A silver bullet for academic success? | Malcolm Reimer

Do you find yourself stumped by citation styles? Bemused by biochemistry? Perplexed by philosophy?*

If so, PAL™ may be the solution for you!

CMU’s patented** Peer-Assisted Learning program is proven to help with academic adversity of all kinds, such as trouble with:

Mathematics, including statistics, calculus, and more!

Academic writing and research!

Tricky coursework in the arts, sciences, and everything in between!

The best part about PAL is that unlike most private tutoring, it’s 100% FREE for CMU students. But how, you say, can we offer such an amazing product for no cost whatsoever?

The answer, dear reader, is through the magic of volunteers. It’s true: Peer-Assisted Learning is run entirely by the goodwill of generous upper-year students willing to donate their time free of charge. You can learn from their experiences and advice to gain the upper hand in your classes, or run your essays through a high-quality editing treatment. Feel free to drop by the PAL desk in the Marpeck Mezzanine anytime during regular hours to meet with a knowledgeable peer!

Here’s what one happy student had to say:

“When I was in my first semester of my first year I thought, ‘Ha! I don’t need help at all!’ But then I took Intro Sociology and my grades simply plummeted! I went to visit PAL and it was the best decision I made all year.”

  • Simon Mennos, CMU Student

Whether you’re having a hard time with assignments or you’d just like to study with someone who’s taken your class before, PAL is here to help! Regular hours are Monday to Thursday, 12:00 – 4:00, beginning September 21. Join the ever-increasing group of students who can testify to the miraculous benefits of Peer-Assisted Learning!***

* The author would keep alliterating all day, if you couldn’t tell.

** Patent pending, all rights reserved, use at your own risk.

*** No longer available in pill form. Contact PAL Coordinator at ReimerMa4@student.cmu.ca for more information.

Malcolm Reimer is a 3rd year Science student and the Coordinator of the Peer-Assisted Learning program.

Community and sexual violence on a faith-based campus | Guest blogger Nathan Dueck

Nathan Dueck

The claim that Canadian Mennonite University has a strong sense of community is clichéd, but it is also true. Most of my classes have fewer than twenty students, many faculty have students over to their houses for meals throughout the year, and office doors are open more often than closed. There is also a real feeling of Mennonite identity on campus, where so many students share faith and genealogy (often an important research task before asking out a peer). This sense of campus-wide community is genuinely good, especially in an era when deep social connection and cohesion can be difficult to find. It is why I decided to attend CMU, and why many students feel the need to foster and protect it semester after semester.

But “community” can pose challenges to responding to instances of sexual violence on campus. I want to highlight two challenges in particular. First, the celebration of community can implicitly discourage actions that may be seen as damaging to it. If a survivor of sexual violence feels that coming forward with their experience might put stress on their university’s valued communal identity, it is plausible that they might feel deterred from addressing it through a disclosure. Second, perpetrators can be included in, or even integral to, campus communities. When this is the case, survivors may be concerned that those in positions of authority will not effectively respond to their disclosures. If a perpetrator is one of only eight students in your favourite professor’s class, if they eat dinner at a senior administrator’s house once a semester, or if you see them regularly drop by a staff member’s office just to chat for a minute because the door was open, it might be difficult to envision how your experience of sexual violence would be handled impartially by the institution. The same bonds that make some university communities so tight-knit can also restrict the sense of freedom that their survivors feel that they have to share their experiences.

Smaller post-secondary institutions like my own need to grapple with this tension between protecting their sense of community and fully supporting survivors who want to share their experiences within them. But even if the tension can never be fully resolved, it is heartening to see my university adopt the REES reporting platform this fall. It is heartening to me because REES is precisely not a product created by, or for, CMU specifically. Instead, as a platform designed for all post-secondary institutions, REES stands distinctly outside my campus’s specific culture. As such, it exists as an avenue through which survivors can disclose their experiences without having to engage directly with another member of the CMU community, if that engagement would cause discomfort.


Yet, even as REES is being introduced as an extra-communal platform, its creators have remained sensitive to the value of community. When I participated in a feedback session for the platform, I was impressed when the session leader stressed that REES is only one, optional way through which a survivor can share their experience in a university setting. In doing so, she made it clear that the introduction of REES still allows for the face-to-face disclosure methods that other survivors might find helpful or even necessary. In other words, the introduction of REES should address the risks of a campus’ communal identity for some survivors, but in a way that does not compromise the presence of a community that can be helpful for others.

