Category: academics (Page 1 of 10)

Learning Power and Vulnerability at CSOP

Marnie Klassen

For the first time in my degree, I took a class purely on a recommendation, and man alive am I glad I decided to.

After some conversation and discernment, my academic advisor told me that she thought I should take Arts Based Approaches to Social Change from the Canadian School of Peacebuilding (CSOP). I liked the idea of getting some credits out of the way and having an excuse to come back to Winnipeg mid-summer. The course sounded mildly interesting, and though not related to the direction my Interdisciplinary degree seemed to be taking, I decided to just do it.

“You’ll probably enjoy it,” I told myself. “Doesn’t matter if it’s related. It makes sense for other reasons.”

Pretty soon my books came in the mail and sat on my shelf for most of April and May. Suddenly, I was booking flights to go to Winnipeg, and started my reading.

The opening ceremony of 2018 CSOP.

I walked into the auditorium where the opening ceremony was held and breathed a sigh of relief as I saw some familiar faces from CMU, and two women I had met at different conferences over the past three years. “I have a community here,” I reminded myself. “Whatever happens this week, I am learning in community.”

That sentiment proved truer than I could have imagined.

In my class were 11 students, and we represented at least 6 different countries. Despite the incredible diversity of culture, age, and experience, we began to know and trust each other quite quickly. How could we not when we were dancing, painting, and acting together?

Throughout the week we participated in numerous creative activities which helped us to understand various aspects of conflict, violence, and reconciliation. Here’s a couple of examples:

On Tuesday we made memory boards. In some parts of central Africa, stories are told on Lukasas, or memory boards. They are visual and tactile displays of cultural stories.

IMG_0729s

Our class divided into two, and each group created a picture/diorama representing our story and community. Then Babu (our instructor) went over to one group and destroyed their Lukasa, telling them that a member of their community had done it. He then came to my group, wrecked our Lukasa, and said that the destruction was by a member of the neighboring community.

After spending so much time trying to represent who we were, it was devastating to have our Lukasa ravaged. Our task then was to talk about how we would rebuild, how we would forgive, how we would move on. It was difficult!

On Wednesday, we participated in forum theatre. 10 of us lined up our chairs, and Babu and one volunteer did a dramatic reading behind us of a domestic violence scenario. It was powerful.

Afterwards, we divided into groups based on the response we were least likely to have in real life. My group was the “intervening” group, and we were all young women, painfully aware both of our power and our vulnerability. It was incredibly eye opening and empowering to talk and act with these women and come up with an intervention that kept us safe and allowed for the abused woman to get the help she needed.

Marnie (R) with classmates.

CSOP has taught me a lot of things – it’s taught me about using the arts in peacebuilding to be sure, but it has also taught me about this balance between power and vulnerability. As budding peacebuilders, we have so much opportunity to effect change and participate in the goodness in the world, but we also carry our own vulnerability and smallness with us. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel like we are enough. At CSOP I learned to hold both truths, but to hold them with other people. This is the moral imagination – staying grounded in the here and now, and imagining a more life-affirming world.

Marnie Klassen is going into her third year of Interdisciplinary Studies at CMU.

6 study tips to help you prepare for exams

With the weather warming up and the days getting longer, summer seems to be just around the corner… but not yet—there are still exams to come. It can be challenging to find the motivation to sit down and study at the end of the school year. Even though it might seem early to start thinking about exams, it’s better to start studying sooner than later. Here are six tips to make studying as painless and productive as possible.

6 study tips — A modern wood desk topped with a black desk lamp, a large digital clock that reads "15:00", a colourful painting of a bouquet of flowers, several notebooks, a pair of glasses, a pencil case with highlighters tumbling out, a cell phone and tablet, and in the corner a stack of books topped by a small succulent plant.
1. Make a Study Plan

Starting early is helpful, but it is important to make a study plan. It will help you stay on track and make sure that you aren’t cramming in too much right before the exam. Creating a schedule with goals for what you want to accomplish everyday will help you feel more prepared and confident going into your exam.

