MCC Student Seminar Ottawa

16864477_158321838009479_5644719291756880739_nOver reading week, I had the opportunity to attend the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) student seminar in Ottawa. There were 30 students who attended from across Canada, including four from CMU and two more from Menno Simons College. The theme was Gender, Peace, and Conflict: Exploring the Intersection. We looked at how government organizations, non-profits, and individuals interact with this theme in their work. 

One of the benefits of being in Ottawa was that we were located right in the heart of Canada’s government. We sat in on question period in the House of Commons and had a tour of the parliament buildings. We also heard from MP Hélène Laverdière and Senator Mobina Jaffer, who have been involved in the implementation of the UN Security Council’s declaration on Women, Peace and Security.

Before attending this seminar, I had little knowledge of Canada’s National Action plan or the many different committees which make up our government system to encourage action. There were times when I felt disillusioned with the government and frustrated with what seemed to be emptyPastedGraphic-1 actions and not enough financial contribution to women’s projects. But I was inspired by hearing these two passionate women who are advocating for policy change.

In addition to hearing about the role of government and policy, we heard from non-profits and grassroots organizations about the importance of women’s groups. We spoke with people from KAIROS, Oxfam, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, and international workers from MCC. It was fascinating to hear how gender is influencing the peace process in Colombia, the importance of including women in peace processes, and how the Nobel Women’s Initiative is calling our “feminist prime minister” to invest in women’s grassroots groups.

The seminar looked at the importance of including a gender lens in conflict analysis, emphasizing that one cannot simply “add women and stir.” Between 1992 and 2011, 9% of negogoal-16-conflict-400-entiators in peace talks were women, despite the fact that a peace process in far more likely to succeed when women are included. It has left me wondering why it is so challenging to adopt an approach that includes women, both locally and internationally.

What stood out the most was having the opportunity to talk with other students whose stories and life experiences are different from my own. These students pushed me to think in new ways and ask different questions. I am grateful for the time we spent learning together.

For more information, visit Canada’s National Action Plan and the MCC Ottawa Advocacy Office.

Laura

Dear High School Student

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Picture this: you’re sitting in English class when suddenly the teacher says something incredibly profound. Jaw dropping. Brilliant. It sparks a thought for you, reminding you of a song you once heard, and you wonder out loud if the song could be alluding to this concept. You and your teacher have a rapid back-and-forth discussion, and then… you realize that you’re the only one getting into it. You shrink back into your seat, embarrassed by the scene you’ve just made and the interest you’ve displayed.

Sound familiar? That was me a year ago, always first to be interested in something, always wondering if people thought less of me for it.

It’s not a good headspace to be in; I seriously do not recommend it. But sometimes high school is just like that. It’s hard to avoid.

Well here’s some good news: since coming to CMU this semester, I’ve found a new way of looking at things, and it’s affecting the way I interact with others and especially the way I learn.

Take for example, my Biblical Literature and Themes class, taught by Dan Epp-Tiessen. This class looks at the Bible as a narrative, putting together the pieces so we can understand each one in light of the other pieces and the whole.

For a few years now, I’ve disliked studying the Bible, and it’s been boring and unfulfilling for me. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, I used to find a lot of joy in it. Well, in Bib Lit, I’m rediscovering that joy. Perhaps it was there all along and I just needed permission to uncover it again.

Dan so clearly loves teaching the Bible, and talking to him after class is always stimulating. As a naturally exuberant person, I can’t be in a class with a professor who loves teaching without loving learning.

I’m so grateful to be able to rediscover this delight in studying Scripture, and along with it a renewed enthusiasm about Jesus. By grabbing onto and owning my own excitement about learning instead of pushing it away, I’m able to become a better version of myself.

I’m learning to view education as a privilege, and I encourage you to as well. You might be surprised by how many lightbulbs turn on. Perhaps you, like me, will be able to give yourself permission to be passionate.

Guest blogger Marnie Klassen is a first year student and a learning enthusiast

The deep dish pizza of degrees: Interdisciplinary Studies

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We live in a complex world. In order to understand interconnected issues, we require diverse ways of thinking.

Imagine the world’s issues as a deep dish pizza with extra toppings. The toppings are so mixed together that they cannot be separated from the sauce and cheese. Mixed together, they create one complex yet delicious blend.

Traditionally, programs in universities have divided disciplines and programs into separate categories which look at issues through a particular perspective. This tends to mean that instead of taking a bite of the entire pizza, we are tasting single ingredients at a time.

Despite what we may learn by tasting each discipline separately, we can miss the complex and delicious taste from the mix of the ingredients which make up the entire pizza.

CMU has found a way to recognize the richness that occurs when two or more programs are integrated. The Interdisciplinary Studies major allows students to develop and propose their own program of study, oriented around particular themes of their choosing.

The student who chooses this major organizes CMU’s curricular offerings in ways which create a comprehensive understanding of important issues that are by nature complex.

Mattea Nickel is a third year student doing an Interdisciplinary degree on Creation Care. Although International Development Studies encapsulated some of the issues she was passionate about, Mattea felt that her interests were limited by the curriculum requirements for that degree.

“I also considered Biblical and Theological Studies as a major but was mainly interested in taking practical theology classes,” she says.

