Author: Student Ambassador (Page 1 of 38)

Anger and peace within ecological peacebuilding | Abigail Hill

Kenton Lobe with a Gete-Okosomin squash during class

I have taken quite a few classes here at CMU, but I can say with confidence that the Ecological Peacebuilding class has been my favourite. Our professor, Kenton Lobe, led us through five individual books, all by authors who care deeply about creation, place, and peace.

Our central focus was the question, “where is here?” and almost every class happened in a different spot around the CMU campus. For the majority of the semester, we were outside and that knit us together as a class. It was literally a breath of fresh air during this pandemic that has surrounded us for the past two years.

It was a small group, about fifteen students, and we were collectively engaged in heartfelt discussion. The class was designed around trust; we were there to learn and collaborate, not compete. We were not expected to regurgitate information and there was no midterm or final exam. We were simply called by Kenton to engage with the material critically, from wherever we were at. Most importantly, there was an exchange of trust between the professor and each individual student.

Kenton Lobe and Abigail Hill in class outside

I felt this trust the most when we were reading To Be a Water Protector by Winona LaDuke. While it was easily my favourite text during the course, I realized how angry I truly was. I was/am angry about how the climate crisis is being handled by those in power around the globe. While I was reading LaDuke’s book, I felt that anger bubble up time and time again. I felt her anger as an Indigenous woman even while knowing that I will never fully understand her experience.

In this class I began the journey of reconciling my anger and the concept of peace. How can a person work to cultivate peace and trust between all relatives and still be angry? Why is the line between hope and hopelessness so thin? I won’t pretend that I have these answers—I’m honestly not sure I ever will. However, I am still hopeful (and angry) and am excited for what the rest of my education entails.

Abigail Hill is a second year Bachelor of Arts student, majoring in Social Sciences.

Why university? | Natasha Neustaedter Barg

Over the past five years, headlines implying that university and secondary education are dead have become more rampant and more common than ever before. For example, titles like “The university is dead: COVID-19 killed it”, “Whose university is it anyway?”, “Are we witnessing the death of the traditional university?”, and “Why universities are failing to prepare students for the job market” are just a few. Looking at the headlines paints a pretty bleak picture for secondary education and universities in particular. Never mind when you take the time to read the articles themselves. Repeatedly, the authors are noting three components to the supposed death of university. After sitting down with the director of CMU’s Center for Career and Vocation and Director of Practicum, Christine Kampen Robinson, the future for secondary education seems anything but bleak.

But first, why do people think university is dying? And why are people questioning the importance and validity of the university route? In the article titled “Why universities are failing to prepare students for the job market” by Melissa Gismondi, written in 2021, she notes that there has been a steady rise in universities shifting to part-time or adjunct instructors instead of the traditional professor.[1] Had Gismondi interviewed CMU, she would know that 90% of CMU’s faculty has PhDs, maintaining a rigorous academic standard and close faculty to student relations. A fact that is starkly different than most other universities.

A further challenge for universities is increased tuition. A study in 2017 noted that “more than 75 per cent of Canadian graduates under the age of 40 regret taking on student debt. According to Statistics Canada, the average university graduate finishes school more than $26,000 in the red.” Therefore, there is a more significant trend for high school graduates to take a gap year to make money before considering further education, whether college or university.[2] Once again, the critiques made towards universities focus more on public and bigger universities, and not smaller private universities like CMU. Half of the CMU student body receive financial aid in grants or bursaries from CMU and the wider CMU community. The last common theme is that with an increase in adjunct lecturers and tuition, administrative staff have a more business-like and creatively conservative environment. Professors are given less agency in choosing their classes and how they want the format of their classes to be.[3]

In the face of all these claims as to the death of university, why university? Why should young adults take on student loans? Why study for four years before heading into the workforce? Why university?

When asked ‘Why university?’ when it is complex and expensive, Christine said, “university is an opportunity to be immersed in new ideas in a way that I don’t think you’d have the opportunity to do in other contexts.”[4] She notes that “an important part of emerging adulthood is re-examining the different ideas and values you’ve been raised with and identifying which of those you’re adopting as your own and which of those you want to release.” University offers you a place to do that with other young adults who are experiencing the same thing. The process can be lonely “and it can be challenging to figure out what to replace stuff with,” but in a university setting where gaining knowledge is the everyday agenda, new ideas and values are readily available for consideration or adoption.

North America is a primary consumer society where people are often subconsciously asking ‘what can I get out of this?’ Much of what students can ‘get out’ of university is implicit and unmeasurable. Rather “what university can do is provide us with knowledge, but also how to find knowledge.”[5] One of the side effects of a university is that one learns that “you need to question everything, and that’s a healthy, good thing.” In a climate where misinformation is rampant, having the practices and experience of asking questions and looking deeper at a source or idea for its validity is important. In other words, being able to think critically is an important skill that is highly sought after by employers and is also something that one constantly learns in university.

