Dr. Judene Pretti

Dr. Judene Pretti

Director, Work-Learn Institute, University of Waterloo

Dr. Judene Pretti began her career at the University of Waterloo 29 years ago as a co-op student in the Faculty of Mathematics and has worked there ever since. During this time, she spent nine years working in Computer Science within the Math faculty, in addition to five years establishing the WatPD program — a program of online professional development courses for co-op students. In the last 10 years, she has served as the Director of the Work-Learn Institute, formerly known as the Waterloo Centre for the Advancement of Co-operative Education.

Her career aspiration from a young age was to become a teacher. Judene originally attended the University of Waterloo for the Math Teaching option program because it offered the opportunity to complete co-op work terms in an educational setting during the completion of a degree. During her final work term, Judene supported associate professor Arnie Dyck in teaching a new first year computer science course, which resparked her desire to teach and eventually pursue a role teaching in Computer Science at the university after graduation, rather than going into the secondary system.

While her current role as the director of the Work-Learn Institute is not directly related to her initial plans to become a mathematics or computer science teacher, Judene explains that she’s been given opportunities to learn and grow and identify her strengths and weaknesses. Her two main motivations are her desire to teach and help people develop and her passion for identifying and solving interesting and important problems. Judene’s long-term goal is to keep learning and growing and hopefully inspiring others to do the same. 

With an impressive repertoire of accomplishments, Judene’s experiences have ranged from a number of exciting projects over her career to focusing on the Future of Work to examine predictive trends and to consider the implications for preparation of students. That work led Judene to the development of the Future Ready Talent Framework, a competency tool that is used at the University of Waterloo within the Co-op and Experiential Education portfolio at Waterloo to help students think about how they are developing the skills and competencies that will be important in their careers.

Additional accomplishments include, but are not limited to, Judene’s work with Communitech as part of their Future of Work consortium, her contributions to the growth of the WxL institute, receiving the CEIA Tyler award for a research collaboration with WIL researchers in Australia and New Zealand, winning the CEWIL Canada Branton award to recognize co-op/WIL researcher,    and undertaking both her Master’s degree and PhD while working full-time. While simultaneously juggling her career, education, and three children, Judene’s perseverance is commendable and represents the tremendous impact and capabilities she has brought to the Waterloo Region community. 

While always finding a challenge and purpose in the work that she does, Judene continues to build connections with others and seizes every opportunity to make significant and meaningful contributions to the Waterloo Region community every day. The cumulative impact throughout Judene’s career includes more than 100 co-op students she’s personally supervised, and for years to come she will continue to mentor and share her knowledge with the next generation.

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter! 

Adele Newton

Strategic Partnerships Pioneer and Mentor

Adele Newton

The Impact of Making Connections and Fostering Mentorship

As the oldest of five children, including three younger sisters, being a mentor to young women and a leader is something that has always come naturally to Adele Newton. Over the course of her career, she has wanted to provide others with the guidance and support she didn’t always have.

“I had very few female mentors – but those I did have made a big difference to how I looked at progress in my career,” says Adele. “I know I would have been more confident and taken more risks if there had been more women role models for me. So if I can make the road a little easier and more visible to a young woman, that means a lot to me and to her.”

Creating her own way

When Adele started her BMath at the University of Waterloo, she expected to have a fairly straightforward career path as a teacher. She realized teaching was not what she had hoped for. Instead she created her own way, and after working in a series of positions at the university, she found her calling. 

“When I managed the President’s Club program for the University of Waterloo, I learned a lot about the importance of giving back to the university and the difference it makes to the institution. It was when I first understood the potential for connecting industry to the research part of the university and how that could benefit both parties.”

Over the years, Adele has facilitated relationships between industry and academia, which has led to countless research collaborations as well as valuable opportunities for students. Canadian companies, such as Alias Research, Side Effects Software, Bell Canada, and BlackBerry all benefited from connections Adele helped them make with universities around the world.

The value of mentorship

Her talent for creating connections has allowed Adele to pursue her passion for outreach and mentoring others. While working in the computer graphics industry, she became involved with SIGGRAPH, the world’s largest conference in computer graphics. Adele saw an opportunity to create programs to introduce children and teenagers to the field. She recognized the important role women play in mentoring others.

“I have almost always been the only or one of the few women in the room during my career. That’s just the nature of tech – though it is changing. When I suggested we have an outreach program for SIGGRAPH, I knew that most of the mentors would be male – but we had some wonderful women participate. I saw the kids’ eyes light up. These were kids where 10-14 years old from inner city schools in New Orleans. I knew we had sparked ideas and possibilities in them. It was very powerful, and I knew I wanted to keep doing this.”  