Examining the interplay between community and sexual violence can be uncomfortable, but it would be a mistake to fear for our communal identity in doing so. I am convinced that acknowledging the risks of community does not diminish it, so long as our responses to these risks are thoughtful and rigorous. Instead, when we look for new and creative ways to support survivors, like REES, our communities will become stronger than ever before.

Nathan Dueck is a 4th year student at Canadian Mennonite University working towards a double major in history and philosophy. He is a student representative on the CMU Sexual Violence Committee and was 2019-20 Vice-President Advocacy for the CMU Student Council.

Physically distanced job searching | Guest blogger Cassidy Brown

For students, the months of March and April mark a time of preparing resumes and cover letters, and starting the summer job search. Between tuition and basic living expenses, as students we need to know that we have a reliable income for the summer!

The transition from the busyness of classes and exams to summer jobs can often be a hard and stressful time. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed an extra challenge in this year’s job search. Many students at CMU work at summer camps, or take this time to do practicum, and as summer plans get cancelled or postponed, it’s critical to find a job that will provide enough income throughout the summer.

Guest blogger Cassidy Brown

So, I decided to start the job search, and here is what I found.

1. People are still hiring!

This surprised me. I thought that with non-essential businesses closing, that would mean the job market is non-existent. There aren’t as many jobs, and options are narrow, but if you have the time to search through your local job postings, you just might find something good!

2. Graduates are in luck!

I’ve seen many companies who are hiring online tutors (specifically in English) to do online tutoring through Zoom, but they want applicants to have a completed bachelor’s degree. With schools closed, parents don’t always have time to assist their children with learning and are looking for people to help their children succeed during this time.

3. Cleaning, cleaning, and more cleaning!

Medical facilities as well as other essential businesses that remain open now have much more cleaning to do and are hiring people in part-time positions to help keep these businesses sanitary and up to all the current health codes. However, these jobs are more high risk, and require that you have no contact with people who have had symptoms or who have tested positive.

4. Fast food all the way!

As dine-in areas of restaurants close, the drive-through line only gets longer! Many businesses are hiring people to work fast food windows, as well as prepare food.

5. There is always government funding!

While it isn’t the same as having a job, and might not be an ideal option for you, the government has rolled out the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canadian Emergency Student Benefit (CESB). If you qualify, these Federal financial aid programs should get you some money to put towards education in the fall. Keep an eye on your school email for more info on that from Heidi Nighswander-Rempel, CMU’s Financial and Student Services Advisor.

Websites like Indeed also have sections where you can specify what type of job and hours you’re looking for, and you can even specify if you want to work online. Talk to friends and family and see what kinds of jobs you can find.

So, if you’re already bored with the “nothingness” that social distancing has brought to some of our lives, freshen up your resume and see who is hiring!

– Cassidy Brown, 2nd-year Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies student

Dear Disappointment… | Guest blogger Natasha Neustaedter Barg

Dear Disappointment,

You suck. I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but I don’t know what to do with you. When I’m sad I cry, when I’m happy I smile, but when I’m disappointed, I’m lost. I feel angry, frustrated, sad, annoyed, and confused.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve met a lot, and I still don’t know what to do with you. We met when my summer job got cancelled, when my grades weren’t what I wanted them to be, when my mom asked me to do something and I forgot, and that time I didn’t get the bag of chips that I wanted. Although that time we kind of just laughed at each other. I’ve noticed that you’ve been quite busy meeting some of my friends too. You met them when they didn’t get to graduate, when they had to go home without giving people hugs goodbye, and at other points too.

As much as I don’t know what to do with you Disappointment, I’m writing this letter to say thank you. Thank you for showing me what I care about, and for showing me that I’ve been vulnerable in telling people what I’m excited about. There’s a woman named Brené Brown, I think you’d like her. She writes that “the boldest among us will be disappointed, because [we are] brave enough to want something even though [we have] no control over the outcome.” She is pretty smart. Disappointment, you show me that I’ve been brave. I still don’t like you or want you around, but thank you.