Although her interests did not fit a specific program, Mattea realized that the classes she enjoyed taking had similar undertones: simplicity, alternative economics, ecological preservation, and policy.

“I had a passion for learning how to live an alternative lifestyle as an expression of faith that was supported through academics.”

She found the lives of professors such as Dan Epp-Tiessen, Kenton Lobe, and James Magnus-Johnston influential and enjoyed having the liberty to explore the connections between their disciplines further. Creation Care, a theme which has stemmed from her interest in learning to think and live differently.

Mattea enjoys doing an interdisciplinary degree because it “is an incredible way of learning about a single idea or concept from multiple perspectives by creating a platform to ask questions and dig deep.”

Mattea says that there is a freedom in the Interdisciplinary option because it allows students to commit to ideas and themes which are structured around their interests.

If you have further questions about the Interdisciplinary degree, our advisor Vern Kehler would be happy to chat with you.

Standing in solidarity

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Did you know that:

  • the fashion industry is the world’s second-largest polluter after the oil industry?
  • one in six people work in the global fashion industry, the majority being women earning less than $3 per day?
  • 250,000 Indian cotton farmers have died by suicide in the last 15 years, partly as a result of going into debt to buy genetically modified cotton seeds?
  • only 10% of the clothing donated to charity gets sold, while much of it ends up in landfills or flooding markets in poorer countries, where it can kill the local industry (a portion also gets recycled)?

These facts were completely foreign to me before watching a documentary screened by CMU’s Peace and Sustainability Committee. Every year, it holds a week of solidarity in order to bring students’ attention to current issues, either global or local. The topic for discussion this year was, “Getting Naked: The Global Clothing Industry Revealed.”

Rebecca Penner, a leader on the Committee, says, “We chose our topic because it is 734894_992318067510278_2784905156552240111_nsomething that impacts everybody; we are all connected in some way to the global clothing industry. As a result, it is important to be informed. Since this is an issue that is already in the backs of many peoples’ minds, we tried to strike a balance between information and practical next steps.”

The week began with a forum where three presenters spoke about how the clothing industry affects us globally and personally. They discussed globalization and its affect on fair pay, how clothing can be an expression of self while still be ethically worn, and how even when we buy something at thrift store, we can still have a consumer mind.

A screening of the “True Cost” documentary was next. The film asks us to consider who really pays the price for our clothing.

Finally, there was a mending workshop and an ethical clothing market.

Many students have taken on the Committee’s challenge to wear one piece of clothing every day during the week, as a reminder of the difference between human need and want. I have been challenged in my own thinking about how I can wear my clothing ethically, staying critically aware of my choices and their affect on people internationally.

Here’s what students said about the clothing challenge:

“I think my favourite part of the week was the clothing challenge. It was the initiative which had the most widespread engagement, and I loved seeing so many people come together to participate. As a participant, I found it to be a daily reminder of how few clothes I actually need. It was also a cool way to engage people in conversations surrounding the wider theme of clothing justice.”– Rebecca Penner

“I have worn this shirt twenty times in the past two weeks.”– Rachel Robertson

“After doing the challenge, I realized that despite wanting to wear a different outfit for each occasion, I only needed one shirt in which I would feel comfortable. It really taught me to understand the difference between utility and want.” – Cesar Flores

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Leadership Scholarship

Liam Kachkar (in the blue shirt) with Outtatown in Burkina Faso last semester

Liam Kachkar (in the blue shirt) with Outtatown in Burkina Faso last semester

Applying for scholarships is tedious work. It can feel like submitting a lottery ticket: what are the chances of actually winning? Students can feel discouraged because the chances of being chosen seem slim. As scholarship “investors,” the return on our investment feels low. But is it really?

I began applying for scholarships in grade ten, but I tended to apply at the last minute and was not very invested in the work. I was happily surprised to earn $250 for a paper, but I focused more on the disappointment of my other applications not being successful.

My attitude toward scholarships began to change in grade 12. I was eligible for way more scholarships than all of the former years combined, so I took the work of applying more seriously. I talked to teachers for help, looked for scholarships on my own, and applied before the night it was due… usually!

I applied for one of CMU’s scholarships in early 2016. I was planning to do Outtatown and then CMU, so I decided to apply for both Leadership Scholarships. My mentality for applying was that of a lottery ticket gambler: I’ll put in this ticket (the essay and references) and if the stars align, I’ll get it. To my surprise, I became the recipient of both the CMU Leadership Scholarship and the Outtatown Leadership Scholarship!

Winning this scholarship has changed my view of scholarships in general. Apply for the scholarship, even if it seems unlikely that you’ll get it. Every one of you has a unique story and view of the topic proposed by a certain scholarship; even if your idea is similar to another applicant, who’s to say your essay won’t be better? I once heard the story of a guy who applied for a women-only scholarship, and because he was the only person that applied, he got it!

Whenever I doubt my chances of receiving a scholarship, I think back on that story. What if I am the only person who applies? The donors who offer scholarships want students to apply. My advice is go and apply, even if it feels like you’re applying for the lottery. You never know; your writing might be exactly what the donor is looking for!

Check out a full list of incoming student scholarships you can apply for here. And don’t forget: the deadline is February 28!

Guest blogger Liam Kachkar is a first year Business student.

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