Pesel Hornstein: Happiest at work

After 28 years as a homemaker, Pesel Hornstein hadn't given much thought to the idea of returning to work. The typing course she took wasn't to make herself more marketable -- it was to help her children with their university assignments.

In fact, it was her son, physician David Hornstein, then studying physiology at McGill, who told her of a job opening for a typist in his department. "Why not?" she recalls saying to herself.

That was in 1985 and she got the job. But Hornstein didn't stay for long. She learned of another job at the School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, a place she knew well from her student years in the '50s, when she trained as a physiotherapist, and a place at which she was keen to work. She was hired.

Why didn't Hornstein go back to working as a physiotherapist? "My daughter had graduated in physical therapy and I could see that I had been away from it for too long. Besides, it was too physical," says the grandmother of three.

Hornstein says the only real difficulty she found in returning to the workforce was "getting supper." Just then her pager buzzes. It's her husband. "I'm on a short leash," she says with the dry sense of humour for which she is renowned in the school.

The "den mother" of "P and OT" is at a stage in life where she doesn't have to work but continues to for the sheer pleasure. "It's fun. The most enjoyable aspect of this job is the people I have worked with. Working for Dr. Wood-Dauphinee [the school's director] has been a joy," says Hornstein. "It's very instructive typing up grant reviews and reviews of manuscripts. She [Wood-Dauphinee] is a very thorough writer. I read the stuff I'm typing so I find it very interesting."

If Hornstein were to be laid off tomorrow, there'd be no going home.

"I'd head straight for the volunteer bureau to look for full-time volunteer work. I wouldn't want to be at home full-time. The days go by and you do your things and there's just no end to it. When you're working, the things that don't get done at home just don't matter."

Revered in the school for her humanity, openness to learning new skills and eagerness to help with tasks that vary from running down to Club Price to pick up food for a reception to managing the umpteen details involved in preparing manuscripts, Hornstein was recently awarded the Anne McCormick Award for Excellence in the Faculty of Medicine. Created two years ago in honour of a former assistant to the dean of medicine, the award recognizes exemplary service in a Faculty of Medicine staff member.

When Hornstein learned she had won the award, she was shocked.

"I just do what I do. When there's a need to get something done and I know how to do it, I do it," she says, sitting in "the bathroom," as she calls her office. Indeed, it is the former bathroom of a Golden Square Mile mansion which houses the school, and the tile walls -- at least, what you can see of them beneath the many work-related cartoons and musings -- are the proof.

This is Hornstein's home from 8 am to at least 5 pm every day. Given that her children are grown up and she has no ambitions "to break through the glass ceiling," Hornstein considers herself "privileged" to have the luxury of having time with relatively few claims on it. Her only frustration is that she can't program her computer. "I would like to have time to learn those basic skills like programming. Maybe in my retirement…," she muses, quickly adding that she has no plans to retire.

Bronwyn Chester

Who's afraid of the big, bad iMac?


What is causing more and more professors, at least in the United States, to suffer sleepless nights? The quest for tenure? The search for research funds? According to a new study, technology-related stress has surpassed the more traditional stresses of teaching, research and publishing.

The study, conducted at the University of California in Los Angeles, indicates that two out of three professors of the 34,000 college and university faculty members surveyed said they suffered from stress related to using and keeping up with information technology. Older professors in particular, those aged 65 or older, are having a tough time coping with the increasingly technological nature of university teaching.

One of the study's authors, Linda Sax, believes the stress is related to the amount of time professors find they have to invest in computer use.

But lack of time was the reason given by Georgetown University theology professor Thomas King for not using the new technology. "I don't have the time to use everything they come up with," he said.

Lack of support from the university was also cited as contributing to the problem. The University of Florida, for instance, offers counselling to students suffering from computer anxiety. Professors rarely have access to similar assistance.

The survey suggests that colleges and universities have a long way to go in preparing teachers for their technologically savvy students.

While most professors agreed that "student use of computers enhances their learning," only 35 per cent of them used the Internet for research and 38 per cent used the technology to create classroom presentations. Word-processing and sending electronic mail, on the other hand, were no sweat: 87 per cent of those surveyed e-mailed regularly and 85 per cent used the computer to write memos or letters.

Source: Associated Press

I've had students who don't want to read someone because the writer -- never mind their art -- is racist or sexist or whatever. But I think that's a dreadful mistake, because you're really cutting off so much, while trying to pretend people have to be either morally perfect or they just don't count at all. The world just doesn't work that way.

English professor Maggie Kilgour talking to The Globe and Mail about how students focus too much on the personal qualities of authors.

Conquering cartoon

A cultural studies student beat out dozens of film school students at the 30th Annual Canadian Student Film and Video Festival, part of the Montreal World Film Festival.

Adam Schecter, a self-taught student filmmaker, took the Best Animation Video award at the festival's award ceremony last week. His animated short, Four Moves, was created as a class project.

"I got permission from my professor to hand in this film as my final class project, and it turned out to be a lot more work than if I had written a paper. It was a solid 24 hours of painstaking work to produce a two-minute film, but I found it more enjoyable and rewarding than if I had written a paper." Schecter is not sure what grade he got for the film, but he did get an "A" for the course.

The high grade he received from the festival was more remarkable, because his film was up against the products of film schools -- where students have access to much more training and resources in the area of movie-making -- from across the country.

Schecter taught himself the tricky art of animation, but says that making drawings move on screen is not as hard as it looks.

"The animation in my film is fairly abstract, for one thing -- it's not a Disney movie. And the audience helps you, because the brain is seeing 24 to 30 pictures per second, and it has to make sense of those images in some way."

Sylvain Comeau

My criticism of this whole sun-skin cancer thing is the message is very uniform, and people are not. There are people that are built to be in the sun and there are people who can handle the sun and so this message should not be interpreted the same way for everyone.

Dermatology professor Dr. David Gratton speaking to the National Post about how doctors' anti-sun warnings might be a little too strident.