Category: 2016-17 (Page 2 of 9)

My practicum experience: Real life learning

ircom house

Greetings! My name is Louisa Hofer. I am in my fourth and final year of a social science major.

 I decided to do my practicum during the school year as a part of my overall semester, rather than doing an intensive practicum during the summer like many of my friends and fellow students have done. The people I worked with spoke to me along with my readings, professors, and other conversation partners. This helped me learn in a way that I might not have otherwise and in a way that I really needed at the time.

My practicum took place last semester at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, or IRCOM, as it is more commonly known. IRCOM, is a lot of things. It’s a safe and affordable transitional housing complex for newcomers. It is also home to a multitude of transitional aid programs for both IRCOM residents and members of the West End and West Alexander communities. These programs include English classes, finance classes, job connection services, countless youth and children’s programs, and much more.

IRCOM is a also group of staff available for questions; many of them who had been newcomers themselves and participated in the very IRCOM programs that they now help run. These staff members also do a lot advocacy work—they attend conferences, panels, and write to politicians regarding relevant policies. IRCOM is a lot of things to a lot people.
"The City" with Prof. Chris Huebner

“The City” with Prof. Chris Huebner

While involved at IRCOM, I was also taking a course called: “The City: Theological and Philosophical perspectives” with Prof. Chris Huebner. It’s one of those courses that haunts everything…the kind that seeps into a ridiculous amount of your thought. We read Plato, Augustine’s City of God, Foucault, and more all while watching
the HBO show The Wire, which uncovers the broken lives of people in Baltimore, MD. In a violent revealing it showed us the corrupt and messed up policies and market forces that seem to screw these citizens over in ways akin to the mischievous terror of the gods in a Greek tragedy.

thewireThe Wire does this in both a shocking and brilliant fashion. It showed the utter failure of bureaucracy, and caused me to question my faith in humanity’s ability to organize ourselves. If that wasn’t enough, there were other events happening that were certainly not inconsequential, not the least of which was a significant election and the profound mass migration of refugees.

From that heavy and heady space that challenged and lamented the big picture, I would go to IRCOM and assist in little things. On any given week I would do some office work, some filing, or build some IKEA furniture. It was an odd juxtaposition to be assisting in the mundane functions of a non-profit organization with all of those thoughts going on in the background. I approached this place expecting to see people that were troubled and perplexed, but I saw a lot of “just living”—people just going about their day.

My time tutoring in IRCOM’s homework program definitely my favourite task. This program was started by IRCOM kids themselves a few years back and has expanded into quite the endeavour. There are around 60-70 kids all doing their homework (or sometimes not doing their homework) with 5-10 tutors every night.

It is quite the beautiful chaos to see kids from different linguistic, cultural, and religious groups in the same room coming together almost every day. From what these kids have said, this learning community has provided a significant boost in facing an unfamiliar educational system.

MBInfographiconRefugeesMBInfographiconRefugeesI had been with people who were going about their business, navigating life and forming a little learning community, but this night was a small glimpse into how these lives have so often been cast into controversy and into a narrative of danger, or of crisis and charity. It was a glimpse into how the way they were being narrated and the outcome of the U.S. election would severely effect people who would be trying to make a similar journey that they had.

There has been a lot to be said for what is going on here, of the protests and the marches attended by these folks, but also the quiet resistance lived-out in the form of everyday life that dwells beyond the labels of danger, of crisis, and charity that people always seem to ascribe.

I’m not sure how this mess will turn out, but it has been an honour to be with these people who just keep doing their thing.

Louisa Hofer is a fourth year student in social science

How CMU turned out to be the perfect fit for me after all


Laura (second right, behind the trophy) smiles with her teammates after winning the MCAC Volleyball Championships in February.

There were endless reasons why I stroked off Canadian Mennonite University from my list of possibilities for the fall of 2016. I didn’t know for certain that university was the place for me to go; I didn’t know what I wanted to study; I couldn’t decide where to go; nothing seemed to grab me.

