Author: Student Ambassador (Page 2 of 25)

The courage to be vulnerable

Jason Friesen - The courage to be vulnerable (Portrait of Jason Friesen on the Marpeck bridge wearing a grey long sleeved t-shirt with the CMU logo across the chest.)

Most of us don’t like to be in vulnerable spaces. The uncertainties of those spaces leave us with butterflies fluttering around in our stomachs. Conceding power is uncomfortable. Yet CMU is a place that exemplifies and guides us into those vulnerable spaces.

Let’s start with the classroom. One of CMU’s largest selling points is the small class sizes, which allow students to interact personally with their professors. This is completely accurate, but just saying that to a prospective student at a campus visit day doesn’t fully capture the connection between professors and students.

CMU students are not only treated to professors who interact with them, but professors who make themselves vulnerable.

I still remember taking Interpersonal Communication in my second year with sociology professor Rod Reynar. The very first class, Rod told us some of his life story. Hearing about Rod’s chronic back pain caused by inflammation around his spinal cord, and how that kept him bed ridden for years sent a strong message on its own. But his actions sent a message that would set the tone for the rest of the semester. The classroom was to be a space of sharing, where personal experiences were a valuable asset to learning. How could we students not follow suit and share of our own lives as well?

Students seated at a desk in small classroom at CMU, engaging with a professor across from them.

That invitation to make those kinds of connections is not isolated to a class focusing on Interpersonal Communication. It quickly becomes something we expect in the classroom at CMU no matter the course. Here, professors constantly ask students to connect what they are learning to their own lives, and to share those connections.

If you stick around CMU beyond class times, you become familiar with another place of vulnerability – the many student council events on campus, from the GOlympics, to coffee houses, to Film 60. Though these events are definitely aimed to provide student entertainment, there is something else going on in these spaces. It’s obvious when you see student Zach Stefaniuk perform at a coffee house, as he pipes up on a goofy song, and brings a room to a roar of laughter like only he can.

And then there are music students: they start out understandably timid in their first Thursday recital, and blossom into fine, expressive performers by the time their grad performance rolls around. 

At coffeehouses, recitals, and everything in between, students are opening themselves up to potential praise and critique. Yet students keep signing up and showing up!  They seem to like making themselves vulnerable and equally appreciate it when others do the same.

Not all acts of vulnerability are as public as the classroom or CMU events though. A space where I have seen the most vulnerability is on the volleyball team.

Jason Friesen - The courage to be vulnerable (The CMU mens volleyball team line up for a team photo after winning the MCAC championships for the second year in a row.)

This past year, our team committed to doing weekly Bible studies. We read scripture, watched videos of athletes like MLB pitcher Clayton Kershaw and NHLer Mike Fisher tell their faith stories, and shared of our own experiences. And I know for a fact that we were not the only group of students doing this on campus.

Whether through fellowship groups or late night discussions in a residence lounge, signs of this type of vulnerability are scattered throughout campus, sometimes hidden in spaces most will never see.  

What is significant about these examples is that only the first scenario involves CMU faculty or staff directly. The other examples show students choosing to put themselves in vulnerable spaces. The culture of the classrooms at CMU encourages students to be vulnerable and to walk alongside others as they do the same. This culture fosters that type of living throughout students’ lives!    

We live in an age with many examples of strength associated with power and dominance. But CMU is a university that cultivates students to challenge the norm, to think critically about what we see in the world, and to draw our values from scripture rather than popular culture.

The Theologies of Power course with Irma Fast Dueck, and a reading from theologian Walter Wink’s “Facing the Myth of Redemptive Violence”, follow that trend. The belief that the ends can justify any amount of violent means surrounds us in films, TV shows, and almost every story we encounter. But not the narrative of scripture. Jesus lived a life full of courage and strength, yet none of it revolved around the type of power we are used to. Instead, he showed strength through coming to earth as a child and living a life of service, and he showed courage through sacrificing his life for us. I can think of no better examples of courage and strength, and at the same time can’t fathom any greater displays of vulnerability.

Author and theologian C.S.Lewis perhaps puts it best. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.” My hope is that as each of us branch out from CMU into the world, we would take the risk that Lewis is talking about.

We come to CMU as vulnerable newcomers, and when it comes time to leave, we will walk into many more situations that need vulnerable people. A friend of mine, accompanies her email signature with a quote that reads,  “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Are you willing to be uncomfortable? Are you willing to grow? Because that’s exactly what courage, strength, love, and vulnerability call for.  Embrace that and continue to create those vulnerable spaces.

Jason Friesen wearing his black graduation cap and gown on the day of his graduation from CMU's Communications and Media program.Jason Friesen is a 2018 graduate of CMU’s Communications and Media program, and this year’s Valedictorian. He was also the lead blogger for #myCMUlife in the 2017-18 school year, and this post was adapted from his valedictory address.