Disappointment, you’ve taught me that I am in charge of my own story. As Brené Brown writes, “this is a hard part of my story, but it’s part of my bigger narrative and I’m going to own it, because I’m going to decide how it’s going to end.” You’ve taught me how to be creative. You tried to tell me that I couldn’t see my friends, but I went and sat on their lawn and pushed them cookies with a canoe paddle, so that we would be far enough apart. You tried to tell me I couldn’t celebrate my friend’s birthday, but we decorated her house, and sang Happy Birthday through Zoom. You tried to tell me that I couldn’t have movie or craft nights with my friends, but we sent each other craft packages and had Netflix Party movie nights. I may not know how things are going to end, but you don’t get to control my life. I have a say in how my story is going to go.

I still think that you suck, but I also think you’re sometimes misunderstood. You are expectations that aren’t realized. At least that’s what Brené Brown thinks, and I’d have to agree. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to have super low expectations, or no expectations, but that I’m going to try and be better at naming what they are so that others around me know. I’m going to try and keep living life to the fullest, knowing that we’re going to meet over and over again. But I’m not going to give up. When we meet again, I’m going to do my best to acknowledge you, and then say thank you for showing me that I was brave and that I cared.


– Natasha Neustaedter Barg, 3rd-year Social Sciences student

“Who am I?”: How CMU has shaped me | Guest blogger Natasha Neustaedter Barg

When I was younger, I always loved the game Guess Who. There’s something about having to ask good questions and getting to describe the whacky people that I just found fascinating. So, in honour of my childhood, who am I?

I am not an athlete, yet I work for the CMU Blazers.
I am not a musician, yet I play flute in CMU’s Concert Band.
I am not a scientist, yet I can tell you about the ecological revolution.
I am not a historian, yet I can tell you about the history of CMU’s building, Mennonites, and Christianity.
I am not a pastor, yet I can explain to you the different atonement theories and various feminist perspectives on the Bible.
I am not a book printer, yet I can set my own type and create my own stamps.
I am not a winner of the leadership scholarship, yet next year I will be CMU’s Student Council President.

Who am I?

I am a writer and an editor.
I am a friend, colleague, student, employee, teacher, speaker, and traveler.
I am a leader and a dreamer.

I am *drum roll please* …… Natasha Neustaedter Barg, a third-year General Social Sciences Major.

But how is it that I am all these things and more?

One of my two on-campus jobs is doing admissions for home sports games at CMU. Thus, I recognize and can name most of CMU’s athletes and I work for the CMU Blazers.

I also work for CMU’s Admissions Team as a Student Ambassador. I call students, inviting them to upcoming events; stuff envelopes to be mailed out; or do other little tasks for the Admissions Counsellors. I also get to give tours at events and learn about CMU’s building. I’ve gotten to learn about its history as a military base, school for the deaf, and all the spooky basement storage areas. I get a free CMU pen occasionally and also get free gelato at CMU’s Open House and Campus Visit Days.

I’m a bit biased, but I think that out of the 42 different on-campus jobs you can have here at CMU, the ones I’ve had are the best. You can also work in the library, clean the lounges, work at reception, shovel snow, and the list goes on. Having an on-campus job has been a great break from the stress of school, fed my Folio Café addiction, and helped me get to know a lot of different people here at CMU.

Through my degree, I take English classes such as History of the Book, where I learn how books were made; or Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies classes, where I learn about restorative justice in education; or Psychology classes, where I learn about trauma and resilience; and the list goes on.

Throughout the past three years, I have learnt how to look at the world through a lot of different lenses. Because of my degree, the jobs I have, and the practicum I did last year, I have something small in common with almost all the students here at CMU. I can talk to athletes about their last home game, to psychology majors about how weird Freud is, to communications majors about David Balzer and his Oral Communication class, and international students about how hard culture shock is.

Last year I did my practicum in Vietnam. For 11 months I taught English at a secondary school and got a small taste of how hard culture shock is and how different school systems can be. Here at CMU everyone is required to do a practicum regardless of what degree you do. These practicums allow us to take what we learn in class and apply it to the world and vice versa.

I am a writer and an editor.
I am a friend, colleague, student, employee, teacher, speaker, and traveler.
I am a leader and a dreamer.

Who am I?

I am a CMU Student.

– Natasha Neustaedter Barg, 3rd-year Social Sciences student

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