Kampen Robinson explains critical thinking as the ability to compare, contrast and synthesize a wide variety of ideas alongside the ability to break down ideas and reexplain them for a different audience. These are all critical elements of any paper a student writes, but as a university, like society, is a higher outcome and output-based environment, the process often gets discounted. But it is in the process that the skills that employers and professors are looking for occur. Kampen Robinson believes that the “more we raise awareness of the process, I feel the more equipped people [will] be to connect those different pieces and show a broader story, and even just see how qualified they are for different [jobs].”

Throughout the interview, Kampen Robinson kept on returning to the idea of a story. In part, because that is where her background lies, but more predominantly, Kampen Robinson has noticed an inability to tell one’s story is where the university and workforce disconnect comes into play. She says, “I don’t think the problem is that students who are graduating do not have the skills that are being sought after in the work force, I think they don’t know they have them, and so you can’t tell a story about something you don’t see or that you don’t know exists.”

At CMU, every student must complete a minimum of 6 credit hours of practicum that is intentionally approached through a career development and vocational focus. This means that every student graduating from CMU will have had a career counselling session where Kampen Robinson and others emphasis this idea of ‘story’ and hands on experience as part of the workforce. In the accompanying class to the practicum requirement, Kampen Robinson and her colleagues help students think about ‘story.’ What is the story that they want to tell, and how can they frame the process of university; of writing papers and navigating different extracurricular expectations into a story that employers can understand?

Furthermore, these students are asked questions like “Who do you want to be? Who do you want to show up as? Who are you showing up to as now and how connected is that to where you want to be?” It is in learning to tell their story that they will be equipped for life past secondary education.

The idea of ‘story’ and the ability to tell one’s story is critical in future job security. As Kampen Robinson reiterates, “When students are equipped to tell their story, they can do that even when things change and even when things are scary and awful.” She goes on to say that “You can’t write a good resume, you cannot write a good cover letter, you can’t even see what kinds of job postings you would be interested in applying for, [or] don’t even know how to look for them, if you don’t know what the story is. If you don’t know what your story is and what the bigger world story is and how you connect to it.”

So, why university? There will never be a clear answer, and I am inclined to think there should not be. University is not about quick and clear answers. Or at least that is not what it is about at CMU. As Kampen Robinson reflected, after her bachelor’s, master’s and PhD “One of the big things I took away from university is the ability to look at stuff with nuance. There are multiple perspectives, multiple truths and that is uncomfortable. When we’re kids, we want things to be really clear. . . but that’s not how anything works.” Hugh Martin (who was in university management for over 20 years) echoes Kampen Robinson’s sentiments. It is at university where “we met people, we engaged with people, we debated with people, we argued with people, we met people from different backgrounds, different races, different colours, different genders, different sexualities, different behaviours, different language. We learned on campus about ourselves, we fell in and out of love with knowledge and with each other and all of that was about the journey of life that university does” and that is not something that can happen through online school, and not as easy to occur in other contexts.[6]

Martin rightly says, “We [the university] are not there to create job ready graduates, the purpose of a university is to create graduates who are ready for life.” To help shape young adults to have the skills and confidence to tell their story while listening to other people’s stories and seeing how they connect with a nuanced critical eye.

Written by Natasha Neustaedter Barg, a fifth year Bachelor of Arts, Social Sciences Major


Works Cited

“Financial Pressures, Fear of Debt Add More Layers of Stress to Incoming Post-Secondary Students | CBC News.” CBC News. CBC/Radio Canada, September 5, 2019. https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/pomp-and-pressure-student-debt-1.5270915.

Gismondi, Melissa. “Why Universities Are Failing to Prepare Students for the Job Market | CBC Radio.” CBC News. CBC/Radio Canada, October 13, 2021. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/why-universities-are-failing-to-prepare-students-for-the-job-market-1.6208196.

Kampen Robinson, Christine. Why University?. Personal, November 23, 2021.

Srigley, Ron. “Whose University Is It Anyway?” Los Angeles Review of Books, February 22, 2018. https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/whose-university-is-it-anyway/.

Steele-Figueredo, Dr. David, Sam Benezra, and Jackson Schroeder. “Are We Witnessing the Death of the Traditional University?” The University Network, May 21, 2018. https://www.tun.com/blog/witnessing-death-traditional-university/.

The University Is Dead: COVID-19 Killed It. YouTube. TedTalk, 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-Idna3iS-A.


