Category: 2020-21 (Page 2 of 2)

If the walls could talk, what stories would they share? | Natasha Neustaedter Barg

My name is Founders Hall, but people also call me North, the castle building, and 500 Shaftesbury. This year, 2021, is my 100th birthday! I was built in 1921, but it was only in 1922 that my walls started echoing the calls of students and teachers. The pitter-patter of feet ricocheted off my walls as the boys and girls of the Manitoba School for the Deaf ran between dorm rooms, the girls entering through doors marked with owl and pelican engravings overhead, the boys through doors decorated by chipmunks.

Photo courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society

From 1940-46 my halls were filled with constant “yes sirs” and perfectly timed steps as I became the home for the Wireless School No. 3. The school was designed to teach young men (and a few women) how to become wireless operators, communicating between planes and bases of the Commonwealth in World War II.

It is during this time that other buildings joined my ranks. There were barracks upon barracks, canteens, mess halls, a drill hall, coal shed, hospital, dental clinic, and the list goes on. In 1946, the slow destruction of the other buildings began as I became the home of the Normal School or the Manitoba Teacher’s College, as it became known later on. Once again my building became a place for learning and teaching. The first and second floor were classrooms, with a library, science room, and offices in the wings, and the third and fourth floors were still dormitories.

Photo courtesy of the Manitoba Historical Society

My dining hall smelled of shepherd’s pie and echoed with the clatter of forks and knives as the students ate together. The girls would serve dessert and set the tables, as some boys would trudge to the back to wash the pots and pans and peel the hundreds of potatoes needed for each meal. From 1965-95, my dining hall was still used to gather students together, but once again for the Manitoba School for the Deaf.

And now students of Canadian Mennonite University walk my halls, completely unaware of the history I hold and the clues I give them. My entrances are still marked with carvings of owls, pelicans, food, and the words, “Dining Hall.” My basement still holds the outlets for the irons the Wireless School No. 3 used to iron their clothes and the slate boards that marked their attendance.

Photo by Darryl Neustaedter Barg

As the years go on, I will continue to show students the clues of history past and hope they will walk my halls knowing that time passes and that they are part of a bigger story and history.

Perhaps as students are forced by COVID-19 to walk in only their neighbourhoods and pace their homes, they will stop to notice the clues that houses and people are giving them of the bigger picture. Life will go on and what makes it fun is the things we notice and learn along the way.

Natasha Neustaedter Barg is a fourth year Social Sciences student. Much of her research for this piece came from the Manitoba Historical Society.

A Christmas quiz | Natasha Neustaedter Barg

Dear Blog Reader,

Are you THE Christmas Music Master? There’s only one way to find out. Take thirty seconds on each picture, and try to guess what song it is. Then once you’ve gotten through all twenty four pictures, check your answers! The original picture can be found here.

Every Christmas Break, my friends from the neighbourhood get together for a Christmas sleepover. We watch movies, eat a lot of good food, and catch up from not seeing each other since last Christmas. It’s become a tradition of sorts, and this year I was so disappointed that I wasn’t going to get to laugh till I cried, or do anything Christmassy with them.

But, luckily I have friends who are more creative than I am! I joined the Zoom call, and after decorating cookies together for a while, my friend pulled out a few Christmas games to play. The picture above was one of them. She had put them into a powerpoint, and as we frantically wrote down our guesses, yelling at each other throughout it all, it almost felt like we were in person together.

And so, this Christmas I would encourage you to be creative! Find weird but fun things to do with each other virtually. Maybe that means challenging your friends to a game of “guess that Christmas song”, or it means making some fudge to deliver to your friends in person yet from afar. This Christmas won’t be the same, but here’s hoping that you can find a way to be creative!

Below are the answers:

1. Jingle Bells

2. Walking in a Winter Wonderland

3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

4. Joy to the World

5. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

6. O Come All Ye Faithful

7. I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas

8. O Christmas Tree

9. What Child Is This?

10. We Three Kings

11. Deck the Halls

12. I Saw Three Ships

13. Oh Holy Night

14. Noel

15. Away in a Manger

16. 12 Days of Christmas

17. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

18. All I want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth

19. Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire (The Christmas Song)

20. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

21. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow

22. Silent Night

23. O Little Town of Bethlehem

24. Silver Bells

Natasha Neustaedter Barg is a fourth year Social Sciences student.

