Tag: graduation

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.

 

Three weeks: a graduation poem

three weeks: a graduation poem by #CMUwpg student Emily Hamm

Three Weeks

I came to CMU four years ago
I said, “mom I’m moving to Winnipeg on Monday, we’ll have to pack the car.”
I said “I’ll stay for three weeks, and if I hate it I’ll come home.”
Three days after I got here I sobbed for two hours and I told her how I couldn’t do any of it.
          School hadn’t even started and I couldn’t do any of it.
I told her even my dorm room didn’t feel safe and that everything was terrifying
          while all the functional people ate smokies on the lawn and listened to Pocket Change.
She told me I could come home if I wanted.
I didn’t want to want to.

I went to class the next day. I was at least intrigued.
I realized there were people who wanted to think as much as I thought all the time.
I realized I could focus my thoughts on something other than fear.
So I studied what I wanted.
I didn’t study for a degree,
When Adelia sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
based on what I wanted to take.
When Connor sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
that I wanted to take.
When Vern sent me the forms to declare my major I put them in my trash folder and picked courses
that I wanted to take.
I filled out degree audit forms at the kitchen table with my friend and I cobbled together a degree out of
the things that I wanted to take.
(and a couple of unfortunate hail-mary communications fulfillments, thrown together to create a degree out of first year biologys and chemistrys, some comm. courses I took mostly because I like stories and an intense fascination with the old testament that sometimes accidentally involves the new testament
too)
And eventually I handed in my forms to declare my major and to graduate on the same day. (sorry)

Emily Hamm, (centre), with her family on graduation day at Canadian Mennonite University in June, 2017.

I took a degree that made me a person. I put myself together after time and again after breaking myself
apart. I picked up my dismembered arm and taped my kidneys back in
After
Relationships I got wrong
Privilege I had and couldn’t give away
Mental illness – you know PTSD-GAD-PDD-OCD all the letters I got that never went on my
transcript.

I loved some people and some people loved me and when it overlapped it was beautiful –
Like a venn diagram that’s just a circle – it was so clear.
And I learned things I didn’t want to, like when I fly overseas, someone’s home gets closer to flooding.
Like when I use a logical fallacy, I’m not really winning an argument.
Like how to write a marketing plan.

I learned a lot of things I did want to learn. Things that made me a person.
That communication theory explains how I talk to people, and how I should talk to people.
That honestly the best part of the Pentateuch is Shiphrah and Puah.

After academics shattered my faith I learned how to believe in Jesus again – also from academics.
I learned about the world wider than my degree.
I learned about bio and English,
chemistry and business,
geography and psychology,
environmental studies and sociology.
I saw the people around me become a countryside of roads, without separate end, beginning, only
connection,
rather than seeing them as islands, like the north half of Canada that no one wants to colour.

I learned the paths in the Assiniboine Forest and which ones are wide enough to walk with someone
side by side.
I learned what pedagogy means, and parsimonious. I learned what on earth a metaphysical dualism is
and that Illich’s work is uncomfortably prescriptive.
I learned reformational isn’t a word but it definitely should be,
And that “I’m going to bed” is sometimes a better choice than “Yes, let’s play another game of
foosball.”

But also that the answer to a 1am “Want to go for a forest walk?” is always yes.
And the answer to a 7am knock at the door is “come in.”

I didn’t come to CMU for a career path, which is good because I definitely didn’t find one.
I came to CMU for three weeks,
and I think I might have become a person here.
Sewn together, pieces in the hands of others, loose ends and all, God’s paint still dripping where it
hasn’t dried yet,
I might be a person here.

Emily Hamm graduated from CMU in April 2017.

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Three takeaways from a CMU education

Heather MuirAs the end of the school year becomes a reality, those of us like myself who are graduating from CMU in April have begun to reflect more and more on our time here. Now I know for myself that we often talk a lot about the great things that we experienced during our years at university: the community, the mentorship that develops between professors and students, the classes and classmates that made our days here so memorable. But as my time as a student at CMU draws to a close I have begun to ask a new question: what will I take away from my time here? How have these experiences shaped me into the person I am as a transition from the life of a student to one of a full-fledged grown-up in the “real world” of post-university adulthood? The answer has found its way to me under three ways: learning to live outside your box, thinking and living bigger, and coming into your own.

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