[1] Melissa Gismondi, “Why Universities Are Failing to Prepare Students for the Job Market | CBC Radio,” CBCnews (CBC/Radio Canada, October 13, 2021), https://www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/why-universities-are-failing-to-prepare-students-for-the-job-market-1.6208196.

[2] “Financial Pressures, Fear of Debt Add More Layers of Stress to Incoming Post-Secondary Students | CBC News,” CBC News (CBC/Radio Canada, September 5, 2019), https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/pomp-and-pressure-student-debt-1.5270915.

[3] Ron Srigley, “Whose University Is It Anyway?,” Los Angeles Review of Books, February 22, 2018, https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/whose-university-is-it-anyway/.

[4] Christine Kampen Robinson, ‘Why University?’ Personal, November 23, 2021.

[5] Christine Kampen Robinson. ‘Why University?’

[6] The University Is Dead: COVID-19 Killed It , YouTube (TedTalk, 2021), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-Idna3iS-A.

Five things I wish I knew before stepping into a CMU science class | Annika Loeppky

Should I wear my lab coat on the first day? Is it alright that I haven’t memorised the periodic table of the elements? As I entered into my first year at CMU, these were some of the questions that crossed my mind. Little did I know that science is more than pristine white lab coats and a list of formulas to memorize, like I’d seen in Bill Nye videos in high school. Now after 3 years at CMU, my perception of science has shifted as I have experienced more of what science has to offer: I have explored the Assiniboine Forest, learned about health in Indigenous populations, and even met my prof’s pet parrot!

Annika Loeppky (centre), third year science student, gives tips for thriving at CMU!

All CMU students are required to take at least two science classes throughout the degree they are pursuing. While you may think you’ll feel like a fish out of water in a university science course, it is less intimidating than the stereotypes make it out to be. Who knows, science courses may even surprise you! I hope that these five tips will help you navigate science courses and give you an inside scoop on what science is actually like in university.

1. There are no dumb questions.

This may sound like a cliché, but in science courses especially, questions will be your saving grace. I was talking with some of this year’s graduating science students, and they agreed that if they could go back in time, they would have asked more questions in their classes. My profs have always encouraged us to bring a healthy level of skepticism into every class and to question the nature of the material they present. Learning science is not about blindly accepting the information you are taught, but rather critically engaging with it.

2. Embrace the grey spaces.

When I was in high school, I used to tell people that science was my favourite subject because there was always a right and wrong answer. But I was certainly shocked when I learned that while parts of science can be objective, it can also be subjective as people work to improve understandings in science. I have come across many questions that people are still in the midst of researching and that do not yet have a clear answer. It is possible that in your science classes, you will also encounter these nuanced topics, or so-called “grey spaces”. While these spaces may be confusing and complex, don’t run from them because this is where the richest learning takes place.

3. Creativity isn’t only for art class.

A common misconception is that science is more procedural than creative. I used to think that creativity was one of my weaknesses and that this endeared me to the so-called predictable nature of science. But this is certainly not the case! Within science, creativity and imagination are used to generate hypotheses, make sense of observations and design experiments. In other words, all innovation within science is generated by creativity.

4. Memorization may not be your best friend.

I used to think that I had a photographic memory and that memorizing definitions from the back of the textbook was the best way to study for a test. Turns out that I unfortunately don’t have a photographic memory and science tests can’t be aced by reciting definitions (trust me, I know from experience). While the factual recall of content is often emphasized within science courses, I have learned that there is more value in viewing science as an investigative process. This leads to more complete understanding of a topic (and higher marks on tests).

5. Science goes beyond the four walls of the classroom.

If you aren’t pursuing a science degree, you may have the tendency to rid your mind of anything and everything science related after your final exam. But stop right there! You may be surprised to know that science has a significant impact on many aspects of your life. Since science is socially embedded, material from your science class can help you better interpret stories on the news, influence how you interact with the environment, and be useful as you investigate big questions about life. So please don’t isolate science to the four walls of the classroom, but take it with you when you leave!

As you venture into studying science in university, you have every reason to feel confident! I challenge you to be open to new opportunities and just like me, you might find that science classes have more to offer than you previously thought. As long as you don’t wear your lab coat on the first day of lectures or try to memorise the periodic table of the elements, you’ll be just fine.

Annika Loeppky is a third year Science student.

Faith and community at CMU | Cassidy Brown

As a bright-eyed 18-year-old looking at the overwhelming number of universities to choose from, I settled on CMU for one reason that stood out from the rest: the impact of faith on community and vice versa. I knew that finding a community that would simultaneously challenge and inspire me in faith is what I needed to supplement my university experience.

My first year was wonderful for me. I was part of a group that led Wednesday Night Worship monthly and I attended a fellowship group on a weekly basis. And I always had the opportunity to attend chapels during the week if I so desired! I had the ability to grow my faith at my fingertips. Even though my second year was busier, I still felt like I had a solid faith community to hold me as I deconstructed and built up my understanding of my faith.

And now, here we are! With Wednesday Night Worship on hiatus, chapel online, and other extra events either cancelled or happening virtually, I lament what cannot be this year. With a year having passed since we were asking ourselves whether or not Covid-19 would even affect us here in Winnipeg, I find myself thinking that I should be done lamenting what cannot be. But honestly? I don’t think I am yet. Yes, I want to recognize that I have a lot of good going on, and I’m blessed that we have the hybrid learning model! But that doesn’t change the fact that I still feel this sadness that comes with the loss of faith and community in the way I know it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is the right decision. CMU has done an excellent job at creating a healthy space for students to learn and engage with class content in-person. And we must do what it takes to ensure the safety of all students, staff, and faculty. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s hard to navigate both knowing that this is for the best, and wishing it could be another way.

 I’ve frequently had to remind myself that faith is rarely easy, and that I am called to rise to the occasion of engaging in my faith, even when it’s challenging. I went on the search for some news articles, to see what other people and faith communities had to say about this topic. I came across an article from the BBC, and the most compelling part of this article is an interview with Bruxy Cavey, pastor of the Meeting House. “We’ve seen not only the numbers grow, but the kind of people, the people who wouldn’t typically feel comfortable even going to church, or setting a foot inside a new church . . . Covid has slowed us down and destabilised our regular routine. It has become an exploratory time. People are developing new habits, new interests, and finding new ways of just being in this world,” Cavey says in the article.

I also found an article from the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary on what it means to live as Christians in pandemic times. It reads, “Psalm 46:1 reminds us that ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.’ The psalmist continues by reminding us that God’s presence allows us not to fear the calamities that may befall us. What is not promised is that we will be prevented from experiencing problems and trials. Rather, God’s promise is that he will be our source of strength to persevere and endure through them.”

So how do we allow ourselves to lean on this? I believe that we have the capabilities to create and invest in faith communities, and hopefully it’s not too far off that we can continue harmonizing in the chapel. It often seems hard to dive deep into our faith when it looks so different from what we’re used to, but I continue to find people who challenge and encourage me in my faith.

Even though I wish we could return to everything as normal, I’ve been challenging myself to think creatively in these times. I’m eternally grateful for the ways CMU has helped me through this.

If you’re looking for more places to engage in faith communities, I encourage you to check out CMU. If you’re already a student, read the CMU Daily for all events! Chapels and small groups are an excellent place to start, and there’s bound to be something there for you.

Cassidy Brown is a third year Peace and Conflict Transformation Studies student.

You can go your own way: Independent studies at CMU | Malcolm Reimer

Nearly all university students will do research as part of their assigned coursework. But university also gives students the opportunity to do independent studies—to design an original research project separate from regular classes, which can be done over a whole semester and counts for credit. CMU students have done studies in English, behavioural economics, biology, and more! I spoke with fourth year student Olivia Neufeldt about her recent independent study in psychology.

Olivia Neufeldt, 4th year psychology major at CMU

Hi Olivia! Tell me about your project.

I developed a survey that looked into stress, anxiety, and academics in relation to student motivation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 200 students responded, and I presented the results to the CMU community last year.

How did you choose this topic?

I had taken a Psychology of Motivation class the semester before COVID-19, so that was fresh in my brain. I also thought about an idea that would work well during the pandemic, and this would be directly applicable to current students. I wanted to research something every student would have feelings about. And at the time, there were hardly any studies about COVID-19 and psychology, so it was a really new topic.

What did you learn from the survey? I imagine there was probably an increase in stress.

Students are worried! About 60% of students worried more now than in previous years. Generally, those who were more concerned about Covid were also more concerned about managing schoolwork. Interestingly, despite the correlation between COVID-19 worries and academic struggles, most students said that the pandemic didn’t distract them directly.

Did the results match your predictions?

The results are close to what I expected, but it’s nice to be able to show what we might know intuitively with actual data, and for professors to know that students are feeling more stressed than normal. This was near the beginning of the pandemic, so current anxieties may have changed or reduced as well.

Would you recommend students do an independent study?

I would! Especially because you get the opportunity to work really closely with your profs. A lot of other profs were offering to help me, and CMU students were really enthusiastic about participating. It’s a good way to get research experience and to explore a topic you might not be able to cover in class. An independent study looks great on a grad school application—and of course, you get to be in charge of everything!

Malcolm Reimer is a third year Science student.

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