I didn’t want to do anything my older siblings had done because that was too predictably mainstream. I wanted to be my own person, to dream big and do the unexpected. Hearing about CMU made me shake my head because it was small, Mennonite, and had good community.

Small… no. I wanted somewhere big where I could get lost. I was looking for a place where nobody knew me and if I did not want to meet anyone, I wouldn’t have to. The word Mennonite made me scared.

Theology was another word that sounded boring and unnecessary. Actually, I’ve found those classes fun and the professors interesting. You can even choose which Bible classes to take, relating them to your specific interests.

As a graduating student from a Christian high school, I also didn’t want to hear the word community ever again. Community was a shaky term for me, not to mention how I wanted to be anonymous—a community was not going to fulfill that for me! I didn’t realize that community was not just a good-looking, positive-sounding word used by everyone, but a true possibility.

CMU has turned out to be exactly what I needed. It is a place where professors know you by name and welcome you into their office at all hours. It is a place of welcome, knowing that if you want to get involved you can, but there is no pressure to be known. It is a place of growth, where you learn such fascinating facts and life-giving material. It is where you can take the courses that look interesting to you and decide only later what you love or what you hate. 

This is where I took my first Peace and Conflict Studies Class and decided that I found my major. It is the place where I spend hours studying, drinking coffee, playing volleyball, and people watching. It has become my second home.

I am Laura, a student, peacebuilder, psychologist, philosopher, theologian, athlete, and musician. CMU is the place that I can be who I am and what I want. I can take risks or stand back, and I can humbly learn from my mistakes. It is the place that I initially turned away from and only applied because it was free. Now it is my university and I encourage you to imagine it being yours too.

Laura Woelk is a first year student in Peace and Conflict Studies.

What are CMU graduates up to after graduation?


Our alumni leave CMU equipped for a huge diversity of career opportunities

Graduation is around the corner and graduates are asking themselves, what now? The paths taken by CMU alumni are endless. Many go into careers or grad work directly related to their degree, while others try something new which they might never have expected. Here’s what some of our 2017 grads have planned:

“I’ll be graduating in April with a Bachelor of Music, with a concentration in vocal 1P5C5341 copyperformance. I intend to pursue further studies in this field in the fall, in the hopes that I will one day perform on stage. It’s a daunting and competitive line of work. This scares me, but I know that CMU has set me up well, not only in the sense that I have been trained well musically, but I have also been given a holistic musical education rooted in faith. This will allow me perspective more than anything else; the knowledge that the music I make is in service to others and honouring God.”
– Nolan Kehler

“I’m graduating with a major in Psychology and a minor in Biblical and Theological Studies. I am planning to go into physiotherapy as my next step. I am extremely exited for this new journey! CMU has been a wonderful place that has challenged me to think critically. This is extremely important going into physiotherapy, as everything is interconnected, the body in its entirety, and also mind and spirit.”
– Tasha Enns

“I’m studying International Development Studies, but I’ve been taking a wide IMG_20161214_103407variety of courses. How I live is a lot more important to me than what I do in terms of making a living, which allows me the freedom to live a good life that benefits me and everyone and everything I am connected to. Having time to build and maintain relationships and better understand the world is high on my priority list, and piling on stress isn’t, so I’ve been figuring out how to live a life that reflects that. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that so far, and CMU and the people here have helped a lot.”
– Ben Wride

“This spring, I am graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in 11154921_10203243178314972_1585605765596498261_oPsychology and a minor in Biblical and Theological Studies. I am planning on entering the Master’s of Physiotherapy program at the University of Manitoba. CMU has been a place that has inspired me to think critically and to explore my passions. Having professors who get so excited about what they teach makes me excited to pursue the things that I care so much about. The people that I have met, along with the education and community experience that I have gotten at CMU, leave me sad to go from here, but have also made me excited to continue with what I have learned. I wouldn’t have changed my time here for anything!”
– Becca Krahn

MCC Student Seminar Ottawa

16864477_158321838009479_5644719291756880739_nOver reading week, I had the opportunity to attend the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) student seminar in Ottawa. There were 30 students who attended from across Canada, including four from CMU and two more from Menno Simons College. The theme was Gender, Peace, and Conflict: Exploring the Intersection. We looked at how government organizations, non-profits, and individuals interact with this theme in their work. 

