Category: student life (Page 1 of 9)

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.

 

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!

3 things I wish I’d known: Advice from a first year CMU student

Nicole Ternowesky

“Do you have to wear a skirt and bonnet there?” “Are you allowed to listen to music and watch TV?” “Don’t you have to be a Mennonite to go there?” These were some of the questions my shocked friends and families asked last year when I told them I’d decided to go to Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in the fall. Once I had reassured my family that I was going to an open-minded, welcoming, Christian university, I began to wonder what life at CMU might look like for me. Below is some advice I wish I had known before coming here, and I hope it will help you prepare all you prospective students for your first year at CMU.

1) Your faith will be challenged and nurtured.

Coming to CMU, I thought I knew ‘enough’ about the Bible, the creation story, Exodus, birth of baby Jesus, and His death and resurrection. I wasn’t prepared to read or discuss the tough stuff in the Bible, like violence, oppression, and pain. Often your Bible and Theology courses will leave you with many questions to wrestle with. But CMU is also a place that will nurture and strengthen your faith. As you grapple with these difficult truths, you will have the opportunity to worship God and experience his presence in new ways. Some places where my faith has grown is the prayer room on north, the Chapel on south and in the Poettcker Hall first floor lounge. Addressing the questions that threatened to weaken my faith in God actually helped me to deepen my understanding and relationship with Him.

2) Community is valued and promoted at CMU.

It is very important to participate in the fun events that are planned for the first week of school. This gives you an opportunity to meet other students and make new friends. At this early stage in the year, everyone will be feeling awkward, so don’t worry! I was very nervous coming to CMU that I would have difficult making friends, but I am now in a Snapchat group chat with 20 of my closest CMU friends. But honestly, I have made a some true friends here at CMU who have become like sisters to me. I now believe what people say about forming friendships at university that will last a lifetime.

Nicole Ternowsky - A student slides down a slip and slide during CMU's GO Olympics!

3) Now for the most important part: school.

My first piece of advice is to put yourself out there! Seriously, your professors will notice and remember you. CMU is unique because there is much more opportunity for class discussion and debate due to the smaller class sizes. My second piece of advice is choose classes, projects, and essays you are interested in, because when paper season comes around, you will be exhausted, but you will have learned about material you care about and have gained knowledge you can use in the ‘real world’. My last piece of advice is to invest in a good agenda or day planner. Seriously. Organization is key in university because it allows you to schedule enough time for studying, while still making time for friends, and other events at CMU.

At CMU you will grow as a Christian, a friend, and an intellectual. Looking back at my first year here, I am extremely grateful for the opportunities I’ve had at CMU, for new friends I’ve gained, and for my growing relationship with God.

Nicole Ternowesky is completing her first year at CMU.


CMU’s next open house is happening on March 27, 2018. Drop in and find out if CMU is the right place for you after high school!

How to manage your fridge…and university

University is all about management. You have to manage your classes, social time, and sleep. But if you choose to move away from your parents’ house and onto CMU’s campus, you need to manage life on your own as well, which includes feeding yourself. If you are in dorms and on the meal plan at CMU, that will basically be taken care of for you. But if you choose to live in an apartment on campus, you will need to learn how to manage a refrigerator.

vintage fridge

It’s trickier than you think. Fridges don’t automatically stock themselves with your favourite meals, and it’s very easy to lose food in the far reaches of your fridge. Just ask some of the students who live in CMU’s Katherine Friesen Apartments.

Two roommates in a CMU apartment spoke to the difficulty of not only losing track of food in your fridge, but losing track of whether the food is yours or your roommate’s.

“Last week I asked my roommate what he was doing with the rice and meat dish that had been in our fridge since I moved in back in September,” noted one CMU student. “He responded by telling me that he thought it was mine. To this day we don’t know whose dinner it was in our fridge for almost six months.”

That’s not an isolated case. One student has managed to house a jar of sweet and sour sauce in their fridge from the start of the year, and another set of roommates noted that they forgot a bag of chilli in the back of their fridge for several weeks. Upon discovering that it had turned fuzzy, they decided to keep it as a science experiment.

Not all fridges contain months-old forgotten food though. One student noted that a pack of organic flax meal was the strangest thing they could find in their fridge, which is quite impressive.

Fridge_0074_1

But fridges don’t just contain bizarre items; they also carry items of food that you just can’t get enough of. For current CMU students, it seems as though dairy products (or at least dairy-inspired products) were at the top of the list to have in their fridges at all times.

For one student, a big jug of chocolate milk is the most important thing to have on hand at all times. Whether for breakfast, or after a sports practice, it was essential to have. Another student couldn’t live without a container of yogurt in the fridge. Yet another student remarked that, “Life is good with a block of cheese.” Even a lactose intolerant student said a block of lactose-free marble cheese is an integral food for her to have around.

All of this is to say that university is a time of learning. You’ll no doubt learn how to organize your classes and notes, and possibly how to organize a fridge too. But you’ll also learn what things are important to you…both with respect to what’s important to have in your fridge, and what’s important to have in your life in general.

CMU’s next Campus Visit Day is this Friday, March 9. Spend the day with us, and find out if CMU is the right place for you.

Page 1 of 9

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén