed high school within the normal five-year period, as compared to 70% of anglophones.

Pierre posits that the differences are a product of the two school systems that have dominated Montreal for the past 150 years. Thanks to Martin Luther's reforms of the 16th century, which encouraged the faithful to read the Bible every day, Protestant countries generally enjoyed higher levels of literacy than Catholic countries, argues Pierre.

"Protestants were a century ahead of Catholics, for whom reading the Bible for themselves was prohibited," notes Pierre. In the past 50 years, there has been much catching up, she says, but the level of literacy is still lower among French Canadians than English Canadians throughout Canada.

Another factor for the different drop-out rates, argues Pierre, is the method of teaching in the two systems.

"Since the 1970s, the 'humanist' approach to teaching [prevalent on the French Catholic side] has rejected a systematic method of teaching reading and writing," argues Pierre. Putting more emphasis on the oral than on the written, children were expected to discover for themselves how to write, she says. And even though numerous studies have shown that the method doesn't work, it remains in place.

The English side is more rigorous when it comes to reading and writing in elementary school and, in faculties of education, more time is spent on developing teaching methods. Pierre urges the francophone system of education to rethink the way it handles teaching reading and writing, otherwise the 'rithmetic will continue to point to poor drop-out rates.

Source: Université de Montréal's Forum

Between two and three million Canadians are suffering from erectile dysfunction, which has a tremendous impact on their quality of life. In some men that may lead to anger, anxiety, even depression.

Dr. Serge Carrier from the Department of Medicine, quoted by CBC National News. Carrier was speaking about Health Canada's recent decision to allow Viagra, the enormously popular drug used to treat male impotence, to be sold in this country.