One of the benefits of being in Ottawa was that we were located right in the heart of Canada’s government. We sat in on question period in the House of Commons and had a tour of the parliament buildings. We also heard from MP Hélène Laverdière and Senator Mobina Jaffer, who have been involved in the implementation of the UN Security Council’s declaration on Women, Peace and Security.

Before attending this seminar, I had little knowledge of Canada’s National Action plan or the many different committees which make up our government system to encourage action. There were times when I felt disillusioned with the government and frustrated with what seemed to be emptyPastedGraphic-1 actions and not enough financial contribution to women’s projects. But I was inspired by hearing these two passionate women who are advocating for policy change.

In addition to hearing about the role of government and policy, we heard from non-profits and grassroots organizations about the importance of women’s groups. We spoke with people from KAIROS, Oxfam, the Nobel Women’s Initiative, and international workers from MCC. It was fascinating to hear how gender is influencing the peace process in Colombia, the importance of including women in peace processes, and how the Nobel Women’s Initiative is calling our “feminist prime minister” to invest in women’s grassroots groups.

The seminar looked at the importance of including a gender lens in conflict analysis, emphasizing that one cannot simply “add women and stir.” Between 1992 and 2011, 9% of negogoal-16-conflict-400-entiators in peace talks were women, despite the fact that a peace process in far more likely to succeed when women are included. It has left me wondering why it is so challenging to adopt an approach that includes women, both locally and internationally.

What stood out the most was having the opportunity to talk with other students whose stories and life experiences are different from my own. These students pushed me to think in new ways and ask different questions. I am grateful for the time we spent learning together.

For more information, visit Canada’s National Action Plan and the MCC Ottawa Advocacy Office.


Dear high school student

1P5C4710 copy

Picture this: you’re sitting in English class when suddenly the teacher says something incredibly profound. Jaw dropping. Brilliant. It sparks a thought for you, reminding you of a song you once heard, and you wonder out loud if the song could be alluding to this concept. You and your teacher have a rapid back-and-forth discussion, and then… you realize that you’re the only one getting into it. You shrink back into your seat, embarrassed by the scene you’ve just made and the interest you’ve displayed.

Sound familiar? That was me a year ago, always first to be interested in something, always wondering if people thought less of me for it.

It’s not a good headspace to be in; I seriously do not recommend it. But sometimes high school is just like that. It’s hard to avoid.

Well here’s some good news: since coming to CMU this semester, I’ve found a new way of looking at things, and it’s affecting the way I interact with others and especially the way I learn.

Take for example, my Biblical Literature and Themes class, taught by Dan Epp-Tiessen. This class looks at the Bible as a narrative, putting together the pieces so we can understand each one in light of the other pieces and the whole.

For a few years now, I’ve disliked studying the Bible, and it’s been boring and unfulfilling for me. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, I used to find a lot of joy in it. Well, in Bib Lit, I’m rediscovering that joy. Perhaps it was there all along and I just needed permission to uncover it again.

Dan so clearly loves teaching the Bible, and talking to him after class is always stimulating. As a naturally exuberant person, I can’t be in a class with a professor who loves teaching without loving learning.

I’m so grateful to be able to rediscover this delight in studying Scripture, and along with it a renewed enthusiasm about Jesus. By grabbing onto and owning my own excitement about learning instead of pushing it away, I’m able to become a better version of myself.

I’m learning to view education as a privilege, and I encourage you to as well. You might be surprised by how many lightbulbs turn on. Perhaps you, like me, will be able to give yourself permission to be passionate.

Guest blogger Marnie Klassen is a first year student and a learning enthusiast

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