Get to know your CMU profs! | Cassidy Brown

Do you remember when you were just starting elementary school, and you learned that the teachers did not in fact live in the school? If you’re anything like me, the idea of your teachers having lives, or even houses, outside of school was enough to blow your mind! Fast-forward to now, and believe it or not, your professors have lives and even hobbies outside of teaching!

Kenton Lobe

Today I want to highlight three of our CMU professors, and what occupies them when they aren’t shaping the minds of those who walk these halls. The first of these is Kenton Lobe, Teaching Assistant Professor of International Development and Environmental Studies, who also operates a community shared agriculture program, Prairie Lights, in Neubergthal, Manitoba. As a part-time professor, Kenton’s work on the farm is his second job away from the city and CMU. Working on a farm has not only been impacted by his work in the fields of development and environmental studies, but also impacts how and what he teaches. Working with the land and knowing the land has pushed him to bring his students outside (even when it seems too cold to do so), in order to make learning more embodied with the earth. If you haven’t taken a class with Kenton yet, and you’re interested in learning about the history of this earth, what are you waiting for?!

Craig Martin

But a passion for farming isn’t where it ends! Craig Martin, Assistant Professor of Business, spends his days teaching, but also dabbles in amateur astronomy and radio. While his interests aren’t as connected with his teaching here at CMU, he finds it’s important to have a hobby to create a space to disconnect from rigorous academia. The one chance accident that led to marrying these interests was during the Red River Flood. Craig was deployed as a communications person through his amateur radio club, where he ended up working with CMU and sand bagging houses! So, if you’re interested in business, radio, or space, stop by Craig’s office for a chat!

Irma Fast Dueck’s dog, Pelo

If you’re anything like me, the introduction of Zoom classes back in March, and professors and students introducing their pets, was a thrilling adventure! One professor in particular that has what might be the cutest dog is Associate Professor of Practical Theology, Irma Fast Dueck. Irma’s dog Pelo is a Lagotto Romagnolo. You may be wondering, what is so spectacular about a dog? This particular breed is almost extinct! Some fun facts about the Lagotto Romagnolo that Irma has gifted to us: they are nicknamed the “truffle dog” after their ability to hunt for mushrooms and they frequently appear in medieval art! When asked which Biblical “character” Pelo most resembles, Irma answered, “I’d have to say the disciple Peter. He is faithful and dedicated but he can seriously mess up. He means well though! Not sure I’d call him the rock that I’d build a house around, like Jesus did. Unless it was a toothpick house.”

The Lagotto Romagnolo dog, Pelo’s breed, is often featured in medieval art!

And those are just three of CMU’s many staff and faculty with second lives that may surprise or excite you! I encourage you to take this opportunity to pop into your professor’s metaphorical Zoom door and use the question “what do you do outside of school?” to begin to build a relationship outside of the classroom with your professors. Having this makes asking questions about assignments and projects much easier. Plus, you might get some cute dog pictures!

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

A silver bullet for academic success? | Malcolm Reimer

Do you find yourself stumped by citation styles? Bemused by biochemistry? Perplexed by philosophy?*

If so, PAL™ may be the solution for you!

CMU’s patented** Peer-Assisted Learning program is proven to help with academic adversity of all kinds, such as trouble with:

Mathematics, including statistics, calculus, and more!

Academic writing and research!

Tricky coursework in the arts, sciences, and everything in between!

The best part about PAL is that unlike most private tutoring, it’s 100% FREE for CMU students. But how, you say, can we offer such an amazing product for no cost whatsoever?

The answer, dear reader, is through the magic of volunteers. It’s true: Peer-Assisted Learning is run entirely by the goodwill of generous upper-year students willing to donate their time free of charge. You can learn from their experiences and advice to gain the upper hand in your classes, or run your essays through a high-quality editing treatment. Feel free to drop by the PAL desk in the Marpeck Mezzanine anytime during regular hours to meet with a knowledgeable peer!