Graduation: The Tassel was Worth the Hassle

I came across this catchphrase a few weeks ago as I was looking on Pinterest for graduation party ideas. Putting aside the fact that I was on Pinterest instead of writing my final paper, I paused my incessant scrolling of picture-perfect DIY ideas to consider whether or not this was true in my life.

Cristena Waldner

To give more context, I have been a part-time student at CMU since 2006. For those of you who are not great at math like myself, that’s 12 years! I still have to complete practicum but I participated in graduation on April 21.

For over a decade, I have been taking one or two courses at a time for a double major of a 4-year BA in Social Science—Counselling Studies, and a 3-year BA in English.

Combined with the fact that I am submitting this post on my 30th birthday, I have all the feels!

Since my first day of university, I have become an auntie 4 times over, gone on multiple trips, and have made great memories. But, the last 12 years have not been without sacrifice.

As a student with a physical disability, it has not been an easy road. I was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). SMA is as scientific as it sounds but the main takeaway is progressive muscle weakness. I am in a power wheelchair and the fatigue I experience on a daily basis is unfathomable—even for me, and I have had SMA since birth! I have had to work on finding balance in my life and often have to prioritize school work over friendships and relationships.

Hold on.

Am I planning a graduation party or a pity party? While it may have just sounded like I think school is draining, that is actually far from the truth!

I love university, so much so that I may be addicted to the thrill of learning something new. And don’t even get me started on the adrenaline rush of getting a graded paper back. Academic achievement has always been a passion of mine and I would not have gone to university for over a decade if I didn’t absolutely love it.

Yet, I am not graduating by my own merit. I am dedicated to my studies—almost to a fault—but I could not have accomplished this dream of mine without a few key influencers, starting with my parents.

Cristina Waldner with her parenst -

Being a student with a disability comes with its own challenges, but each of those obstacles were made better because of the tremendous support of my parents. They’ve seen it all, from the highs of me getting A’s on tests I was convinced I would fail, to the lows of the days I felt too exhausted to breathe. They have been my chauffeurs, my cheerleaders, and my distractions when I’m trying to study and they tempt me with watching Jets games. Knowing how much I love university, they have sacrificed so much in the process. I only wish they could get a diploma too because they deserve it!

My reflections on the significance of the tassel came to a head last week during my final class of the semester. While my Psychology prof was giving instructions for the final exam, my mind was preoccupied as I looked around at my classmates. I was struck by the realization that out of a class of 22 students, 19 were women. I could not help but feel in that moment a deep sense of gratitude and privilege at having obtained a university education. Not only as a woman but as a person with a disability, I felt honoured to be a part of something that one hundred years ago would have been unprecedented.

Now, I do not wish to dwell on this because it is 2018 and let’s face it, human rights have a long way to go. The movements of #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #MarchForOurLives have proved this. But it does offer some perspective into the privilege CMU students have in receiving a university education that is inclusive, safe, and full of opportunity.

This atmosphere of connection is in large part due to the faculty and staff who have a genuine passion for helping students succeed. The unwavering support of my family and the dedication of CMU staff have given me the chance to pursue my dreams far extending the classroom.

Cristina Waldner in her graduation gown surrounded by her parents on the day of her graduation from CMU.

So… was the tassel really worth the hassle?

Absolutely.

Cristina Waldner graduated this weekend with a 4-year Bachelor of Arts in Counselling Studies, and a 3-year Bachelor of Arts in English.

 

Finding community and trusting God’s faithfulness

Taylor Prior - Finding community and trusting God's provision

I came to CMU after a year of Outtatown, intending to deepen my relationship with Jesus and live in community.

Not from a Mennonite background, I had a bunch of preconceived ideas about CMU. Frankly, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. But I held onto the idea of community in hopes that it would be as great as everyone said it would be.

A couple of months went by and I was skeptical. I hadn’t found the community I had envisioned. In this moment of doubt I leaned into the faithfulness of Jesus and his provision. I had to come to terms with the idea that things might not be exactly how I envisioned. Perhaps Jesus had a greater plan than I could write for myself.

As I let go of what I thought I needed, Jesus provided me with a group of friends who have both challenged and strengthened my faith. He provided a community of people I can laugh with, worship with, and have meaningful conversations with. 

Taylor Prior - Finding community and trusting God's provision

When I imagined community at CMU, I thought I would just instantly find my place. But it took some effort on my part, and it was something I had to grow into. With a bit of faith and trust, God provided a group of people that have been pivotal in my journey at CMU. They’ve even cultivated my newfound appreciation for the art of dumpster diving!

This past year, my first year at CMU, I have learned the importance of being rooted in Jesus’ faithfulness. And I have felt his abundance through the community he provided.

Through this community, I’m learning what it looks like to love others; to share in each other’s joy, and sit with each other in the moments that suck. Trusting Jesus’ provision has helped me to grow and become part of a community of people that makes CMU feel like home.   