In more recent years, Adele co-founded LAUNCH Waterloo – an organization that aims to introduce children to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math through fun recreational programs. She is also a mentor in the Women in Communication and Technology (WCT) Waterloo Region Mentorship Circles, a program that connects women with mentors.

“Mentoring younger women is a joy! I love sharing my experience and being there for them to run their ideas by me and to provide insight that they may not have had otherwise.”  

A career filled with accomplishments

As Adele begins to consider retirement and focus on travel, writing and her love (and exceptional talent) for creating mouthwatering culinary creations, she can look back with pride on her accomplishments. She has influenced countless individuals – men and women alike – through her mentorship and guidance. Many of the research partnerships she facilitated continue thanks to the connections she originally created.

“I look back on my schooling and my career and am proud of the work I did with industry and universities and the lasting effect those programs have had. There are still research collaborations in place that started as a result of some of those programs. I know my work provided motivation and funds for students of all ages (from grade school to grad school) to go to school when they might not otherwise have thought to or been able to.”

Adele has been a valuable contributor to Profound Impact and will continue to work on special projects on occasion. While we are sorry to see her go, we are happy she will be able to indulge in her love of cooking and travel, and wish her all the best in retirement.

Hugh Williams

Cryptography Research Pioneer, Professor and Mentor

(A version of this article was originally published on https://cscan-infocan.ca in honour of Professor Williams’ CS-Can|Info-Can Lifetime Achievement Award)

Hugh Williams
Hugh Williams

As Hugh Williams looks back on his career, he recognizes that there have been many people and conversations that have set and sometimes changed the direction of his career.

“There are a lot of people who influence you in different ways,” says Williams. “You don’t even think of it at the time, but they all make a difference in your life.”

Williams became fascinated with number theory as a teenager and set his sights on pursuing a math degree at nearby McMaster University. When a former math teacher, Mr. Watts, offered to take him on a tour of the University of Waterloo, he realized it was a better fit.

“I got an interview with the great Ralph Stanton. He and I had a lengthy chat. He was impressed enough that he provided me with a scholarship that would pay for my first year,” says Williams. “I liked Waterloo. I liked the newness of the place.”

In 1967, Waterloo converted their math department into a mathematics faculty and created five separate departments, one of which was called Applied Analysis and Computer Science.  Don Cowan suggested that Williams pursue his PhD degree in computer science. This move set his career in motion.

“Computer science interested me because I wanted to understand how you can solve problems that arise in number theory,” says Williams. He completed his PhD under the supervision of Ron Mullin, and by doing so is an academic brother of noted researchers Scott Vanstone, Doug Stinson, Jerry Lawless and Paul Schellenberg. Williams is also the academic grandson of William Tutte, a founder of graph theory and an alumnus of Bletchley Park, Britain’s secret facility set up in World War II and staffed with young mathematicians with the purpose of breaking Nazi codes.  Hugh Williams’ Academic Family Tree, developed for the Profound Impact platform, shows his full academic ancestry.

After completing his PhD, Williams accepted a faculty position at the University of Manitoba where Ralph Stanton was building a new department of Computer Science. His research continued to focus on computational number theory, but things changed again in 1976 with the publication of the Diffie-Hellman paper, New Directions in Cryptography.

“At that time, cryptography was practised as a dark art not as an academic subject,” says Williams. “But grant money was readily available. I was right there when all this stuff started to happen around me. There were things that we discovered – real surprises. Ideas that seemed so very theoretical with no practical applications turned out to have practical applications. It was always amazing.”

In 1980, during a visit to Stanford University, an opportunity to attend a lecture by Martin Hellman led Williams to write his most cited paper by far on public key cryptography.

“At the time, I didn’t think much of it at all,” says Williams. “After the class, I had a chance to talk with Ralph Merkel, one of Hellman’s students, for a few minutes. He told me about a result of Michael Rabin that came out of Harvard. I started thinking about it and prepared the paper. It was all because of a chance conversation.”

In 2001, after 31 years at the University of Manitoba, Williams was invited to join the University of Calgary’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics as the Alberta Informatics Circle of Research Excellence (iCORE) Chair in Algorithmic Number Theory and Cryptography. He was instrumental in establishing one of Canada’s leading research centres in cryptography and information security.

Although he officially retired in 2016, he continues his research and collaborates with students and other researchers. He considers the students he has taught and mentored to be the most important part of his career.

“The students were the most important thing,” he says. “I could teach them and watch their interest flourish. It was kind of like being a parent. My favourite time was when a student would come in with some computer output, plop it down on my desk, and then we would work to figure out what was going on.”

His students, his research, and his many accomplishments are all sources of pride for Williams.

“Naming a particular accomplishment is like trying to choose a favourite child,” says Williams. “They’re from different times and different parts of life. As you get older, one of the pleasures is to have the ability to look back and see the impact.”