Here’s what one happy student had to say:

“When I was in my first semester of my first year I thought, ‘Ha! I don’t need help at all!’ But then I took Intro Sociology and my grades simply plummeted! I went to visit PAL and it was the best decision I made all year.”

  • Simon Mennos, CMU Student

Whether you’re having a hard time with assignments or you’d just like to study with someone who’s taken your class before, PAL is here to help! Regular hours are Monday to Thursday, 12:00 – 4:00, beginning September 21. Join the ever-increasing group of students who can testify to the miraculous benefits of Peer-Assisted Learning!***

* The author would keep alliterating all day, if you couldn’t tell.

** Patent pending, all rights reserved, use at your own risk.

*** No longer available in pill form. Contact PAL Coordinator at for more information.

Malcolm Reimer is a third year Science student and the Coordinator of the Peer-Assisted Learning program.

Community and sexual violence on a faith-based campus | Guest blogger Nathan Dueck

Nathan Dueck

The claim that Canadian Mennonite University has a strong sense of community is clichéd, but it is also true. Most of my classes have fewer than twenty students, many faculty have students over to their houses for meals throughout the year, and office doors are open more often than closed. There is also a real feeling of Mennonite identity on campus, where so many students share faith and genealogy (often an important research task before asking out a peer). This sense of campus-wide community is genuinely good, especially in an era when deep social connection and cohesion can be difficult to find. It is why I decided to attend CMU, and why many students feel the need to foster and protect it semester after semester.

But “community” can pose challenges to responding to instances of sexual violence on campus. I want to highlight two challenges in particular. First, the celebration of community can implicitly discourage actions that may be seen as damaging to it. If a survivor of sexual violence feels that coming forward with their experience might put stress on their university’s valued communal identity, it is plausible that they might feel deterred from addressing it through a disclosure. Second, perpetrators can be included in, or even integral to, campus communities. When this is the case, survivors may be concerned that those in positions of authority will not effectively respond to their disclosures. If a perpetrator is one of only eight students in your favourite professor’s class, if they eat dinner at a senior administrator’s house once a semester, or if you see them regularly drop by a staff member’s office just to chat for a minute because the door was open, it might be difficult to envision how your experience of sexual violence would be handled impartially by the institution. The same bonds that make some university communities so tight-knit can also restrict the sense of freedom that their survivors feel that they have to share their experiences.

Smaller post-secondary institutions like my own need to grapple with this tension between protecting their sense of community and fully supporting survivors who want to share their experiences within them. But even if the tension can never be fully resolved, it is heartening to see my university adopt the REES reporting platform this fall. It is heartening to me because REES is precisely not a product created by, or for, CMU specifically. Instead, as a platform designed for all post-secondary institutions, REES stands distinctly outside my campus’s specific culture. As such, it exists as an avenue through which survivors can disclose their experiences without having to engage directly with another member of the CMU community, if that engagement would cause discomfort.


Yet, even as REES is being introduced as an extra-communal platform, its creators have remained sensitive to the value of community. When I participated in a feedback session for the platform, I was impressed when the session leader stressed that REES is only one, optional way through which a survivor can share their experience in a university setting. In doing so, she made it clear that the introduction of REES still allows for the face-to-face disclosure methods that other survivors might find helpful or even necessary. In other words, the introduction of REES should address the risks of a campus’ communal identity for some survivors, but in a way that does not compromise the presence of a community that can be helpful for others.

Examining the interplay between community and sexual violence can be uncomfortable, but it would be a mistake to fear for our communal identity in doing so. I am convinced that acknowledging the risks of community does not diminish it, so long as our responses to these risks are thoughtful and rigorous. Instead, when we look for new and creative ways to support survivors, like REES, our communities will become stronger than ever before.

Nathan Dueck is a fourth year student at Canadian Mennonite University working towards a double major in history and philosophy. He is a student representative on the CMU Sexual Violence Committee and was 2019-20 Vice-President Advocacy for the CMU Student Council.

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