In this new grounding of faith, I have experienced abundantly more than I could ask or imagine. Looking ahead, I remain confident in the good things he has in store.

 

Taylor Pryor is a first year Social Sciences student from Portage la Prairie, Manitoba.

Dive In and Engage: Joining Student Council

Esther Hardy, 2018-19 CMU Student Council President

When I first came to CMU, I wasn’t sure how to get involved. There were so many ways for me to dive in and engage, that I didn’t know where to start.

In my second year, I decided to join student council, and it was a great decision.

Student council has allowed me to develop many friendships, to have a voice in what happens at CMU, and it has allowed me to build leadership and interpersonal skills.

Student council committees work hard to organize and host a variety of events throughout the year. From coffee houses, to volunteer opportunities in the city, there is something for everyone.

Some of my favourite events this year were: Film 60 (a student film festival); Taste the World (international students make food from their home countries); Dance Classes (The CMU Keeks dance group teach a variety of dance styles); and The Great Debaters (a fun evening of student/staff debates).

These events brought people together for evenings full of laughter, good food, and great conversation. They’re part of what makes CMU a great place to be. And they inspired me to get involved at this wonderful school.

As the 2018-2019 student council president, I plan to work with my peers on things that matter to students. That could mean organizing for social justice issues or planning fun events for students.

It is important to me that every student feels that they have a voice, and that everyone feels included in our community. I encourage every student to bring your ideas, suggestions, and concerns to me and other student council members next year. We value what you have to say! 

2017 CMU Student Council

If student council sounds like something you want to be involved in, please check it out. In September, we will be looking for Peace and Sustainability Directors and First-Year reps, or you could join a committee team. Our council is full of brave, energetic, passionate people who have a heart for this school, and we would love to have you join our team!

 

Esther Hardy is 3rd year International Development Studies student from Perth, Ontario. She is also your 2018-19 Student Council President!

From a reluctant start: How CMU shaped my future

Nick Kehler - a Reluctant Start

I won’t lie – I was never planning on staying at CMU. I came in 2013, fresh out of Mennonite Collegiate Institute and I just wanted to play volleyball for a year, maybe two, and then I was going to go to “real” school at U of M.

This reluctant narrative is sort of what defines my CMU experience. At first, I was told of the wonders of CMU. The community, the class size, the opportunity for spiritual growth – it was all going to be awesome! But I didn’t really listen, I didn’t really care. Then, all of a sudden I was doing all these things and they were good.

So the “thesis” as it were (because this is a university after all) would be:

Everyone says it’s good. I didn’t want to, I didn’t think it would be good, and then all of a sudden I was doing it and it was good.

Small class sizes

I was told that classes were small and this was good: I was pretty nonplussed by this. I didn’t really care. Then I realized that this was actually a very good thing (though also a little challenging). I could talk to profs, get advice and all that good stuff. But this didn’t mean things were easy. Yes, I could bounce my ideas off my profs, but they could also stare at my soul and know that I had absolutely not done the readings for that day’s lesson. Also, in a class of 20, Delmar wouldn’t have a hard time noticing me falling asleep in the History of Psychology… not ideal.

Nick Kehler - a Reluctant Start

Practicum

I was told that practicum was helpful. Yikes, I really didn’t have a good attitude about this one. I did mine at Deer Lodge Centre which is a personal care home and hospital and I was doing work assisting occupational therapists and physiotherapists. This sort of work is what I want to do with the rest of my life and looking back now, I realize that this not only was great in terms of me affirming what the next chapter of my life looks like, it also looks pretty good on a resume or application.

Integrative courses

I was also told that integrative courses were awesome: I didn’t want to do them cause they all seemed like lots of work – now I know that these were likely the most unique, eye-opening, challenging, and rewarding classes that I took.

In my Psychology and Christianity course for example, we discussed questions like “are we soul and mind” are we “soul mind and body” or “just body?” Topics like the intersection of psychotherapy and faith were discussed and I came to quickly realize that there is no such thing as differentiating faith and the rest of life. It’s all wrapped together and it’s all super confusing and it’s all difficult and it’s all completely full of truths, half-truths, and caveats to everything that you can think of. This is perhaps the biggest takeaway from being here for the past few years. There isn’t a way to break things apart – things can’t just be categorized. In psychology, the study of human behaviour and cognition and interaction is intricately connected to God, the creator.

So, I was told many things, I didn’t really believe them. I eventually did those things anyways and now, looking back on all of that, I see that I’m a better person for it.

So how has CMU prepared me for life past university? I would say that it’s guided me and shaped me to think holistically – to think about God and people and relationships and research and everything in between, as connected – as influenced by and influencing each other.

 

Nick Kehler is a fourth year Psychology major graduating in April, and is from Altona, MB.

 

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