2. Find a New Study Space

By the end of the year, it is easy to get bored of the places where you have been studying. Finding a new study space could help you focus! You could try the public library, a quiet café, or even moving your desk to a new corner of your room. CMU’s Marpeck Commons is a great place to try out in Winnipeg, with great spaces for group studying, a quiet library, and Folio Café

6 study tips — A view of Marpeck Commons from the Mezzanine level, down to the tables and chairs below, with Folio Cafe and the wall of glass letting in so much natural light.
3. Minimize Distractions

Studying is a lot more productive and efficient when you concentrate, so put your phone down and stay off social media during dedicated study times. There are apps you can download to help you stay focused— apps with timers, apps that buzz when you pick up your phone during study time, and others that block distracting sites. Focusing on what you need to get done and minimizing distractions will make your study time more effective.

4. Make Study Notes

Take time to make study notes, because making them is part of the process of studying. Use colour, pictures and diagrams, and highlight key words and ideas with certain colours or symbols. Create study notes that will help you learn and that fit the way you remember material. It’s also more fun when you take the time to make them look nice! 

6 study tips — A student sits by the window in the CMU Library highligher in hand, reading a text book.

5. Take Outdoor Breaks

When the weather is nice, take a break and go for a walk, toss a Frisbee around, or take a nap in the grass. Having a change in scenery and getting some fresh air will give your brain some space to rest, and will help you concentrate when you sit down again to do more work.

6. Study with Others

Find other people in your class who you can study with—people who will help you stay focused and not become a distraction! When you study with others, you can ask questions about confusing information, but you can also teach, which helps you gain a better understanding of the concept and will prepare you for answering exam questions.

What are your favourite study tips? Share them in the comments below. And of course, we wish you the best of luck with your exams!

 

Laura Carr-Pries in her graduation gown and cap.

Laura Carr-Pries just graduated from CMU with a BA in Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies and Theology. (She’s also one of this year’s President’s Medal winners, so you know she knows a thing or two about studying.)

Economics of hope: CMU’s Redekop School of Business

I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t experienced anything to be quite so discouraging as Micro-Economics at 8:30 in the morning. But through these last few years at CMU, I’ve grown to appreciate how economics can be an expression of care for society.

Jonathan Daman

My name is Jonathan Daman, and I just graduated from CMU with a Bachelor of Business Administration from the Redekop School of Business (RSB).

CMU taught me to take what I’m learning in the classroom and use it to impact my community.

The business program teaches students to care, and to bring that care into the real world. It teaches us to work toward a common good where people, the planet, and profits are balanced to build community rather than hinder it.

We talk about real issues in the classroom, like climate change, international development, and sustainability – topics that can be discouraging. I remember one of my classes with James Magnus-Johnston discussing economic inequality and feeling a bit of this despair. I asked him, “What’s the point of trying to correct the issue when it’s an impossible situation?” He simply replied that we must keep trying because eventually there will be a way.

The professors at RSB, and at CMU in general, convey their care for society into a sense of hope for the future, even in the face of adversity. Their example allows students to begin to realize that, although the real world is tough and can be discouraging, we can make meaningful change in the lives of those around us. Not only do they teach us these lessons in class but they use their expertise to consult on healthy growth within the Manitoba business environment.

Some may say the current news climate or capitalistic structure is full of flaws and despair. But through my studies at CMU, I have come to realize that even in the harshest of climates, and the worst situations, the difference makers are the ones that refuse to give up, who celebrate the small victories.

Economic Development that is done sustainably, with concern for the whole community, is one of the most life-giving areas of business. It has the power to strengthen communities and families, which can pass on healthy creativity into the future.

When we create opportunities for conversations within community that provide a platform to experience commonality, we move towards actions which truly will transform the world around us.

Jonathan Daman

This post was adapted from a speech Jonathan Daman gave as part of With Gratitude. Daman just graduated from the Bachelor of Business Administration program at CMU’s Redekop School of Business (RSB). He is from Niverville, MB. 

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.

 

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