Category: academics (Page 2 of 7)

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.

Social Sciences

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During my first year at CMU, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I love learning and discovering new things, and everything here seems so interesting – how could I choose? That is one of the reasons why I decided to major in Social Sciences, with a focus on International Development. This degree allows me to explore a variety of topics that pique my interest while expanding on the one topic I want to focus on for my future career.

In my classes, I get to explore topics such as social justice, international development, peace, psychology, and religion. In class, I am able to ask hard and confusing questions and not feel embarrassed or uneducated, because my classmates are also curious and often have similar questions.

I love how the professors at CMU use unconventional teaching methods both inside and outside the classroom (literally – it is one of the many perks to having the Assiniboine Forest in our backyard!) This makes learning fun and sparks invigorating conversation. Professors dive deep into different topics and social issues that interest both them and their students, and teach in ways that make class material easy to understand and relate to.

CMU has gifted me with the opportunity to love what I am learning. The social sciences, while challenging at times, allow me to be part of the conversation and help me to be more aware and involved. Without taking classes such as Cultures of Peace and Violence, Third World Theology, and Intro to International Development, I would not have realized that I would like to pursue a career in the nonprofit world as an international aid worker.

I have discovered that I have a passion for education and a desire to ensure that all people have access to basic education. Through my classes, I have discovered that there are organizations which share the same passions as me and are working to make quality education a reality in all parts of the world. As a social science student, I am able to envision my future and get excited for all the possibilities that lie ahead!

Guest blogger Esther Hardy is a third year student in Social Sciences.

Music Therapy


I feel tremendously fortunate to be studying Music Therapy at CMU. Throughout my first semester, I kept having these “pinch-me” moments where I couldn’t believe I was studying what I love and working toward my goal of becoming an accredited music therapist.

Amidst lyric rewrites, unconditional positive regard, and a whole lot of goal writing, I can happily report that I have found my place in the Program. It leads to a Bachelor of Music Therapy, followed by an internship and exam for accreditation. Music therapy, done by accredited music therapists, uses music as a tool to promote client healing and wellbeing.

The Music Therapy Program at CMU draws on a wealth of knowledge from both textbooks and the profession itself. We complete practicum placements where we are supervised by a music therapist. Day-to-day we learn from our professors, who are practicing music therapists. I find their insights and experiences to be helpful and eye-opening.

Our cohort is a small, tight-knit group and we are provided opportunities to share our experiences from practicum with each other. In our Improvisation and Skills class, we have the chance to learn about and try out different music therapy interventions, which we can then adapt to use with our clients. We do spend a lot of time in practice rooms, but I value the time we spend together learning and practicing. Having professionals as well as peers share their music therapy experiences contributes to a well-rounded education. 

As music therapists-to-be, we take courses in music, psychology, and anatomy to prepare for the diverse environments where we are likely to be employed: schools, hospitals, private practice, personal care homes, or mental health facilities. One of the best parts about the Music Therapy Program is the opportunity to put learning into action. We have four semesters of practicum experience, each with a different client demographic.

Music therapy is beneficial for people at any stage of life and all ranges of ability. This semester, I’m looking forward to my practicum in the school system. Studying music therapy gives me the opportunity to merge my love of music with my desire to help others. In the future, I hope to use therapy services in a summer camp setting.

Guest blogger Johanna Kroetsch is a first year student in the two-year Music Therapy after degree program.

7 tips for wading through the slog of exams


I hate exams. They are stressful, exhausting, challenging, and tedious (and I could add many words to this list). But even though there are many other things I would rather be doing, they are a part of the life of a student. Here are a few things that make my studying less stressful and more productive.

1. Make a schedule: There’s always a lot of content to sift through, so making a schedule for the day is helpful to decide when I am studying for which subject and how much I want to do at once. Breaking things up into smaller sections makes them feel more manageable.

2. Eat healthy snacks: It’s important to make sure that you are eating well so that you have enough energy to focus. Even though it’s tempting to drink a lot of coffee, if you drink too much you’ll be jittery. And remember to drink water!

3. Sleep: I am one of the biggest culprits of this, but staying up late to study for a few more hours will often hurt you more than it will help. When I get a good night’s sleep the night before an exam (at least 8 hours), I can remember the stuff I studied better than if I tried to cram in a few more chapters late at night.

4. Get Exercise: Stand up and move! Go for a walk, do yoga or jumping jacks. It helps you stay healthy – mentally and emotionally as well as physically – so that you’ll be able to focus more when you study.

5. Reward Yourself: Set goals, and when you meet them, give yourself a treat. Whether it’s watching an episode of your favourite TV show, buying a fancy latte, or visiting with friends, these breaks will help you stay positive and focused when it’s time to hit the books.

6. Teach Someone: When you talk through a concept to explain it to someone else, it helps you gain a better understanding of the ideas yourself. When I explain questions to friends, it helps me remember and answer them more concisely on exams.

7. Find a Comfortable Study Space: It’s important to find a place where you are comfortable. I like to study in places that have lots of light, where there are people around me and I can spread out my books. This will be different for everyone, so find what works for you.

Over time, you will learn what works best for you, how to study, and how to stay calm. And in the end, whether you’ve received the best grade you can imagine or the worst, remember that the mark does not define who you are.


Privilege and power: International Development Studies


I’m in my third year of International Development Studies, and I think development is something we all need in our lives. Despite popular belief, development isn’t something that an individual can take and deliver to someone in need like pizza. It’s a process which explores important questions of privilege and power imbalances. It teaches individuals to build relationships centred around trust and respect.

At CMU, we are encouraged and challenged to understand how our perception and theorists’ definitions of development is defined by worldviews and values. It is difficult to provide a simple and concise definition of development because good development is fluid, taking the shape of the context and people that create it.

On the other hand, destructive development can be easier to define. A development worker once shared with me a story. She knew a development worker who was riding to the city in a packed community bus through winding roads. Someone got car sick and threw up all over the floor of the bus. No one in the bus seemed disgusted or did anything to clean the mess that seemed to be spreading. Grandparents hopped over the mess and women carrying chickens struggled to navigate their way around it with their children.

The development worker could not believe no one was cleaning the mess and decided that he was going to use his newspaper  to cover it. While the bus waited on the side of the street for individuals to lower their produce from the roof of the bus, he quickly covered all the mess. The worker went back to his seat.

To his horror, as soon as the bus started moving, the wind came through the open windows and caused the newspaper to fly around the bus and smack passengers in the face. The worker slouched on his chair and pretended to take a nap for the rest of the trip! He was unaware that everyone was waiting for the next bus stop, which was near a house where the driver was planning to clean up the mess with a bucket and mop.

That story helped me understand that even with the best of intentions, we can cause harm to those we hope to help. As development practitioners, we need to be attentive to local knowledge – and remember that eating before a bus ride can be a bad idea!


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